Improve Pharmacy Workflow in 6 Simple Steps

Inside: Better workflow equals better business. Discover six simple ways to improve your pharmacy’s flow.

When it comes to your pharmacy operations, efficiency is everything.

Inefficient operations can cost a business up to 30 percent of its revenue each year. It can also cost you patients.

When your workflow hums, patients don’t wait in line. Pharmacists have more time. And your pharmacy puts out more scripts.

And you can get all those benefits with little-to-no investment—simply design a system that maximizes time, space, and staff. And stick to it.

But creating the perfect system does require smart strategies and steadfast commitment. Start with these simple tips to make your pharmacy workflow more efficient than ever.

1. Evaluate your workflow

Don’t let old routines become outdated routines. Many businesses simply function on autopilot, doing things the way they’ve always done them. Because in the past they worked.

But as the industry changes and your business grows, old workflows may not meet new demands.

Each year, stop and evaluate your pharmacy workflow. Start by creating a flowchart of your current process from the moment a patient’s prescription arrives to the moment you hand it over.

Where are the kinks in your process? Where do things slow down? At what points do staff members wait?

If you can pinpoint the problems, you can start to create solutions. 

Look for these common workflow mistakes:

When one person waits for another to complete a task, valuable time goes to waste. That time could be spent completing other value-add activities. Where in your process does one staff member wait for another?

Moving inventory an unnecessary distance or multiple times wastes valuable energy and time. For example, does your technician have to trek from one side of your space to the other for every prescription?

Don’t process more information than required to get patients what they need. For example, do you ask a patient to present her prescription when you’ve already received it electronically?

Don’t let one step stall your entire process. For example, do you fill multiple bottles at once but then have to run each one individually through a pill counter?

2. Streamline movement

How many steps do your pharmacists and technicians take to get their work done? Eliminating unnecessary walking can save time and increase productivity.

Map out the typical travel route of a pharmacist or technician filling a prescription. Is there any way to bring the work closer to the worker? How about moving workstations closer together?

It may seem trivial to reduce the number of steps your employees take, but over time those steps add up to significant lost time.

3. Implement stations

Does a single technician push prescriptions through the entire workflow alone?

Take a cue from Ford’s assembly line. Instead of having one person fulfill the prescription from start to finish, assign each staff member a particular role.

Consider creating stations manned by designated employees. For example, one tech always counts the pills while another tech puts on the labels.

This approach reduces errors, minimizes duplicate efforts, and speeds up the process. It also boosts employee satisfaction by making the work easier, more effective, and less frustrating.

4. Consider automation

Although a robot can never replace the care an actual pharmacist provides, pharmacy owners can still use robotics to their advantage.

All sorts of technologies exist to enhance the dispensing process. From counting technology to high-speed dispensing, you have a wide variety of automation options to fit the size of your business—and your budget.

Some dispensing systems claim to process up to 225 scripts per hour. And you can use automation for up to 75 percent of your daily prescription volume.

Besides improving productivity, investing in automation also frees up your pharmacists to focus on counseling patients, checking blood pressure, giving vaccinations, and providing other profitable clinical services.

5. Practice the workflow

Take a lesson from successful professional sports teams that require impeccable cooperation and efficiency to win games.

Teams don’t just show up to games and expect to click on all cylinders. Coaches walk the team through the game plan every day until it becomes second nature to the players.

Treat your pharmacy team in a similar way. Make time to train everyone in their roles individually and within the entire pharmacy workflow. Then, practice it with them. Together, process a prescription from start to finish, stopping along the way to correct mistakes and reinforce successes.

When your system becomes second nature to your employees, your workflow will whirr like a finely tuned engine. Your team will make fewer errors and boost productivity.

6. Review processes regularly

Creating more efficient operational processes is an ongoing task.

Be sure to periodically review and adjust your processes to adapt to changes in the work environment.

Collaborate with your employees and see if they have any suggestions for improvements. As the ones performing the work daily, they’ll have invaluable insight.

Consider bringing in an outside source to objectively evaluate your pharmacy workflow. They may be able to spot problems you’ve gotten used to.

A Member-Owned Company Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy-side of their business. Founded and owned by pharmacists, PBA Health serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, wholesaler contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited secondary wholesaler with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products — offering the lowest prices in the secondary market.

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Elements is written and produced by PBA Health, a buy-side solutions company.

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