Regardless of the proven safety, efficiency, and cost-saving benefits of automated pharmacy systems, less than 10% of retail pharmacies in America today use automation. The adoption of automation technologies is increasing, however, as pharmacies strive to ensure patient safety in the face of the 10% to 15% growth in prescription volume each year amid a growing nationwide shortage of pharmacists.
Parata Systems LLC, founded in 2001 and headquartered in Durham, NC, has long led the way in pharmacy automation. Its wide range of products can be custom-designed to meet the needs of any pharmacy, from a busy hospital system to a local community drugstore.
The technology experts at Parata observed the condition of the pharmacy industry and saw a chance to make a difference. They began with the Parata Robotic Dispensing System, which can process up to 154 scripts an hour, can automate 50% to 65% of a pharmacy's total prescription volume, and boasts 100% accuracy for both drug and dose.
In June 2006, Parata acquired the Automated Prescription System business unit of McKesson Corp, entering into a long-term strategic alliance under which McKesson became the sole third-party distributor for all Parata products in North America. The partnership helped form the most complete, technologically advanced range of pharmacy automation products in the industry.
Parata continues to grow to meet the needs of pharmacies across the country. The company recently acquired the assets of Amistar and Distributed Delivery Networks Corp (San Marcos, Calif) related to automated product machine (APM) technology. This technology enables prescription pickup via selfservice kiosks. These kiosks make prescriptions accessible to patients after pharmacy hours or when a patient chooses not to consult with the pharmacist. They reduce both wait time and frustration for the patient on the go, while freeing up pharmacy staff members to discuss medications with other patients and shortening their wait times as well.
To pick up a prescription from a Parata APM, patients are prompted to enter identifying information. They will have the option 24 hours a day of speaking with an on-call pharmacist at a nearby phone. Then they select their payment method. When the method is authorized, the prescription is released along with a receipt.
A kiosk can hold up to 448 completed prescriptions. A technician manually loads the prescriptions into the back of the machine, where they are tracked by National Drug Code bar coding. The Parata APM also offers automated "will-call" functionality to pharmacies for most prescriptions. Pharmacists can load prescriptions into the APM for advanced automated access by pharmacy staff.
Jay Blandford, senior director of sales and marketing for Parata, said that the company was "tremendously excited" about bringing its "first consumer- facing product" to the public. He stated that the self-service kiosks "extend our business vision to [bring] front-end technology access to customers." Blandford explained that the company had spent years in research on the anticipated demand for the selfservice technology, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. He pointed out that the technology was already in place in airports, hospitals, and military bases across the country, and Parata officials knew that the entrepreneurial community pharmacy could benefit from this innovation as well.
Jess Eberdt, chief executive officer at Parata, said, "We look forward to bringing this exciting technology to market, offering a new way to enhance consumer access to prescriptions, even when the pharmacy is closed. With self-service kiosk technology, we literally move out in front with consumers to improve the convenience of their pharmacy experience, an important driver to loyalty."
Blandford explained that Parata invests a great deal of its resources in research and development to keep in touch with its customer base from all segments of pharmacy. He said that "the future of Parata is to [determine] what our customers need and to meet those needs."