Over the past several decades, numerous products have improved both the efficiency and safety of pharmacy operations. These advances have included automatic pill counting, robotic pill dispensing, bar codes for patient and inventory information, and pharmacy management systems.
One part of pharmacy workflow that has been slow to adopt automation has been the will call area of the pharmacy.
Pharmacies waste labor and decrease customer satisfaction when will call scripts take too long to locate and retrieve. A much more serious compliance issue occurs when a wrong prescription bag is given to a customer causing injury, litigation, negative social media or fines. Implementing a good will call management system can reduce labor costs, improve customer satisfaction and provide additional safety checks in the effort to eliminate prescription errors.
Attempts in the past decade at providing will call solutions have been hindered by power management and communication technology limitations.
First generation systems were limited due to the difficulty of supplying power and control signals to large arrays of indicators for prescription bags. Early solutions were to add indicator electronics to metal cabinets — either construct metal cabinets containing hard wired indicator lights or place indicators near hanging bags. These cabinets or shelving systems required custom power modifications and store remodeling. Communication signals between the clerk at the point of sale terminal and the prescription bag in some early wireless systems used inefficient, infra-red signals, which were easily blocked by overlapping packages, people or equipment.
As a result of the expense and installation difficulties, these systems never received widespread adoption by large chains or independent pharmacies. The introduction in ResearchandMarkets.com report, ‘Pharmacy Automation Market by Product’ (April 2017), stated that ‘automation medication dispensing systems accounted for the largest share of pharmacy automation in 2016.’ Only one of the worldwide, top 12 pharmacy automation companies mentioned in that report offers any type of will call solution.
Recent advances in micro-power management adopted from hand held consumer device technologies have made it possible to inexpensively offer self-powered, electronic prescription bags that could work 24/7 in a will call environment for over a year on common batteries. Advances in radio communication and networking design have made it possible for hundreds of bags to quickly communicate with a control station while using encrypted data for patient prescription information. The results of incorporating these advances are easy to set up will call systems that are miserly in power consumption, but loaded with features for patient safety, workflow productivity and security. Some will call systems such as scripClip, are available in different form factors that address hanging bag, paper bag, refrigerated products and oversized packages.
For a complimentary analysis of your pharmacy’s will call operations, please call PerceptiMed at 650 941 7000 ext. 1. An experienced pharmacy operations consultant can provide advice on improving your workflow and calculate your expected ROI when implementing will call automation in your pharmacy.