Technicians Are Crucial to Managing the Flow of an Independent Pharmacy

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During a time of staff shortages and increasing stress, the need to have an efficient workflow is of vital importance.

Pharmacy technicians have been given many opportunities to show their leadership skills and advanced knowledge. In the retail sector, especially in an independent pharmacy, these opportunities come full circle. Assisting the pharmacist is much more involved in this day and age, and having additional training goes far beyond the scope of an entry level technician. As someone who has worked in the industry for more than 35 years, I have been given many tasks that demonstrate and elevate what I have learned.

pharmacy technician shelving drugs in the pharmacy

Image credit: auremar | stock.adobe.com

During a time of staff shortages and increasing stress, the need to have an efficient workflow is of vital importance. I have various duties, including administrative, prescription preparation, inventory management, and much more, because I am the only pharmacy technician in my independent pharmacy. Moving into a managerial role has helped me determine what is important immediately and what can be completed later. It is my responsibility to be organized, focused, and detail oriented. Both hard and soft skills are necessary, and communication is key, especially with a small team.

Every day when I first arrive, I separate the labels that have already been printed into 3 different categories: bottles, bingo cards, and Dispill packaging. Each label is marked with symbols to indicate the method by which it will be filled. I usually do bottle medications first because they are the quickest, then move on depending on the type of labels printed and the time of the month. In the filling process, prescription inventory management is important to reduce the time between filling and dispensing. Checking for expired medications, putting away stock, keeping precise records, and filing and managing periodic automatic replacement levels are also essential to the day-to-day operations.

We have very few walk-in patients, and most of them are from the psychiatrist next door. These prescriptions are checked for completeness and insurance information is verified, because we receive many controlled substances. These patients find it convenient to have the pharmacy close by and most of them are regulars.

Most of our prescriptions are received by e-prescription or fax, and our data entry system is RX30. When entering prescriptions, insurance issues are very common and understanding what to do is key. Pharmacist intervention may be needed with certain issues such as prior authorizations or changes in insurance plans, especially at the beginning of the year. Medications that are not picked up by the patient are delivered daily for free.

One important administrative component is answering the phone to assist patients, insurance companies, vendors, and caregivers. Effective communication is essential to adequately serve our clients and using listening skills along with good customer service can make the difference between a good or bad transition.

The pharmacy where I work is not a typical independent pharmacy. We have a large population of patients on psychiatric medications, and we service group homes and programs where many of our patients reside and attend. There is a greater level of attention to detail needed to ensure that refills are on time along with patients’ other routine or maintenance medications. Most of the medications are packaged using the Dispill system, which allows for all medications received during the morning, evening, and bedtime to be placed together for easy administration. Many patients are on several medications, and this system reduces the risk of medication error and improves patient compliance.

About the Author

Lisa Thompson, RPT, CPhT, BS, has more than 30 years of experience as a pharmacy technician and more than 15 years as a program director and instructor of pharmacy technician programs.

Our pharmacy also has several accounts with nursing homes, where we supply medications monthly in bingo cards. The use of this system allows for medications to be individually packaged for either 30 or 31 days. Many of these patients also receive OTC medications such as vitamin supplements and other non-prescription items.

The work of a pharmacy technician can be very rewarding when you enjoy what you do in serving others. Practicing safety and developing a system that helps you flow from one task to another with few interruptions can ensure that your day-to-day operation functions in a productive and efficient manner.

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