Automated Medicine Dispenser Offers Convenient Rx Pickup

Pharmacy Times
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Similar to a bank ATM, Parata's prescription vending machine is offering patients at Med-Fast Pharmacy a new alternative in how they get their medications.

Med-Fast Pharmacy locatedinside the Shop 'n Save (BethelPark, PA) has the distinctionof being the first community pharmacyin the country to launch the ParataAutomated Product Machine (APM).

The implementation of self-servicetechnology in pharmacies gives individualsthe option of when they pick uptheir prescriptions. The machine offerssafe, secure,private self-service pickupfor prescriptions 24 hours a day. It alsoreduces clutter and confusion at pickupand ensures more complete, accurateorders.

"Med-Fast wantedprescriptions tobe available to customers24 hours aday to fit with theirlifestyles," said GinoCordisco, RPh, director of store operations.The company saw the machine ata July 2007 trade show and, shortly after,purchased it. The prescription pickupstation was deployed at the Bethel Parklocation in March. The site was chosenbecause it is a 24-hour grocery store,and customer surveys indicated thatindividuals in the area were in favor ofthe APM because they shopped late atnight for groceries, he explained.

Med-Fast Pharmacy has 18 retaillocations, a long-term care pharmacy,a compounding only pharmacy, and aHome Health Care division all locatedthroughout Western Pennsylvania.

Located next to the pharmacy, theAPM sits with one side accessible toemployees behind the counter, and theother side is available to patients. Theprocess for filling prescriptions has notchanged with the implementation of theAPM. Pharmacists still fill scripts called inby patients or physician offices or scriptsdropped off. After the medications areverified, the bar-coded bags are thenstapled to a plastic handle. The pharmacystaff scans the prescriptions intothe pharmacy management system andloads them into the machine, which canhold up to 450 bags of medication. Bulkitems or refrigerated medications cannotgo into the machine.

In order to ensureprivacy and accuracy,patients registerat the pharmacycounter and receivean exclusive personalidentificationcode. Using the specialidentification,a patient creates apersonal identificationnumber to usethe machine to access their profile. Thepatient selects the medication(s) to bepicked up. Before the medications aredispensed and paid for electronically,patients must accept or decline counselingby a pharmacist. If they elect counseling,the patients pick up a telephoneon the machine and are connected witha Med-Fast pharmacist. If it is after thepharmacy closes, on-call pharmacistshave remote capabilities that allow themto pull a copy of the scanned script andlook at everything they need to counselpatients, explained Cordisco.

He stressed that patients receivingnew prescriptions are given the optionof counseling when they drop off thescript and again when they pick it up. Ifthe script is called in by the physician'soffice, the pharmacist calls the patient tooffer counseling prior to filling the scriptand loading it into the machine.

The feedback from both patientsand pharmacy staff has been positive.Patients enjoy the convenience, and thepharmacy department likes having themachine as an option for prescriptionpickup because it frees staff for patientson new or complex drug regimens orwho want additional help with theirhealth care needs.

"Med-Fast is leading the future visionof pharmacy, continually leveraging technologyto meet and exceed customers'expectations for fast, accurate service,and access to their pharmacy team,"said Tom Rhoads, Parata's executivevice president. "Parata is committed tohelping pharmacies like Med-Fast makethe transformation from fulfillers to providerswith technology solutions thatenhance patient safety and convenienceat key touch points. Parata APM plays anexciting part in that strategy by changingthe way prescriptions are served tocustomers."

Cordisco said plans are in place torollout APMs at other Med-Fast pharmaciesafter they get approval for pharmacyrenovations and receive positivefeedback from other pharmacy locationswith a need for the technology.

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