There are so many benefits iA customers realize when they embrace a mature and comprehensive implementation plan for their pharmacy fulfillment solution. I wanted to provide an overview of what we’re seeing here at iA, with a focus on near- and long-term benefits that can inform an ongoing commitment to continuous improvement across a pharmacy.
Reducing Carrying Costs by Consolidating High Value Drugs into a Central Fill Setting
One of the first benefits an iA customer usually realizes is that carrying costs are reduced. By centralizing the work, drug inventory is also reduced. These are two important drivers for freeing up working capital. One of the first steps we often take with customers when it comes to their fulfillment strategy, is to examine iA solutions for consolidating high value drugs into a central fill setting. This reduces the need to purchase and store these medications at multiple locations. We have seen some cases where this is the only strategy implemented by a pharmacy and they often find that it is a good place to start.
Centralizing inventory also allows for bulk purchases, which in turn reduces cost per pill. As a result, when it comes to bulk purchases as a part of a pharmacy fulfillment implementation, engagement with a pharmacy’s purchasing team should happen early during the design stages. We often see buying patterns lag behind the launch of the pharmacy fulfillment strategy, and when that happens, this not only reduces the financial benefit, but it can also have impacts on operational efficiency as well, especially when it comes to replenishment of solid dose automation.
Shifting Dispensing from Retail Can Help Improve Operational Efficiencies
Another best practice to incorporate into a pharmacy fulfillment strategy is to focus on understanding the extent to which dispensing can be shifted out of a retail setting. When this happens, a pharmacy usually also sees improved pharmacist performance as distractions are reduced and improved operational efficiency is realized because pharmacists have more time to stay focused on the task at hand.
Centralizing these tasks also can help to improve control over personnel costs and further reduce costs related to fill. When it comes to incorporating improved performance across the pharmacy footprint as part of a pharmacy fulfillment strategy, pharmacies should take the time they need to ensure that distinct tasks are defined and that staffing across their pharmacy footprint is balanced.
For example, instead of having a manual fill operator leave their station to retrieve a product they may need more of, a runner works in parallel with the manual fill operator to ensure their station is stocked, this allows the manual fill operator to minimize their movements, increases their efficiency and reduces lost cycles. Queue based warehouse management systems that are built with pharmacy in mind can help with this process tremendously.
How Pharmacy Fulfillment Analytics Can Evaluate and Help Implement Process Improvements
Pharmacy fulfillment analytics, especially when it comes to process and workflow analytics, also usually introduce the ability for a pharmacy to continuously evaluate and implement process improvement, which is informed by actionable data provided by the pharmacy fulfillment system’s tracking functionality. For iA customers that truly embrace the productivity benefits of pharmacy fulfillment, I often see them work to incorporate a minimum of two process improvement projects per year. Their commitment is informed by the operation gains they have already realized and their commitment to further reduce costs related to fill.
What I enjoy about it is that iA can work in partnership with our iA customers to strengthen our partnership in that we collectively discuss analytics and potential opportunities for further process improvements. In addition, it allows my team members here at iA to also serve as teachers. For example, sometimes iA field engineers will work with system operators at a central fill facility, allowing them to learn about the importance of the overall performance of cycle fulfillment and inviting them into the conversation to help inform enhancements to the process and workflow.
I enjoy working with our customers to realize the full potential of Pharmacy Fulfillment by iA, and they appreciate the two central benefits they usually realize: reducing costs which allows a pharmacy to reallocate capital to other services; and removing dispensing tasks from the retail pharmacy setting so that pharmacists can realize the time they need to work with their patients to improve adherence and expand patient care services offered in their store.