Cancer > How Mayo Clinic Is Using Robotics to Enhance Cancer Care

How Mayo Clinic Is Using Robotics to Enhance Cancer Care

By Nicole Etter

AT MAYO CLINIC Comprehensive Cancer Center, a new teammate on the pharmacy team is hard at work, helping to serve more patients by preparing chemotherapy infusions.

Inside its glass cabinet, the robotic system — dubbed “Sir Mix-A-Lot” by staff — swivels into action with soft clicks and gentle whirs, expertly mixing treatments that will later be delivered to patients by IV.

With its barcode scanning, optical recognition of labels and precise weighing of liquid volumes, the robot’s additional checks and balances ensure precise treatment. It also reduces staff exposure to hazardous chemicals from accidental needle sticks or spilled vials.

Clayton Irvine, Pharm.D., R.Ph., senior manager of oncology cancer care pharmacy, says the changes improve the patient experience and provide better levels of care.

“We know with 100% accuracy and confidence that the treatments were made correctly and are completely safe for patients, and we also minimize exposure and risk to the staff who are working on the front lines each and every day,” Dr. Irvine says.

In 2022, Mayo Clinic became the first cancer center in Minnesota and one of the first in the Midwest to adopt IV compounding robotics.

“Automation is something that’s going to become essential to pharmacy practice,” says Scott Soefje, Pharm.D., R.Ph., director of pharmacy cancer care.

Mayo’s robot handles about 18% of the center’s daily volume. The clinic’s expertise is sought out by other cancer centers around the country, who have turned to Mayo Clinic for guidance on how to incorporate the technology into their workflows.

At Mayo Clinic, the extra “hand” in the lab frees up staff to focus on other critical needs, from reviewing medication lists with patients to closer inventory management, a key driver during periods of drug shortages, according to Dr. Irvine.

“Our long-term goal is to get our pharmacists out of the pharmacy and get them face-to-face with patients more often to talk about side effects and help them manage their drug therapy,” Dr. Soefje explains. “It’s just another way we look to carry out our primary value — the needs of the patient come first.”

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