Prescription drugs out of a vending machine?

Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital unveils an on-site system for dispensing prescription medications as soon as a doctor prescribes them.

It’s the middle of the night and a situation leads you to the emergency room.

After being treated by the doctor, you are sent home with a prescription for medication to make you feel better. Not being able to find a late-night pharmacy, you are forced to wait in agony until the next morning to get your medication.

It’s a scenario that happens far too often.

But what if there was a way to get your prescription before you leave the hospital?

At Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital, patients have that ability thanks to a new prescription dispensing machine.

Called InstyMeds, the machine gives emergency patients the option to obtain their initial order of common acute prescriptions, such as one-time courses of antibiotics and pain medications, right in the hospital after being treated.

Ed Makowicki, pharmacy director for Ludington Hospital, said the primary goals are, “to have more patients actually fill and fully use their prescribed medications, and to supplement local pharmacies by allowing emergency patients to immediately obtain prescriptions at night when pharmacies are closed—typically after 10 p.m. The nearest 24-hour pharmacy is 50 miles away.”

Makowicki said research indicates that about 30 percent of prescriptions are not filled and that the percentage is even higher for prescriptions for conditions treated in emergency rooms. This, he said, is a significant contributing factor in re-visits to the hospital for the same ailment.

“Sadly, many patients do not follow through and (don’t) get their prescriptions filled,” he said. “We hope to counteract that by making it extremely convenient to get medications on the spot. When people have to wait for a pharmacy to open they often decide to rely just on the doctor’s initial treatment. Following through on the antibiotic, pain or other medication is a crucial part of the treatment.”

The InstyMeds machine was fully funded by the Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital Foundation. Kaley Petersen, foundation director, said the foundation board was enthusiastically behind the project.

“We think our InstyMeds system will significantly contribute to treatment and quick recovery of emergency patients,” Petersen said. “We obviously provide medications for patients who are admitted to the hospital. But those who are treated and released often want to get home as soon as possible and often don’t make the extra trip to fill their prescription. Immediately filling prescriptions for such patients is a vital extension of our physicians’ treatment.”

The equipment is located in an alcove near the hospital’s emergency entrance. This, Petersen said, will protect patient privacy and confidentiality, especially for those who use the phone to confer with the InstyMeds staff.

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