One of the primary frustrations of working as a pharmacist is the amount of time spent counting and sorting pills for patients and customers. This takes away precious time from the pharmacist that could be better spent on education about the drug and possible interactions with other drugs the patient or customers may be taking.
The new apparatus is a combination of 4 distinct items. A handheld bar code scanner, a pick and place robot arm, a machine vision apparatus, and a database of pill information.
Essentially the system will work as follows:
1). The pharmacist will pullup a prescription, and locate the correct drug on shelf.
2). He or she will then scan the pill bottle with the bar code scanner. This will trigger the pill database to bring up information about the drug.
3). The pharmacist will pour some of the drug out into the working area, and put an open pill bottle in the working area.
4). The machine vision system will locate each correct pill and place the correct number in the pill bottle (based on the prescription). The machine vision system will check each pill versus its data base for correct size, shape, color, and lettering on the pill. It will only place a pill that fits all criteria into the pill bottle.
5). Upon task completion, the system will alert the pharmacist that the pills are ready.
6). If an error is encountered, an alert will be trigger with a descriptive message for the pharmacist to deal with.
Note: At the time of this writing, I have not done any research to see if a product like this already exists or if patents exist which would cover a product of this nature.