Study: Patients More Likely to Pick Up Prescriptions Via Automated Kiosks

Based on the pickup rates in the study, the investigators said kiosks could provide pharmacies significant annual savings because patients picked up an additional 400 prescriptions per year.

New research by investigators at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) has found that patients using an automated kiosk had better prescription pickup rates without sacrificing instruction from pharmacists.

The findings could offer a way to improve medication adherence, according to UCI investigators. Failure to follow prescribers’ orders often results in worse outcomes and higher health care costs, an issue that the World Health Organization has called “a worldwide problem of striking magnitude.”

“If you don’t pick your prescription up, you’re not going to be adherent with your medication,” said Jan D. Hirsch, BS Pharm, MS, PhD, founding dean of UCI’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and lead author of the study, in a prepared statement. “And if you’re not adherent with your medications, then we have a long cascade of negative effects.”

In the study, patients could opt in to pick up their prescriptions at a 24/7 kiosk located at their workplace. They would order from the pharmacy as usual, and once the pharmacist filled the prescription a technician would deliver it to the kiosk. The patient was given a code to enter, and their medication would pop out. Hirsch described it as “an ATM machine for prescriptions,” and said it also offered some common OTC medications for purchase.

Patients could also use a phone at the kiosk to call the pharmacist with questions. When filling a new prescription, the pharmacist would call the patient prior to pickup to discuss the medication and answer questions, as required by California law.

Patients in the study said they were satisfied and had their questions answered when speaking to the pharmacist via phone, according to UCI. As a contactless option, investigators said the kiosk method could be particularly useful during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The Board of Pharmacy in California would not let the kiosk be located outside a pharmacy prior to this study. They were concerned about patient access to the pharmacist,” said co-author Charles E. Daniels, BS Pharm, PhD, associate dean for professional practice and chief pharmacy officer at UCSD, in a prepared statement. “We found that the pharmacist counseling was pretty much the same for patients using the kiosk compared to those using the regular pharmacy counter.”

The pharmacy used in the study fills 40,000 prescriptions per year, according to UCI. Based on the pickup rates in the study, the investigators said the kiosk could save the pharmacy $12,000 annually because patients picked up an additional 400 prescriptions per year.

“This also means the crucial pickup step toward medication adherence will occur 400 more times, which is not trivial,” Daniels explained.

According to the investigators, when a prescription is filled but never picked up, pharmacies lose money through restocking and potential overstocking, which can affect their performance metrics. Costs for patients often increase as well because they are more likely to have to return to the physician or be admitted to an emergency department.

Decreased time restocking medications and delivering prescriptions to patients in person also frees up time for pharmacists to focus on patient services, such as administering immunizations.

“As the COVID-19 vaccines start rolling out, pharmacists will be key to the rapid and equitable distribution and administration of doses, just as they have been with COVID-19 testing,” Hirsch said.

REFERENCE

UCI, UCSD Study: People More Likely to Pick Up Prescriptions Via Automated Kiosks [news release]. UCI News; December 10, 2020. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://news.uci.edu/2020/12/10/uci-ucsd-study-people-more-likely-to-pick-up-prescriptions-via-automated-kiosks/