Automation hopes to ease pharmacy wait times
February 18, 2010
FORT SILL, Okla. - According to the chief of pharmacy, the pharmacy at Reynolds Army Community Hospital handles two to three times more traffic than any retail pharmacy. They fill a minimum of 1,200-1,300 prescriptions a day and see 500-600 patients a day.
The Pharmissary, or pharmacy satellite office at the post commissary, accommodates 200-300 patients a day.
Mix the high volumes of patients with old technology and most people will probably be waiting more than a couple of minutes for their prescriptions.
Fear not many changes have recently been implemented and more are on the way to make your wait time shorter.
When patients enter the RACH pharmacy area, they must take a ticket and wait until their number is called.
There are three classes of tickets. The A ticket is for patients coming from the emergency room and Warrior Transition Unit Soldiers. Ticket A has priority over all others waiting. The B ticket is for Soldiers in uniform, whether it is ACUs or PTs. Ticket B has priority over ticket C, which is for everyone else waiting for prescriptions.
"Anyone wishing to drop off a prescription has to pull a D ticket," said Capt. Matthew Krull, assistant chief of pharmacy. "After pulling a ticket they just need to go to Window 2 to drop it off. Prescriptions will be available for pickup in four hours at Window 1.
"After 5 p.m. emergency room patients can get their prescriptions at the inpatient pharmacy located next to the staff duty desk. This helps anyone waiting get their prescriptions before the pharmacy closes."
Another new addition to help ease the pharmacy traffic is the installation of an Automated Prescription Machine, which is located next to the inpatient pharmacy.
"We just got the APM machine in September," said Lynda Cottrill, pharmacy automation specialist. "It is a machine that is for patients with refills. They call in their refills through our phone-in refill line just like they do for refills at the main or commissary pharmacy, only it is a third option for them. There are, however, certain things we cannot put in the machines. We cannot put in liquids or controlled substances; large items sometimes don't fit in the machine. There are also no refrigerated items in the machine for obvious reasons. The key is they have to register before we can put any medicines in the machine."
Anyone can register and it only takes a couple of minutes.
"To register, the patients simply need to go to Window 6 and give their information and set up a four-digit PIN," said Cottrill. "There is no need to take a number and wait to go to the window. As long as no one is at the window, you can just walk right up."
The APM allows anyone to pick up his or her refills 24 hours a day.
"If anyone calls in a refill and doesn't pick it up in seven days, it will be returned to stock," said Krull. "They will have to call it back in."
"There are 448 compartments in the APM," said Cottrill. "Some patients, depending on how many refills they call in, may use more than one slot, but they will still be able to pick up all of their medications."
The chief of pharmacy is currently working to get an APM for the pharmissary, and the pharmacy staff is planning an expansion to take place this summer.
"In the pharmacy we are getting two new windows," said Krull. "We will have eight windows instead of the six we have now to serve patients."
With the addition of the flu clinic, placing a larger television in the waiting area of the pharmacy and having the intention of adding another TV, hospital officials are hoping to make your wait time as painless as possible.
"We've added more chairs and are hoping that expanding the area will make people happy," said Krull.