Trinity Hospital has installed InstyMeds, an automated prescription medication dispensing system, in its emergency room and admitting area. The machine allows for patients to fill common prescriptions upon discharge from the emergency room, regardless of the time of day.
"We're wanting to use this machine for ER patients during the hours that pharmacies are not open," said Carolyn Reynolds, director of pharmacy for Trinity Hospital. "I think it will help alleviate the extra pressure for us (hospital pharmacists) to fill prescriptions for ER patients, and provide a patient benefit."
"This does not replace the patient's normal retail pharmacy," she added. "We do realize that's an important relationship to keep. Your local pharmacist can keep a history of your prescriptions and screen for drug interactions. We want to use this as a way to help ER staff get patients in and out of the ER as efficiently as possible, so they don't have to wait for their prescriptions to be filled by the hospital pharmacy during the hours that other pharmacies are closed."
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Carolyn Reynolds, director of pharmacy for Trinity Hospital, demonstrates how a patient would enter information into the InstyMeds system.
During an average night, Reynolds explained, the hospital pharmacy fills about 20 prescriptions for the emergency room.
InstyMeds contains the top 40 to 50 prescriptions commonly prescribed throughout the emergency room, such as antibiotics and pain medications. The prescription orders are written by physicians and entered into a software system, and the patient receives a printed code from the physician. The code can then be entered by the patient into the InstyMeds machine.
The machine will generate a medication label with appropriate directions for patients and put it on a prescription bottle. The prescription is then dispensed out of the machine.
The billing for the prescriptions is also automated. InstyMeds will bill the prescription through the individual's insurance plan and accept cash or credit for prescription co-pays or if a patient has no insurance. Major credit cards, debit cards and cash are all accepted.
"It's real-time processing of medications, much like a pharmacy," Reynolds said. "At this time, InstyMeds isn't able to generate Medicaid prescriptions, but we're hoping to streamline that."
The machine also has a phone on the side, so patients can contact an on-call pharmacist with questions they may have about their prescription. Hospital pharmacists are also available to patients if patients need to meet someone face-to-face.
"Even with the system in place, we still want to provide education to patients if they want it," Reynolds said.
The company in Minnesota that makes InstyMeds systems keeps track of the counts of prescriptions in the machine at the Minot location, though it is the responsibility of Trinity Hospital pharmacists to refill the machine. The pharmacists receive medications for the machine that are pre-counted and ready to be put into the machine.
Cameras within the machine also keep watch over the medications, and alert pharmacists if a bottle has tipped over or needs to be replaced.
Trinity Hospital has been exploring the idea of installing InstyMeds for a few years, Reynolds said.
"The idea has been circulating for five to six years," she said. "We knew at that time that the ER was getting busier, and we were looking for ways to alleviate some of the extra work. We are going to try it (InstyMeds) to see if it helps alleviate some of that pressure. We're looking forward to working with ER staff to see if it will help."