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Three states roll out auto-dispensing units

  • May 1, 2009
  • RPh on the Go

Most recently tested in Vermont but also used in areas of Alaska and Montana, automatic dispensing units are increasing the flexibility of consumers to pick up their prescriptions. The machines allow a pharmacist in one location to dispense medications for patients over larger geographical areas.

The operation of the machines depends first on a pharmacist to fill the machines with commonly used medications such as antibiotics and inhalers. A registered pharmacy technician then operates the machine under the watchful eye of a live video feed. The machine can be placed in a clinic facility so that patients in rural areas don’t have to drive a long way to get their prescriptions filled. Patients can also take advantage of a video phone to have a consultation with the pharmacist about the medication so the potential for communication about risks and side effects is not lost.

Despite some concerns that the machines might take business away from pharmacists, physicians say that is not the case and that the machines make for happier patients. Many patients have become frustrated with long drives and long waits to receive medications. This program solves that problem and the patients are so far reporting an increase in convenience and cost savings since they don’t have to make long commutes to pharmacies out of their immediate area.

There are so far about 250 machines in use across the country. The makers of the machines add that it gives the pharmacist an increased ability to provide services for those outside their immediate area.

Those concerned about security need not worry. The dispensing units are locked, well-secured, and yes, they are bullet proof.

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