USF Health creates futuristic pharmacy

In a few weeks, Pharmacy Plus will introduce the latest in pharmacy technology. ORACLE PHOTO / ALLISON LESLIE

In the coming weeks, students will be able to enter the pharmacy of the future where robots fill prescriptions and mobile applications monitor heart rates.

“It’s a combination of Star Trek, Iron Man and an Apple Store,” said Dean of the USF College of Pharmacy Kevin Sneed. 

With $300,000 worth of high-tech devices, USF Health’s new Pharmacy Plus will utilize about nine different technologies that aren’t found in regular pharmacies, such as a robot that will fill the vast majority of prescriptions.

“It will put the pills in the bottle. It will label the bottle and it will put a cap on the bottle,” Sneed said.

Since healthcare is evolving at such a fast pace, pharmacists must adapt to this technology or be left behind, he said.

The robot is less prone to make mistakes than human pharmacists, with an error rate of almost zero, due to the way it fills the prescription.  

Sneed said the robot takes a picture of pills in the bottle and cross-references it to verify that it is the right medication.

Pharmacy Manager Mariam Gendi will still monitor the robot.

“It’s no longer a duty of filling a prescription or getting a medication ready,” she said. “It’s different now.”

Another modern piece of technology that will be used at Pharmacy Plus is called pharmacogenomics, which analyzes the DNA of patients. 

With this technology, Sneed said pharmacists will be able to predict how a patient might react to specific medications.

The pharmacy will also feature a section where patients may download an IPhone app that connects with different devices, such as blood pressure cuffs, scales and EKGs. 

Patients can chose to self-perform tests at home and send the results to pharmacists through the mobile app.

Pharmacy Plus will also increase efficiency in doctor-patient communication.

For patients who are not able to get themselves to the pharmacy, there are videoconferences available to connect them with pharmacists and fourth-year students. Sneed said this would improve communications with other providers and doctors, as well.

With all the advanced technology in the pharmacy, Sneed said students will benefit

“It really is a clinical teaching laboratory for our students,” he said. “Our goal in this pharmacy is to educate and prepare those students to go out and graduate and go to Walgreens and tell them ‘OK, this is how it should be done.’”

Students of all years in the College of Pharmacy will be allowed to work in Pharmacy Plus and can help deliver prescriptions, answer patient questions and videoconference with patients.

“We are coming from behind the counter to be up front with the patients to take care of their needs,” said Gendi.

Pharmacy Plus has been under construction since February 2014 and cost USF Health around $400,000. It is expected to open later this month, or possibly early November.