Pharmacy Robots debut at Sinai
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Pharmacy Robots debut at Sinai

They?re polite, efficient and do not need to take breaks.

The four new TUG robots ? Rigby, Jake, Elwood and Herbie ? started working as new members of the Sinai Hospital Pharmacy department in September. The TUGs have been well-received by nurses and are good news for patients in need of their medications. Since their debut, the self-propelled robots have trimmed delivery wait times to 45 minutes, and it is hoped they can be cut down to about a half-hour, says John R. DiBona, Pharm.D., R.Ph., director of pharmacy for LifeBridge Health and Sinai.

?By getting the medicine to the patient more quickly, it allows us to achieve the best patient care,? John says.

Once a pharmacist verifies an order, the McKesson robot is responsible for pulling the medication for a patient. The McKesson robot reads a bar code to make sure it is the correct medication before putting it into an envelope marked with the patient?s name. A Pharmacy tech loads the medications into the TUGs, and sends them off to their assigned area. Rigby goes to Mt. Pleasant 1 and 2, 3 North, and 3 East and West; Herbie covers the second floor and 3 South; Jake makes rounds on the fourth floor; and Elwood has the fifth and sixth floors.

?Each TUG is doing 18 trips a day,? says Lisa M. Polinsky, R.Ph, the pharmacy operations manager at Sinai.

The TUGs have sophisticated whiskers than can sense movement, so they will stop if there is an object in their way. They can also call the elevators.

?At first, people were very curious and they touched them, but as the weeks have gone on they have let them go and do their jobs,? Lisa says.

When a TUG arrives, it announces itself, and nurses must use a code to unlock the tray carrying the medications. None of the TUGs carry narcotics.

The nursing staff has been supportive and done a great job interacting with the robots, John says.

Orthopedic Neuro-Trauma clinical leader Linda Covert, M.S., R.N., says the TUGs have encouraged nurses to keep the hallways clear.

?The TUG, bless its heart, is being asked to do a lot of maneuvering,? she says. ?Pharmacy has been very responsive when the TUG gets confused, which rarely happens and is not the fault of the TUG.?

If you see a TUG in distress, call Pharmacy at ext. 2-4274.

Since the machines get the medications to the units faster, her nurses are pleased, Linda says.
?It allows us to give a higher level of service to our patients,? she says.

Both John and Lisa see other future applications with the TUGs, and think it is possible a fifth robot will join the team when the vertical expansion at Sinai opens. Northwest Hospital leaders are also looking at using TUGs there.

?Robots are very useful for these applications,? John says.

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