COVID-19 and the Evolution of Pharmacy, Part 2
Considering the Competitive Advantages of Pharmacy Automation Systems
In our previous post, we looked at how pharmacists’ roles have evolved, pivoting toward greater patient-centric focuses throughout the COVID19 pandemic. CEO of Evernorth Eric Palmer said, “ As we look at the emerging forces shaping the future of health care, it is clear that accelerated pharmacological innovation and expanded pharmacy services are two of the most fundamental driving forces.”
Retail pharmacies have an urgent need to find operational efficiencies in order to effectively meet growing patient demand. Innovations in pharmacy automation, or the electronic process of distributing, sorting, packaging, and counting prescription medications, is one way to achieve efficiency needs in this new operating environment.
The Benefits of Pharmacy Automation During COVID-19 and Beyond
Speed. Accuracy. Reliability. These are just a few of the many benefits offered by pharmacy automation. Patient demands are high in an environment where time, labor and supplies are so valuable. As retail pharmacists continue to take on larger, more patient-centric roles in the pharmacy – administering vaccines and COVID-19 tests – resources of time, staff and space become pressed in already busy retail pharmacies.
At a high level, pharmacy automation systems can lend retail pharmacies what they need to find operational efficiencies within current processes and workstations, and ultimately meet patient demands.
Specifically, let’s look at how pharmacy automation equipment at a central fill pharmacy can work in tandem with retail locations.
Pharmacy Automation Equipment for Central Fill Pharmacies
What is a Central Fill Pharmacy?
Pharmacy automation equipment at a central fill pharmacy can process from 4,000 to 50,000+ prescriptions per shift. Approximately 40-60% of those prescriptions filled at central fill pharmacies are maintenance medications used to treat chronic and long-term conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes (in 2021, an estimated 5 billion prescriptions were filled in the U.S., which includes approximately 2.5 billion maintenance medications).
Competitive Advantages of a Central Fill Pharmacy in Our “New Normal”
Historically, central fill pharmacies have offered cost-related benefits to pharmacy companies. For example, central fill pharmacies allow for bulk discounts on large, high volume drug orders that can be automated in a central fill facility. A central fill pharmacy also allows for better inventory management as expensive and spacious drug storage can become a lesser issue because high value, low volume drugs are moved out of the retail inventory and to a central fill facility.
Now, during the COVID19 pandemic and beyond, pharmacy automation equipment in central fill pharmacies offers competitive advantages in the form of resource efficiencies:
Greater Time Management for Pharmacists
By moving high volume medications to a central fill pharmacy with pharmacy automation capabilities, it can free up valuable time the retail pharmacist spends verifying these drugs. This time can be put towards higher-level services, such as vaccinations, testing and medication therapy management. This becomes especially important as the pandemic and associated provider shortages continue.
Central Fill Pharmacy Operational Efficiencies
Because a central fill pharmacy centralizes operations, it also presents an opportunity for the digitization of pharmacy verification. This could be especially beneficial to the patient who elects for telepharmacy practice.
Operational efficiencies can also relate to labor in non-pharmacist roles, such as the creation of distinct, defined tasks for operators and technicians to become proficient at, or the use of runners to stock manual fill operator
BPM for Central Fill Pharmacy Efficiencies
Tension’s high-output, fully-automated Bottle Packaging Machine (or
BPM) operates at rates significantly faster than a packaging clerk, packing bottle and/or vial prescriptions and patient-specific documents in bags that are printed on-demand. The prescriptions are processed at a higher throughput and with precision as three verification stations check prescription-to-patient information throughout processing.