Robotic Pharmacies


In a down economy, should pharmacists have to compete with robots for their job security? Some doctors and patients in about 200 locations think so. There are clearly benefits for consumers using pharmacy kiosks, but what about the inherent dangers? 

How They Work

The kiosks are typically located in clinics so patients can have prescriptions filled at the doctor’s office. They are filled much like vending machines with the most popular commodities. The options chosen can vary by the type of office being served. A clinic with a high rate of pediatric patients might stock creams for rashes, drops for eye infections, inhalers, or pediatric doses of antibiotics. The patient, or staff, input the patient’s birthday and a special code, and the medication is dispensed.


  • Time – patients with small children may find it difficult to transport a sick child, and possibly siblings, to another location and then wait for a prescription to be filled.
  • Transportation – in many areas of the country transportation costs have become prohibitive and people are having more difficulty getting from one location to another, kiosks limit the number of places a patient has to visit.
  • Convenience – It is simply easier to go to one place even if you have the time and transportation to go to multiple locations.
  • Human Error – A kiosk does not become overworked or tired. Medications will be dispensed as they have been programmed to. If there is no error in programming or when the machine is filled, patients will not be given the wrong dose or wrong medication.


  • Mislabeling – Occasionally medications are mislabeled by distributors. When this happens in a pharmacy, pharmacists are often able to recognize the discrepancy by the way the medication appears. This extra level of safety is not available with machines.
  • Interactions – A machine is not able to verify that the patient is not on other medications or supplements that may prevent the medication from working properly or which may have negative interactions when taken together.
  • Patient History – If a patient is allergic to one medication, for example penicillin, they may also be allergic to medications in the same family. Unlike a pharmacist, a kiosk is not going to ask about past allergic reactions to ensure the patient is not taking a medication that could provoke a reaction.

 As companies look for more ways to save money, replacing pharmacists with kiosks may become more tempting. Likewise, with the cutbacks anticipated for physicians who service Medicaid and Medicare patients, clinics may be looking for a way to earn more money. Kiosks would address both of these concerns.

 Fortunately, many patients prefer being able to discuss possible side effects and interactions with a pharmacist. Pharmacies are increasingly open past normal business hours and offer a wide range of services and products. They are also able to stock a wider range of medications and easily process a variety of insurance claims. It is unlikely that robotic pharmacies will replace those manned by humans anytime in the near future.

 What do you think of these pharmacy kiosks? Are they a beneficial addition to pharmacy services or a safety hazard?