INDEPENDENTS ON THE CUTTING EDGE

Pharmacy Careers, Volume 0, 0

WHEN DECIDING ON A CAREER,pharmacy students might feel that inorder to stay on top of advances in pharmacytechnology, they must choosebetween either hospitals or retail chains.They may see their local independentpharmacies as "behind the times." Whatthey do not realize is that more andmore independent pharmacies arecatching hold of the vision of the futureof pharmacy, and part of that visioninvolves utilizing pharmacy robotics toimprove customer service. A surveyconducted by the National CommunityPharmacists Association showed that45% of independent pharmacies utilizesome kind of automated dispensing system,and the number continues to grow.

The initiation of robotics in the pharmacyhas proven to be a great boon toindependent pharmacists across thecountry.Automated pill counters, radiofrequency identification, and unit-dosepackaging are just some of the advancesthat are helping independent pharmaciesprovide a better quality of customerservice by freeing them from the manualprescription-filling process. It seemsthat no workload is too great for thesystems, and no pharmacy is too smallto benefit from these technologicalinnovations.

Owners and managers know theyneed to stay on top of the latest advancesin pharmacy technology tokeep their businesses thriving.Kathryn Hubbard, manager of Hubbard'sPharmacy, Cambridge, Md,says installing a Parata Robotic DispensingSystem (RDS) from ParataSystems (Durham, NC) in her storewas one of the best things she did."The robot fills about 55% to 60% ofour prescriptions, and has made theatmosphere a lot more pleasantbecause we know those prescriptionsare being filled correctly 100% of thetime," she said.

Hubbard also said it was well worththe initial cost of the machine for theextra peace of mind the pharmacistsnow have. "It takes off some of theburden, freeing them up to counselpatients on medications and not rushthrough filling other prescriptions," she said. Hubbard was especially gladto have the machine in place beforeMedicare Part D kicked in. "Therobot was filling prescriptions whilethe pharmacists were on the phonewith insurance companies. Our productivitydidn't slow down [duringthat time]," she said. Hubbard isgrateful to have the system in place sothat her pharmacists can continue togive their customers the personalattention they have come to expectfrom their local pharmacy.

A robotics system is an ideal helpmatethat can add leverage for independentpharmacies by freeingemployees'time to focus on otherchallenges of pharmacy. Not only cana robotics system increase production,it can also help pharmacies keepthe personal rapport they have withtheir customers.

Debbie Richmond, RPh, co-ownerof Bruce Smith Drugs (Prairie Village,Kan), said that the ScriptPro(SP) 200 and SP Central WorkflowSystem, both from ScriptPro (Mission,Kan), that were added to herpharmacy took over most of thetedious counting and labeling tasks,increased efficiency, and brought precisionand order to the remainingdispensing processes. She added,"Our customers are happier becauseof our increased efficiency and accuracy." Richmond also pointed out thecost-efficiency aspect of having arobot on staff. "In the industry, marginson prescriptions are beingsqueezed. SP has helped us keep dispensingcosts down and reduce operatingcosts," she said. Recently, Richmondadded the SP Unit Dispenser(SPUD) to her system, which isupdated regularly by SP, and is morethan happy with its performance.The unit dispensing machine helpsher with maintaining inventory controland automatically loads, stores,and delivers unit-of-use medications.

These companies are able to provideindependent pharmacies in anystage of development with the technologythat can help them enhancecustomer service, increase prescriptionaccuracy, and keep their businessflowing smoothly.