Cody Enterprise, Scott Salisbury, Associated Press
The InstyMeds Machine is seen on Dec. 14, 2010 in West Park Hospital in Cody, Wyo. InstyMeds is a fully automated system that allows patients to fill prescriptions at the hospital rather than make a separate trip to the pharmacy. Although machines are in 37 states, this is the first InstyMeds machine in Wyoming.

CODY, Wyo. — West Park Hospital has a new vending machine — but this one features medicine.

It is located in the emergency room entrance.

"(InstyMeds is) for the convenience of the patient," ER manager Lynette Barsness said. "We want them to be able to get (prescriptions) from the hospital and not have to go through going to a different place with a sick child or when sick themselves."

Barsness said she heard about the system from a peer, then she did research on her own and took it to the hospital pharmacist to have him look at it.

Although machines are in 37 states, this is the first InstyMeds machine in Wyoming.

"We're excited to be the first in Wyoming, and I think it will soon be all over the state," Barsness said.

Because it's the first, WPH had to get permission from the State Board of Pharmacy before it could get the machine.

The WPH Board of Trustees approved the purchase of the machine in September. Although the actual cost is about $100,000, WPH paid less than $10,000, including installation, due to a medical aid stimulus package the InstyMeds company received.

InstyMeds went live in Cody on Nov. 29, and since then at least 17 people have used it, Barsness said.

Chief pharmacist Gary Thompson said the reason for the machine is not to compete with local pharmacies, but to be used on late nights, weekends or holidays when pharmacies are closed and a patient needs immediate relief.

WPH employee Jessi Poley used InstyMeds late one Sunday evening when her 2-year-old was sick and the pharmacies were closed.

"It was super fast and gave you everything you needed," she said.

Poley needed amoxicillin, and said InstyMeds gave her everything she needed down to the little bottle of water. It also was measured out.

She said she would "absolutely" use it again if she needed to.

"It was faster than if I drove to the pharmacy," she said.

Barsness said the only medicine available now is for acute needs like antibiotics and pain pills.

"It's not for long-term medications," she said.

Thompson said there are more than 50 different medications available now, but the machine will hold up to 101.

Using InstyMeds is user-friendly, Barsness said.

Patients are asked if they want to fill a prescription at the hospital or at a pharmacy, and physicians print a voucher for the machine with a specific number. Patients type in the number on a touch screen, then verify their birthday.

Since patients are asked for an insurance card when they check in, the machine already has insurance information, making verification much quicker.

If the patient has any questions, he or she can pick up the phone on the machine and will be connected to either a pharmacist or a pharmacy technician available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If the machine has any questions for the patient, the screen will prompt the patient to pick up the phone.

The total process takes only a couple minutes, Barsness said. And, if at any time the patient changes his mind or doesn't have a credit or debit card (the machine doesn't accept cash), the request can be canceled and a regular prescription for a pharmacy will be printed at the ER desk.

Training for the system was minimal. WPH technician Don VanOrt said he only had a couple hours of demonstrations.

He said the medication comes in prefilled bottles in cardboard trays that slide into the correct slots. He said the InstyMeds company monitors the machine and the inventory constantly and lets them know when something needs to be replaced.

"We have something on the computers that tells us what needs to be restocked," technician Jessie Brandt said.

There are several safety features in place as well to ensure correct medication delivery.

Barsness said InstyMeds machines have dispensed over 1 million prescriptions and there has never been a medication error reported. She said the bottle goes through three different scans reviewing the medication before it's dispensed.

Brandt added if there is ever an error with the scan, like if the bar code is smudged, it tries 18 times before dumping the bottle in a bin and trying a new bottle.

The machine also has its own battery in case of a power failure. It is on top of the backup generator WPH already has.

Right now, due to a State Board of Pharmacy rule, the machine will only dispense 72 hours worth of drugs. That could change in the future.

"It's an added benefit for the patient," Barsness said.