App, pill-dispensing robot improve pharmacy services

Innovations such as speech recognition help patients get medications more easily from UCHealth outpatient pharmacies
December 24th, 2019
Pills are collected to fill a prescription
Pharmacy technician Brian Tichauer works to fill a prescription at UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital’s outpatient pharmacy in Fort Collins. Photo by Robert Allen, UCHealth.

Digital innovations make it easier than ever to get a prescription filled with UCHealth’s outpatient pharmacies.

Speech recognition, the UCHealth app and a pill-dispensing robot offer added conveniences to ensure patients promptly receive medication.

“We have been hearing positive feedback from our patients. They enjoy the fact they can order their prescriptions over the phone at any time, regardless of our business hours,” said Laura Gilbert, pharmacy technician II with the UCHealth Springs Pharmacy at Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs.

Digital self-service, timely prescription updates

When calling one of UCHealth’s 16 outpatient pharmacies across Colorado’s Front Range, patients can easily order a refill, check prescription status, find out pharmacy hours and more in a matter of seconds through speech-recognition software. It isn’t necessary to already be a patient at a UCHealth facility to have prescriptions filled at a UCHealth pharmacy.

Screenshot of UCHealth's My Health Connection app
UCHealth’s My Health Connection app offers prescription medication refill requests, notifications and more.

Andrew Davis, associate director of Ambulatory Care Pharmacy Services for the UCHealth Metro Denver Region, said UCHealth’s technology experts have “unofficially branded this year as the year of the outpatient pharmacy” with numerous improvements to enhance the patient’s experience, from offering self-service to providing timely updates.

Through UCHealth’s My Health Connection app and website, patients can now receive notifications when a prescription is ready as well as receive reminders for refills and expirations. If there’s a problem with a prescription – for example, it’s out of stock – that also leads to a notification. In March, the notification services are to be extended to the outbound phone system, so patients will be able to receive them via automated phone call.

These upgrades and more developed as a direct result from comments submitted by UCHealth patients and employees.

UCHealth’s pharmacies are all electronically integrated, so patients can receive refills at any of them. All work closely with physicians and offer consultation services beyond what most pharmacies offer. For patients ordering through UPS, the app or website can send notification when the prescription ships.

A pill-vending robot on wheels

A red, cylindrical robot on wheels now helps deliver prescriptions at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora.

“Our campus is quite large, and we have multiple outpatient pharmacies located on the Anschutz Medical Campus,” said Patricia Lanius, manager of pharmacy operations with Ambulatory Care Pharmacy Services.

A red, cylindical robot on wheels moves through a hallway to deliver medications
Pillington, a medication delivery robot, moves through a hallway at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. Photo by Molly Blake, UCHealth.

The robot, named Pillington, brings prescriptions from the Anschutz Outpatient Pavilion pharmacy to a pick-up site at the Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center. The technology arrives in addition to an automated pharmacy kiosk at the Anschutz Inpatient Pavilion lobby.

“Pillington is a real conversation-starter,” Lanius said.

Next, Pillington is being taught to call elevators. And work is underway to introduce a Pillington II to make deliveries at locations such as the cancer center buildings on campus.

About the author

Robert Allen loves meeting new people and learning their stories, and he's continually inspired by the patients, staff and providers he meets at UCHealth.

A journalist for 12 years, he joined UCHealth after reporting and editing at the Detroit Free Press. He is the author of Fading Ads of Detroit, a book exploring connections between classic Detroit brands — from Carhartt to Mac-O-Lac Paints to the Detroit Tigers — found on ghost signs and the personal histories of Detroit residents. He previously reported for the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Summit Daily News and Montrose Daily Press.

His outdoor adventures include scrambling summits, hunting powder stashes via snowboard and taking a three-week winter rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. The Oklahoma State University graduate lives in Fort Collins with his wife, Rachel, and their obstinate pug, Darla.