Meet the robot pharmacist that dispenses medicine in Abu Dhabi

Universal Hospital debuted its Rowa Smart System, a Dh3.5m robotic machine that dispenses medicine, cutting down on wait times for patients.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Aug. 28, 2013   :   
Universal Hospital in Abu Dhabi, features a pharmacy dispenser robot, the first machine of its kind in the GCC countries, which is the first of several to come for the new hospital on Airport Road. The pharmacy robot takes about 6 seconds to dispense the doctor-requested medication, which use the pharmacist then explains to the patient. Universal Hospital, owned by US-based Universal Business Corporation, a holding group, specializes in neurology and pediatric surgery, orthopedics, cardiothoracic surgery, and also plans for a sleep study foundation to operate out of its sleep lab. 
Silvia Razgova / The National
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ABU DHABI // A Dh3.5 million robot is helping to cut queues at the pharmacy counter of a city hospital – the first of its kind in the region.

The Rowa Smart System, developed in Germany, arranges medicines, checks they are in date and dispenses them at the new Universal Hospital.

Pharmacists scan and store medicines into the robot's vault before the machine sorts out free space on specific shelves.

The system can handle about 50,000 medicines and more than 3,000 prescriptions a day. 

The 200-bed Universal Hospital opened two months ago on Airport Road. For now it only accepts outpatients but will be fully operational from October 1.

The hospital has 300 patients, with 150 getting prescriptions from its pharmacy.

"The machine dispenses medicines to the pharmacist's terminal in six seconds and customers receive medicines in less than three minutes,"said Dr Shabeer Nellikode, managing director of the hospital.

The hospital has four pharmacists, he said, whose primary duty should be to explain to patients the correct usage of medicines.

When the pharmacy is busy, the robot makes it easier for them to do that.

One Abu Dhabi resident, Rajinder Kumar, said: "It takes almost half a day of our office time if we visit a doctor as a walk-in patient at a hospital. First we wait for doctors for two to three hours due to long queues, and then end up spending another hour to get medicines."

The Rowa Smart System has four terminals, each with an assistant who opens patient files and commands the robot to retrieve the medicines.

After a doctor writes a prescription, it is saved into a patient's electronic medical record then transferred into the pharmacy's system.

By the time the patient reaches the pharmacy, the prescription will have been verified by insurers and the medicine can be dispensed.