Magazine article Drug Topics

Working Smarter

Magazine article Drug Topics

Working Smarter

Article excerpt

Two chains use technology to improve patient care

Concerned about the higher prescription volume that threatens to bury their pharmacists and alienate their customers, two large chains are trying to streamline the workload behind the counter by using technology-but from two different angles.

After analyzing what seemed to be snags in its pharmacies, Giant Food Inc. decided the old-fangled telephone could be a lifeline for its community pharmacists who wouldn't have to handle all those calls that can slow down any well-oiled machine. Target Stores, on the other hand, opted for the whole nine automation yards to smooth out the work flow, boost efficiencies, and free up time for patient counseling.

Giant found out that its technicians and R.Ph.s fielded 1.3 calls per Rx and each call took up more than 70 seconds of their time, said Russell Fair, R.Ph., v.p. of pharmacy operations for the Landover, Md., supermarket chain. Speaking at the recent National Association of Chain Drug Stores Pharmacy Conference & Managed Care Forum, he said those phone calls chewed up the clock, considering that the 10 pharmacies in the pilot study were filling from 1,800 to 5,000 Rxs per week.

Giant's answer was a centralized telephone operation, which automatically receives phone calls intended for the individual stores. There are 24 technicians and 12 pharmacists in the center. Requests for new Rxs are reviewed by a phone center R.Ph., and then the script and labels are automatically printed out at the local pharmacy, which fills the Rx. An automated system handles refill requests. The center also cuts down phone time by placing one call to the same physician about Rxs from several pharmacies. Professional resources, such as CD-ROMs and software, also allow the center's staff to conduct research for the pharmacists at all the chain's 135 stores.

"We knew that telephone time took away from productivity," said Fair. "When we decided to open the phone center, we wanted to improve customer service, assess the level of pharmaceutical care, reduce prescription incidents, and improve the working environment without adding staff and with less staff turnover. An additional possibility was having a work site for employees who needed light duty."

Since all the new and refill Rxs come into one location, it's easier to catch bogus scripts peddled by scam artists going to multiple pharmacies. …

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