Kaiser Permanente Ready to Consolidate Mail Facilities

Article excerpt

Kaiser Permanente is shifting a major portion of its California prescription refills to a pair of automated mail-out facilities. One central refill facility, for Kaiser Permanente of Southern California, could be up and running by early summer. The second, the Northern California facility, planned for Livermore, east of San Francisco, is scheduled to open in early 1997.

"We're trying to improve service, maintain high quality, and still be affordable," explained Dorinda Wong, administrative pharmacist for Kaiser Permanente of Northern California. "We're trying to be proactive in pharmacy."

According to internal documents, Kaiser's Northern California region expects to consolidate a significant portion of its Rx refills at the Livermore facility. The goal, Kaiser wrote to its outpatient pharmacists in announcing the facility, is to create "an opportunity for pharmacists to spend more time on consultations, drug education, usage instruction, and other ambulatory clinical services."

The Livermore center is designed to handle about 20,000 scripts per eighthour shift, Wong said. The final goal is two shifts a day, or 40,000 scripts. While that volume may initially be spread over two shifts as the inevitable bugs are worked out of the system, final production goals call for two shifts per day, she added. Kaiser Southern California has not yet released details of its system.

Kaiser's mail and automated fill program is based on the Department of Veterans Affairs, CMOP (Consolidated Mail Out Pharmacy) program that fills tens of thousands of refills around the country every day. When VA patients call their local VA medical center for refills, the center forwards scripts to the automated refill facility electronically. Kaiser has designed a more direct system.

Kaiser wants its refill patients to bypass local medical centers entirely by telephoning refill orders to a voice recognition system, which forwards the order to the mail-out center. Scripts will be filled by robotic dispensing equipment and technicians, checked by pharmacists, and sent out to the patient. Wong said projected turn-around time is 48 to 72 hours.

VA patients can either use CMOP or pay retail for their drugs at a local pharmacy, but Kaiser is giving its patients a choice. …