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Release: March 7, 2002

UI Hospitals and Clinics using robotic pharmacy dispensing system

Officials at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics announced today that pharmaceutical specialists are now using the HOMERUS Automated Pharmacy Dispensing System to dispense unit dose medications for inpatients.

The technology found in HOMERUS allows users to select bar-coded medications for patients and enables dispensing of a 24-hour supply each day. The robot also has a packaging component that packages medications in unit dose packages, labels them with a bar code, and automatically transfers to storage.

Paul Abramowitz, Pharm.D., director of the Department of Pharmaceutical Care at UI Hospitals and Clinics, in making the announcement said, "We are excited about the use of this technology to improve the safety of the medication use system. The robot is very accurate in dispensing medications and incorporates numerous safeguards to ensure the right medication is dispensed for the patient. It also allows our pharmacists more time to work with our physicians and nurses to optimize medication therapy for our patients." Abramowitz is also a professor of clinical and administrative pharmacy in the UI College of Pharmacy.

The HOMERUS system is supplied by Pyxis Corporation of San Diego, Calif. UI Hospitals and Clinics is the third medical center in the United States to install this technology. HOMERUS systems are currently in operation at North Kansas City Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., and the Merit Care Health System in Fargo, N.D. HOMERUS measures 9 feet 9 inches tall, 21 feet long and approximately 14 feet wide. Overall weight of all the components is more than 8,000 pounds. The HOMERUS is designed to hold more than 15,000 unit doses when fully loaded.

The HOMERUS iPAK packaging component packages approximately 500 doses per hour. The dispensing system is capable of filling approximately 500 doses per hour. It is expected that HOMERUS will dispense approximately 4,500 doses per day for inpatients. Future enhancements are planned to also allow HOMERUS to prepare medications for the Pyxis MEDSTATION cabinets currently in place on patient care units. MEDSTATION automated dispensing units provide clinicians with secure access to medications on the patient care unit. Clinicians enter their

identification code and password and select the patient and the drug that they need; a medication drawer then opens with the specific medication for the patient. The MEDSTATION helps improve the accuracy of selecting medications and also records that the medication has been removed for the patient. Many of the medications stocked in the cabinet are urgently needed critical care medications or controlled substances with significant documentation requirements.

UI Hospitals and Clinics is implementing an extensive process to automate the dispensing of medications. UI Hospitals and Clinics is an 813-bed hospital that also operates clinics that see approximately 790,000 outpatients per year. In addition to operating a comprehensive inpatient pharmacy system, the Department of Pharmaceutical Care operates three ambulatory care pharmacies that serve clinic patients seen at UI Hospitals and Clinics. Currently, UI Hospitals and Clinics deploys two robots that prepare prescriptions to assist pharmacists in dispensing outpatient prescriptions. In addition to the HOMERUS system, the Department of Pharmaceutical Care also uses the Pyxis MEDSTATION units on approximately 40 inpatient areas. Total cost of the technology deployed to date is more than $2 million.

Studies have found that automated medication dispensing systems result in fewer errors in dispensing medications. In addition, a nationwide shortage of pharmacists has resulted in many hospitals reducing pharmacy services due to a lack of pharmacists. Demand for pharmacists has increased due to significant increases in the number of medications marketed and large increases in the number of prescriptions written. Automation improves the efficiency of the dispensing process and allows pharmacists to focus on education of patients on their medication and working with prescribers on improving the selection and use of medications.

A subsidiary of Dublin Ohio-based Cardinal Health, San Diego-based Pyxis Corporation ( was established in 1987 with a simple objective: to revolutionize the way medication and supplies are distributed within health care facilities. Pyxis automated dispensing technology allows health care providers to streamline the medication and medical-supply distribution process, cut costs and save time, and it enables pharmacists and nurses to direct more energy to clinical solutions resulting in better patient care. The company currently serves more than 4,500 customers worldwide.

All Pyxis products are part of the Pyxis SAFETYnet, a company-wide commitment to provide industry-leading technology, training programs, customer service and support that enable health-care providers to deliver safer, more efficient, high-quality patient care.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at