Robot Helps Pharmacists Grow Business, Still Provide Service

Pharmacy Times
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When Jason Cuaderes, director of pharmacy for theMays and Med-X divisions of USA Drug, decidedto automate some of the chain's pharmacies, hewas not looking to replace pharmacists and technicians. Hewanted them to have more time to spend with patients.

"We were looking to free up pharmacists' time so theycould spend less time performing mundane tasks and moretime on cognitive services," he said. "We are a clinically mindedchain, so we used a machine to help us grow the business."

The chain decided on the ScriptPro SP 200 system andsaw a boost in satisfaction not only in front of the counter,but behind it as well. "It made a big difference right off thebat," said Cuaderes. "Morale among the pharmacists andtechnicians skyrocketed."

Cuaderes said one of the biggest benefits was the increasedaccuracy the robot affords pharmacists. Ironclad safety andaccuracy is a big selling point for the ScriptPro system, accordingto ScriptPro's President and CEO Michael Coughlin.

"The SP 200 has no potential for drug cross-contamination,whereas other systems dispense through commonpathways and generate pill dust that contaminates the drugsin the system," he said.

Whereas the Med-X store was filling 500 prescriptions aday when it brought in the SP 200, Coughlin said the robothas a big impact on chains that fill a lower prescription volumeas well.

"I've seen a report claiming that pharmacy robots are neededonly at volumes in excess of 300 to 400 scripts per day, withno cost analysis at all," said Coughlin. "This certainly does notsquare with our customer base or with our peer group experience.We have customers in the 200-script-per-day range thathave reduced filling costs substantially using the robot. Peergroup analysis shows that pharmacies can reduce filling coststo around $4 to $5 per script using a robot."

Cost reduction is only part of the benefit of adding a roboticdispensing system. Coughlin said that ScriptPro's state-ofthe-art robotics-based pharmacy management and workflowsystems reduce manual dispensing tasks, allowing pharmaciststo assume more active roles in medication therapy management.That means more time spent with patients.

While productivity is crucial to any robotic dispensingsystem, customer service is the bottom line when it comesto making a decision about which system to use. "If therobot is down, nothing else matters," said Coughlin. "Ourdocumented uptime and customer service infrastructure areunparalleled in the industry."

"We recently renewed our leases on all the machines," saidJoe Courtright, vice president of operations for Region One ofUSA Drug. "I sincerely have the highest regard for the customerservice department, the installation team, the trainers,and everyone we come in contact with at ScriptPro."

ScriptPro provides an "all-inclusive" customer support packageto cover automatic upgrades. "We design product improvementsso they can be retrofitted to all units in the field. Thefirst robots we sold in 1997 are operating today with thousandsof hardware and software improvements that we've installedunder our customer support package," said Coughlin.

"It's really wonderful to have the pharmacy staff tell youhow much they like using the robot," said Coughlin. "Irecently visited a number of our systems in Rhode Island,and some of the staff that were off duty came in just to tellme how much they liked the system. They were thanking usfor helping them do their job better. That really makes youfeel good!"

Cuaderes concluded: "The system allowed us to expandour clinical services even in high-volume stores. That's reallyimportant to us."

Ms. Sax is a freelance writer based in Ridgewood, NJ.

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