Automation Delivers Consistency in a Time of Upheaval

August 2020 - Vol.17 No. 8 - Page #4

In the second quarter of 2020, PP&P polled a random, nationwide sample of health system pharmacy directors. We asked these pharmacy leaders to share their current expenditures on pharmacy automation as well as their short- and long-term projections for ongoing pharmacy automation spending. In addition, we asked about pharmacy staffing, distribution models, automation implementations, vendor performance, and future implementation plans.

Despite the trying times pharmacy is facing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic—ensuring medication access, keeping staff safe, following rapidly developing study results, and worrying about family and friends—pharmacy leaders shared their data so that you can benchmark your department against like facilities. Responses were solicited via email and a total of 362 pharmacy leaders replied, yielding a confidence interval of 4.98% (90% +/- 4.98) based on the population of pharmacy directors nationwide. With gratitude, we salute those pharmacy directors who upheld the tradition of the State of Pharmacy Automation during these trying times.

As always, we intentionally survey a random sample of pharmacy directors to ensure the data reflect trends across the entirety of US hospital pharmacy practice, not just readers of PP&P. As such, we are quite pleased that 87% of pharmacy directors rely on PP&P when researching automation purchases.

Automation’s Role

The value of automation cannot be overstated in a time of upheaval. When medication availability is changing rapidly due to drug shortages or practice change forced by the COVID-19 response, the resultant increase in risk introduced by these changes and the additional human factors can lead to sleepless nights. But much of this risk can be offset by well-thought out automation, be it inventory management systems, IV workflow automation, or ADC expansion. Given this fact, it is key that smaller facilities are also afforded—and seize—the opportunity to automate more practices. The safety delivered via technology acquisitions should not benefit only larger teaching institutions.

Consider IV workflow automation systems; just as no facility today would contemplate removing the safety of bar code scanning from the bedside, the argument can be made that no facility should compound drugs without the safety of bar code scanning, gravimetrics, and remote verification capabilities. In addition, this technology can deliver billing improvements. Yet its adoption rates, while growing among facilities of all sizes, remain twice as high among the largest facilities versus their smaller counterparts.

Many mid-sized facilities have made a strong commitment to automating more pharmacy practices; for example, the data shows that facilities with 101-200 beds are projecting additional adoptions of medication tray management systems, IV workflow systems, and automated compounding devices over the next few years. It is key that these smaller facilities continue to make efforts to achieve more parity in their automation usage with their larger counterparts in order to deliver safe care and to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging economy.

In this time of uncertainty and upheaval, there is a great need for increasing automation within the pharmacy. Consider how automated drug storage and retrieval systems and IV workflow automation can allow staff to conduct verifications remotely and how reliable repackaging systems support quick product changes. As you make your case for automation acquisitions, feel free to utilize the data from the pages herein. You can download the slide package of this year’s State of Pharmacy Automation data at

Pharmacy directors consistently cite ADCs, BCMA, CPOE, smart pumps, bar coded unit dose packaging systems, and temperature monitoring automation as key to their operations.

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Deanne Halvorsen is the editorial director and founding partner of Ridgewood Medical Media, publisher of Pharmacy Purchasing & Products and MedicalLab Management. She can be reached at


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