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iA pharmacy fulfillment in a high volume environment

Mar 9, 2022 | Blogs

By: Alecia Lashier, Chief Solutions Architect

Pharmacy Fulfillment solutions by iA can be tailored for a variety of pharmacy environments – from retail to mid-sized fill to high volume central fill. Here, I’m going to examine a high volume environment and how iA will typically work with our customers to plan and examine a high-functioning high volume pharmacy solution – all before they build. High volume pharmacy does involve a capital investment, so iA works with our customers to “develop” a solution that is informed by the location of the facility and the potential demand for a customer’s pharmacy environment. The resulting schematic allows a customer to work across their enterprise to review the schematic and work with their team to make the business case for the investment.

Let’s begin with an example of how we work with our customers to plan for incorporating a high volume central fill into their pharmacy. We have worked with customers who are looking to fill around 35,000 prescriptions per day. One of the first items we would discuss is the scale of the production area. Our experience is that in terms of the design of a central fill facility, the equation begins by assuming that one square foot of space will be required for  each prescription filled. So, if the objective is to fill 35,000 prescriptions, an initial assumption is that we’re working with the customer to build a 35,000 square-foot facility.  

The next step is to create the schematic for the central fill facility. At iA, we work with our customers to examine the pharmacy fulfillment equipment choices available from iA. For example, in a high volume environment we can assume the solution will benefit from a variety of automation technology choices including:

  • Automated tablet/capsule filling devices
  • Automated unit of use filling

Manual filling of standard, cold chain, and controlled products. We’ll then work with our customers to examine conveyance, with a conveyance recommendation being informed by the complexity of a pharmacy’s business rules, as well as their method of order consolidation. Another aspect of conveyance we examine is how it supports allowing work centers to fill independently, enabling back-end consolidation and increasing the efficiency of each work center across a high volume pharmacy environment. A final aspect of conveyance is to also ensure that all product is transported securely, and our capping system allows the vial to be closed prior to it reaching the conveyor, limiting exposure to an open environment.

Sortation in a Central Fill Pharmacy Environment 

Sortation is another aspect of high-volume pharmacy design that we work with our customers to address. Sortation solutions can range from being fully manual to fully automated. In terms of scale, sortation solutions can be designed for a small number of mail order sortation points, as well as for large central fill sortation points that are arranged by courier hub and stop destination as well as cut off times. It is also not uncommon for mail and central fill to be combined in a single sorter. At iA, we’re committed to working with our customers to help them incorporate a sortation system that is flexible enough to operate at higher volumes, while also allowing for a customer to examine how they can optimize the labor required to groom packages and manage the assignment and closing of package distribution via totes or hampers.

With that said, iA monitors state pharmacy guidelines, which are evolving. For example, we are seeing more states support the allowance of canister level verification for all tablet/capsule prescriptions filled in closed-loop automation. This is an important trend we will continue to monitor because canister level verification can help to reduce the number of pharmacists required at a facility to perform verification, For iA, this is a game changer because creating the time pharmacists need to practice at the level, they were trained for is one of the primary motivations behind our commitment to helping iA customers realize the potential of pharmacy fulfillment.

High Volume Pharmacy and Prescription Packaging 

A final aspect related to high volume pharmacy design involves packaging. Packaging solutions are important because this is where patient choice comes into play – high volume systems can usually include a variety of packaging options from fully automated to semi-automated and manual packaging. Another aspect of packaging design involves the types of packaging designs, which involve a number of packaging choices: poly bags, poly bubble, cardboard boxes, paper bags, styrofoam coolers, and insulated bags are examples just some of the packaging choices we’re prepared to work with our customers to incorporate into their high-volume environment. At iA, a trend we’re also seeing across fulfillment centers is a desire to increase their use of automated bagging packaging solutions and to incorporate eco-friendly packaging as well.

When it comes to high volume pharmacy design – as you can see – it’s a lot! Fortunately, iA has more than 25 years of experience in creating pharmacy fulfillment solutions for our customers. We welcome the opportunity to work with our customers to take advantage of high volume pharmacy, which we believe is an essential investment that can enable our customers to rethink their pharmacy practice and improve patient choice.

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