Pharmacy Upgrades: Quicker Service, Reduced Waits

By Jane LeeMarch 23, 2021

Martin Army Community Hospital Officer in Charge of Outpatient Pharmacy Capt. Jacob Van Bemmel implemented innovations which drastically cut wait times for beneficiaries picking up prescriptions.
Martin Army Community Hospital Officer in Charge of Outpatient Pharmacy Capt. Jacob Van Bemmel implemented innovations which drastically cut wait times for beneficiaries picking up prescriptions. (Photo Credit: Jane Lee) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BENNING, GA – No time to wait for your new prescriptions to be filled? Never fear, Martin Army Community Hospital Pharmacy is here. Use Rapid Return!

“Generally, the average wait time for that is about five minutes,” said Officer in Charge (OIC) of BMACH’s Outpatient Pharmacy Capt. Jacob Van Bemmel. “I know with the issues of social distancing our ultimate goal is to serve the beneficiary but to try to do it with as little wait-time here at the pharmacy.”

The innovative service allows beneficiaries pressed for time to simply drop off their new prescriptions at the pharmacy service desk, phone it in to the dedicated call center at (762) 408-2172 or even message the pharmacy provider through the TRICARE Online Patient Portal and return at their convenience to have the medications already filled and waiting.

“That has helped allow us to manage our workload,” explained Van Bemmel. “Instead of handling it in real time with people in our lobby, we’ve been able to get it done ahead of time. So that when you do come in, your stuff is ready. They can get those rapid return tickets at the front desk.”

The Rapid Return service has proven quite popular, with about 30% of prescriptions filled this way. Van Bemmel hopes to eventually direct up to two-thirds of all traffic to Rapid Return, making it the dominant form of service.

“Part of our ultimate vision is that our lobby is primarily for hospital discharges, patients seen in the ER and patients seen in the same day clinics. And that most of the beneficiaries coming from off post, if their providers can send them electronic prescriptions, then we can catch those earlier.”

Speaking of the call center, the pharmacy now has three full-time staff members manning the 762-408-2172 line. They are able to answer any questions patients have and clear up any confusion ahead of time.

“We have staff sitting there, answering phones, processing prescriptions in advance and just being available. There had been issues with beneficiaries reaching the refill pharmacy if they maybe forgot a medication, or something wasn’t filled on time,” said Van Bemmel. “It seemed like a lot of the issues we were having were just generally through communication. If we can try to identify them before they happen, I thought that would be just an overall better standard of practice for us.”

The OIC credits the hard work of his predecessors for laying the groundwork for these vast improvements. He also said appropriate staffing makes the quicker service for almost 90,000 beneficiaries coming in from throughout Georgia, Florida and Alabama sustainable.

“They implemented the Q-flow waiting/queuing system … and were able to reduce their wait times from three hours to about an hour and a half. From the time I came on until now, I believe we’ve hired at least three pharmacists and brought in about a dozen technicians. So we can staff nine to 10 of our windows and keep that fully operational.

“I know my predecessors were here sometimes to about 8 o’clock even though we close at 5:30 just trying to help the last person because we just didn’t have the bodies to get through the volume.”

For added convenience, patients with refills don’t even have to leave their car. They can pick up their prescriptions at the Px drive-thru pharmacy.

“TRICARE Online and Audiocare (706) 544-1572 both feed into that system, so patients have two ways of requesting their refills. The thing that is nice about the refill pharmacy is that all the medications are stored inside a secure location.”

And if none of these free options work for you, you can pay a nominal fee to have a 90-day supply of prescriptions mailed to your home through Express Scripts. You also have the choice to fill your prescriptions at retail networks. Most, except CVS and Target, accept TRICARE. There is a co-pay for a 30-day supply.

The average wait time for a general (non-priority) pharmacy ticket currently stands at about an hour. Van Bemmel hopes to unveil yet another innovation at BMACH designed to further cut that time and person to person contact by mid-year.

“We’re going to be getting our script center which is a big drug dispensing cabinet out in the lobby. It’ll increase our availability because I know our hours aren’t always conducive to our beneficiaries,” acknowledged Van Bemmel. “It’ll be pretty simple. We’ll have ways people can call in and access that, come to the lobby, scan your id card, get your medications and you’re on your way.