Technology clears the way to offer clinical-focused tasks, ultimately improving job satisfaction and minimizing burnout.
Pharmacy technicians are undeniably the backbone of the pharmacy. Pharmacies rely heavily on technicians to help serve their communities and help patients lead healthier lives. Traditionally, technicians have been tasked with various roles, including answering phone calls, counting pills, gathering patient information, and labeling vials. These roles have created an environment in which technicians feel burned out and unfulfilled, which contributes to a technician shortage in the profession.
It is more critical than ever to reimagine and repurpose the technician’s job as a role that can be better aligned with their talents and better suited for the growth trajectory of the pharmaceutical industry. The solution is automation. Pharmacies are growing beyond simply being drug dispensaries into more clinically focused centers, offering the care patients demand and deserve. This means offering immunizations, medication therapy management, point-of-care testing, and more. Without automation, it is extremely difficult to find time to dedicate to these services.
One such solution, the Parata Max 2 High-Speed, Vial Filling Robot, is equivalent to more than 40 hours of a technician’s work in a pharmacy without automation. Creating this time frees up technicians to do other things, allowing them to take advantage of opportunities to build a career with expanded roles. This alleviates burnout and improves job satisfaction, which reduces technician turnover rate.
Recently, the National Community Pharmacists Association reported that approximately 70% of independent retail pharmacies were struggling to find technicians, according to a survey it conducted.1
A critical part of recruiting talent is educating potential technicians about what opportunities exist and what their futures could look like once they enter the industry.
Erin Lomenick, a pharmacy technician at Tyson Drugs, Inc in Holly Springs, Mississippi, talked in an interview about ways in which she has been able to excel beyond counting pills. She has been a certified pharmacy technician at Tyson Drugs for 3 years, and thanks to the support of automation, she has had the opportunity to grow within the role. For the first couple years, Lomenick was more involved with the filling process, working closely with the Parata Max 2.
Automation allowed her to cut the time it takes to fill a patient’s prescription in half, allowing more time to dedicate to the pharmacy’s medication synchronization program.
“While the machine is filling the common prescriptions, you are able to do so many other things. We have a lot of patients on our med sync program,” Lomenick said.
“By the time I finish filling those medications that are not in the machine, the medications filled by the machine are ready to go, and I’m done with that patient, [saving me] double the time it would take to fill them all by hand,” she said, adding that it is important to have the flexibility to step away from the fill station. “Automation gives me more time to interact with patients and help out wherever I’m needed.”
Furthermore, her technician role has evolved into being the designated med sync caller.
“Rather than technicians on the bench, making sync calls, I have an office space away from the pharmacy, where I can talk to patients one-on-one with absolutely no distractions,” Lomenick said.
This personalized time with patients is an essential piece in developing trust between patients and the pharmacy, leaving patients feeling more cared for and valued, and thus improving adherence.
Tyson Drugs is implementing chronic care and remote patient monitoring, which are clinical programs on which technicians can be trained. Tyson Drugs has a vision to transform from a community pharmacy to clinical environment by using automation.
In a recent webcast discussion, Lindsay Dymowski Constantino, cofounder and president of Centennial Pharmacy Services, discussed how the organization has driven change toward the future of pharmacy by having technicians run operations.2 At Centennial Pharmacy, an adherence solution–centered pharmacy, technicians take the lead on billing, cycling operations, compliance, delivery, filling, sync calls, and workflow. These are all fulfilling roles, in which technicians can excel with the help of time created from using pouch-packaging adherence solutions.
“You cannot get pharmacies up to 1000 to 1500 prescriptions a day without high utilization of high-quality technicians and automation. It goes hand in hand,” Dymowski said.
There is a direct correlation between advancement to leadership roles for technicians and pharmacy success, and automation is at the heart of creating the time to do that.
It is important to reimagine pharmacy as a part of the overall health care landscape. Automation is a major piece to enable this mind shift. Automation gives technicians an opportunity to become a part of patient care. When automation replaces the counting, filling, labeling, and capping process, technicians have the chance to do more patient-centered tasks that can make for a fulfilling career. Automation is the answer to creating a more efficient and organized workflow so that technicians can succeed. Reallocating roles based on talent cannot happen without freeing up time through automation. Automation can help decrease turnover rates and enhance retention.
The traditional roles of a technician will soon become obsolete, and new advanced and specialized roles will become essential as pharmacies continue to evolve.
Elleny Johnson, BS, PhT, is an associate segment marketing manager at Parata Systems, LLC, in Durham, North Carolina.
1. Majority of independent pharmacies affected by ongoing labor, supply chain issues, NCPA survey says. News release. National Community Pharmacists Association; November 10, 2021. Accessed March 10, 2022. https://ncpa.org/newsroom/news-releases/2021/11/10/majority-independent-pharmacies-affected-ongoing-labor-supply
2. The shifting health care landscape for pharmacy technicians.
Pharmacy Times®. January 26, 2022. Accessed March 10, 2022. https:// www.pharmacytimes.com/view/the-shifting-health-care-landscape-for- pharmacy-technicians