FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- To better serve beneficiaries by providing minimum waiting times and still offering safe dispensing of medications, Lyster Army Health Clinic Pharmacy staff has initiated new prescription categories.

Patient safety is the Pharmacy's first priority, and the staff strives to provide excellent customer service with a zero error rate in filling prescriptions.

The new categories are:

* A ticket - Active duty (in or out of uniform) with prescriptions for themselves;

* B ticket - For prescriptions by Lyster doctors; and

* C ticket - For paper prescriptions by doctors not affiliated with LAHC brought to the pharmacy.

Pharmacy staff has dedicated windows for each category of tickets. As a staff member at a window completes all the prescriptions he or she services, the call system then moves to the next category with the largest number of patients waiting.

In other words, if window one serves A tickets, and if there are no pulled A tickets, the longest waiting ticket in the lobby will be called.

There are days when the Pharmacy incurs staffing shortages due to sickness or other assignments that may prevent all five windows from being open at all times, which results in longer wait times.

In the short time this system has been in place, several items have come to light.

Twenty percent of the patients served at the pharmacy are active duty. Fifty percent of patients come from inside the clinic, and 30 percent come from outside the clinic.

Of the 27,000 prescriptions the Pharmacy fills monthly, 60 percent of them are from outside the clinic. Due to the way the windows are programmed to call customers, both the B and C tickets have about the same waiting time.

It may seem that C ticket customers are being called less but there are less C ticket customers in the system. C ticket customers have prescriptions that require hand typing into the prescription system. This takes time and seems to slow the calling of C tickets.

This new system has already impacted the wait times of the pharmacy. B tickets wait an average of 12 minutes, compared to 24 minutes under the "all other" system.

C tickets wait an average of 10 minutes, and A tickets have actually slowed from four minutes to five minutes.

This is because under the two-ticket system all the windows called A tickets first and then all others. Remember this is an average time. Certain times of the day the wait is zero, and at other times it can be in excess of 30 minutes, all dependent upon patient load.

The best time to come to the Pharmacy for beneficiaries who want the least wait time is between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.

The clinics are still seeing their initial patients, and only active duty and some walk-in customers are using the Pharmacy.

The worst time to come is between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. when wait times can be as long as 45 to 60 minutes depending on the number of patients. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days to visit the Pharmacy.

The Pharmacy closes at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and other weekdays at 5 p.m. For more information, call 255-7178.