NYU Langone Medical Center Opens New Pharmacy That Uses Advanced Robotics-First of Kind in New York City and Second in NY State

State-of-the-Art Pharmacy Exemplifies Medical Center

As part of its ongoing commitment to providing patient-centered care, NYU Langone Medical Center has created a state-of-the-art pharmacy to maximize efficiency and enhance patient safety.  Made possible as part of a generous gift from the Tisch families, the new pharmacy features advanced robotic equipment that automatically sorts and dispenses medications with 99.99% accuracy.  Located on the 3rd floor of the Medical Center’s flagship Tisch Hospital, the new pharmacy is the first of its kind in New York City and the second in New York State.

In addition to increasing efficiency and enhancing quality, the use of advance robotics for routine and repetitive tasks allows pharmacists to play an even greater role in direct patient care. For example, NYU Langone pharmacists participate on medical rounding teams, working directly with patients and medical and nursing staffs on patient units to help ensure safer and more effective use of medications, including advising patients on medication usage once they return home. 

“Our new pharmacy exemplifies our ongoing commitment to patient focused care and patient safety,” said Robert I. Grossman, MD, dean and CEO of NYU Langone Medical Center.   “Robotics is revolutionizing the way prescriptions are dispensed and delivered in the hospital setting and allows our pharmacists to spend more time interacting with the care team and patients and promoting more effective use of pharmaceuticals.”

Robotic pharmacy automation solutions are a new generation of technology that streamline hospital pharmacy operations by combining inventory management software, high-speed packaging and secure storage and retrieval to optimize medication therapies.  According to Thomas O’Brien, PharmD, senior director of pharmacy, NYU Langone Medical Center, the actual task of filling individual medication requests which used to be performed manually—a laborious task that sometimes required several hours per order—will now be done by machine.  Prior to the implementation of the new technology, medication orders that previously took 2½ hours to prepare can now be completed in less than 30 minutes, allowing pharmacists to use the time saved to meet with patients rather than package pharmaceuticals.

Using the new technology, drugs are delivered and stockpiled in an automated storeroom. From there, a computer orders batches of medications as needed, scans bar codes on individual pill bottles, vials and ampoules (small sealed vials).  The medications are then packaged and are automatically transferred to a “drug nest,” the largest component of the system storing over 54,000 doses of medication. 

When a prescriber submits an order electronically, it is vetted by a pharmacist for contraindications and potentially adverse drug interactions. Once approved, the medication is automatically loaded from the drug nest into bar-coded plastic envelopes suspended from oversized rings. Each ring, called a PickRing, contains all the dosages a given patient will need over the next 24 hours. The PickRings are then transported by cart, courier, or via a pneumatic tube system to units throughout the hospital. Medications not stored in the system will automatically be added to the patient’s medication bin.  Before administering the drug, a nurse checks the envelope to ensure that the patient is getting exactly what the prescriber ordered.  Medications returned from the patient floors can be automatically restocked—a feature that is expected to reduce administrative and medication costs dramatically.

While the vast majority of medications will be handled robotically, investigational drugs and IV solutions will still be prepared and dispensed by hand, using special hooded vents in an open architecture, HEPA-filtered clean room “scrubbed” by sophisticated air filters. Controlled substances are stored separately in a high-security vault.