Automated Pharmacy Retrieval: Remodeling Pharmacy Operations

Carousels can dramatically improve a pharmacy’s efficiency. However, making the switch to a fully automated system can feel intimidating, particularly for smaller pharmacies that have yet to embrace other, similar forms of technology. This article will offer some tips for how to smooth the transition to automated pharmacy retrieval.

Why Automate, to Begin With?

Before discussing ways to prepare for making the transition to pharmacy carousels, it’s worth briefly discussing why a smaller pharmacy may want to do so, to begin with. The rationale is simple. Americans’ pharmaceutical needs are always increasing, while the number of pharmacists and pharmaceutical techs available to help meet them is not. Automating certain parts of a pharmacy’s operation allows its staff to work more efficiently and spend more time with patients while simultaneously improving patient safety by reducing the possibility of human error.

When to Start the Project

Pharmacies should avoid trying to accomplish multiple upgrades at the same time. Replacing pharmacy management software at the same time as a new carousel is about to be installed, for example, creates unnecessary stress and confusion. Instead of creating overlapping tasks for employees and making it harder for them to do their jobs, schedule the switch to an automated pharmacy retrieval system for a time when no other upgrades are in the works.

Have a Plan in Place

Don’t wait until the transition to using the automated system has been completed to start training employees. Instead, have a plan in place that involves providing necessary training early on in the process and developing a competency checklist to ensure that everyone can perform tasks related to their roles using the automated system.

Expect Some Setbacks

Even the best vendors can’t guarantee that the rollout of their technology will go 100% according to plan. The problem is that every pharmacy is different, so there may be adjustments required to integrate the automated equipment into the existing infrastructure. Be prepared for some setbacks while this happens and communicate any problems clearly to both equipment vendors and software designers.

Prepare for Workflow Changes

Transitioning to an automated system for medication storage, counting, and distribution will inevitably change pharmacy workflows. Creating a flowchart that shows how the new workflow will proceed in advance of the equipment’s rollout can help to minimize disruptions post-installation. Of course, there will still be a period of trial-and-error when the equipment goes live because no crew of employees will understand every nuance of the new system from day one.

Know Who to Call

Problems are most likely to arise during the first stages of a transition to a new pharmacy automation system. Knowing who to call when they do can help to prevent unnecessary downtime. In some cases, that could mean having a single IT person oversee the project so that all staff members can report to them for help. In others, it could require reporting to a software company’s installation technician or an equipment vendor. Make a list of anyone involved in the project from the beginning.

The Importance of Finding the Right Equipment Vendor

There will always be challenges associated with implementing new technologies. However, the difficulty or ease with which a new automated system is rolled out can vary substantially depending on who a pharmacy trusts to provide the equipment and software. Take the time to find an equipment vendor that has an excellent reputation in the medical industry.