The iconic Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) has been a Pittsburgh landmark since it was built in 1886. Over a century later, Walden graduate Arpit Mehta is implementing a medication production program to help this 650-bed hospital be part of the future of medicine—and save $1.5 million (and counting).
Mehta is a practical man, well-versed in pharmacology. As director of pharmacy at one of the largest hospitals in metropolitan Pittsburgh, he oversees a number of important facilities and metrics, from the critical clean rooms used to compound medications including controlled substances to monitoring safety, managing operations, and handling pharmacy finances.
When he realized that AGH’s specialized 503B compounding facility partners were creating bottlenecks in the distribution of lifesaving medications, he took a closer look at the issue and discovered other opportunities for improvement. These essential medications were also increasingly expensive, in critically short supply, and of inconsistent quality. He knew he needed to make a change.
Mehta got to work analyzing several companies that make IV-compounding robots, which are designed to compound medications safely and effectively. With this solution, he thought, he could better control the inventory and the quality of medications by taking their compounding in-house.
“It’s always a challenge to go into the nursing huddle and explain substitutions; this allows us to mitigate all of those challenges and helps control our inventory,” he explains.
The machines could produce high-quality medications safely, on time, and within the strict parameters required. The team would also save time they’d usually spend ensuring that their partner production facilities were sterile and compliant. As a huge bonus, he found that not only could he control all of these factors, but the costs were significantly better—to the tune of an annual $1.5 million return on investment (ROI) that the hospital would begin realizing immediately.
“It was an easy decision,” he says with a smile. Based on the size of their robots, he chose Omnicell’s IV robots. Not only did their vending machine-sized robots fit best in AGH’s clean room, but the company boasts their comprehensive Robotic IV Insourcing Solution (RIIS) program, which provides skilled technicians to operate the robots. “The techs who are the experts are the ones running the robots,” Mehta explains. The hospital doesn’t have to pull current staff in, eliminating the inevitable internal labor shortages that would cause the delays in production they were working so hard to avoid.
In April 2020, they installed the first robot in the AGH pharmacy. “He’s named Richard Mixon (since he mixes medications),” Mehta laughs. The robot has been a workhorse for the team. In fact, the administration has been so pleased with its performance that they recently installed a second IV robot, nicknamed Sir Mix-a-Lot and IV Mix-a-Lot. Clever names aside, these robots are churning out serious savings. With improvements in technology, the second robot operates three to five times faster than the first, and will produce an ROI of $2.5 million in savings when operating together with the first robot. The pharmacy anticipates compounding 60,000 doses per robot per year.
Amazingly, most hospitals haven’t yet leveraged this lucrative technology. “Less than 6% of hospitals in the country have robotics, so it’s a newer concept—although the technology has been out for a few years,” Mehta explains. “The other reason is the fear of the unknown and the lack of space in the clean rooms.” It takes precious real estate to accommodate the robots. “That’s the biggest challenge,” he says. But he expects to see more hospitals adopt the technology in coming years.
This type of forward thinking comes naturally to him, and it runs in the family, too. Mehta and his wife, Kim Mehta ’20, MHA, are both immersed in the healthcare industry. They both also attended Walden University at the same time to attain their MHAs. One thing that drew the couple to the school was their ability to take breaks as they married and started a family, something they felt couldn’t happen at other schools. “We knew we wanted this degree, so we looked for a partner where we could go at our pace and have flexibility with our busy work schedule,” he says. “It was also affordable.” With two concurrent tuition payments, cost was a big consideration. But most importantly, they wanted a quality program, and they found that in Walden. “They catered to our needs rather than the other way around,” he says. “They asked: ‘What can we do for you to make it better for you?’”
As he continues to use his Education for Good to provide the people of Pittsburgh with better healthcare, Mehta brings the idea of social change to life. “It’s important. A lot of the schools miss it as part of the curriculum, but I think there is a lot of value in it in the world we live in today, and especially in healthcare.” A perennial innovator, Mehta looks with optimism to the future. “You can accomplish anything you want. Your options are limitless. … If you work hard, believe in yourself, and continue to do what you’re trained to do, you’ll continue to be successful,” he says. And with or without robots, that is the best ROI you can achieve.