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Pharmacy Automation: 7 Ways You Can Transition Employees’ Duties

Pharmacy Automation: 5 Ways You Can Transition Employees’ Duties by Elements magazine |

February 2, 2021

When you incorporate automation into your pharmacy’s workflow, you’re likely taking some tasks from an employee and delegating them to a robot.

While the robot gives you all the benefits of improved accuracy, efficiency, and workflow, it also leaves you with an unanswered question: What do you do with the employee who used to do the robot’s job?

Since the robot is taking over some responsibilities, your first instinct might be to eliminate that employee’s position altogether. But your employees have valuable knowledge about your business, personal connections with patients, and experience working in your pharmacy that can’t be replaced or replicated by a machine.

Just because you’re updating your business to include automation doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to your current employees. Instead, reallocate those employees to roles that advance your pharmacy business and that can’t be done with automation.

Here are seven profitable and productive ways to use your employees with the time you’ve freed up by adding automation.

1. Counseling and interacting with patients

Now that the pharmacy robot is taking care of filling some scripts, your staff pharmacists will have more time to counsel patients, complete Comprehensive Medication Reviews (CMRs) within the Medication Therapy Management (MTM) program, or answer questions about and recommend over-the-counter (OTC) products.

Take your time when you provide one-on-one counseling and invite patients to ask questions. By demonstrating you are committed to helping patients understand, you’re adding value to the services you provide.

On the front end, make sure you and your staff members are friendly and well-educated about the products you have on the shelves. Even if you aren’t in a counseling session, a great customer service interaction will encourage patient loyalty and boost sales.

2. Community outreach

With your employees’ newly freed up time, have them conduct community outreach to help engrain and endear your pharmacy toward key community partners.

Ask employees to build relationships with area physicians to promote your pharmacy’s services and products, reach out to local schools and employers, and find area non-profits that can support your pharmacy while advancing community health.

Building these relationships requires a human touch that only your employees can offer, and it has the potential to increase referrals, identify new services you can offer, and raise your pharmacy’s profile. Plus, supporting your community in a way only a small business can get an edge over national chain pharmacies.

3. Marketing

If you struggle to find time to write a weekly e-newsletter, to update your pharmacy’s social media profiles, or to enact key steps in your pharmacy’s marketing plan, consider putting an employee in charge of your pharmacy’s marketing.

Because of shifting duties, maybe one of your clerks now has time to plan events for your pharmacy, brainstorm ways to get your business in the news, or update your pharmacy’s branding or website. 

Now more than ever, it’s critical to develop a distinct and likable brand voice for your marketing, especially on social media platforms. Use your social-savvy staff members as resources to help you stand out on networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to expose you to potential new patients.

Your employees can also brainstorm effective ways to market to patients while they are visiting the store through creative signage, free wi-fi, or product experiences.

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4. Inventory analysis

With robotics taking over a large burden of your dispensing, take a step back and look at your inventory management as a whole.

Organize your records, and if you are using a low-tech method like a standard spreadsheet to track your inventory, consider upgrading to an inventory management software that keeps track of your products through barcode scanning.

Track metrics like turnover and percent net profit to learn if your merchandise is moving off the shelves and making money the way it should be.

One element of inventory management that gets neglected is performing regular cycle counts. It’s tedious and hard to prioritize when there are prescriptions that need to be filled, but now that you have robotics, you have more time to make sure your inventory is accurate. Cycle counts are performed incrementally, so you can have employees perform them during regular hours.

5. Patient care services

Transition your pharmacists and pharmacy techs away from solely dispensing prescriptions and toward delivering in-demand patient care services.

Services, such as medication management, disease state education and management, and compounding, are becoming a more important part of your independent community pharmacy business. Immunizations and vaccines offer high profit margins, and fewer physicians are offering them due to their time-consuming nature and storage requirements, making them an ideal opportunity for your pharmacy.

Make use of your staff pharmacists by starting to offer a new or niche service. These services can expand your revenue lines, connect your pharmacists with patients, and add value to your pharmacy by making it a one-stop-shop for all of a patient’s health care needs.

6. Front-end tasks

Dedicate an employee, such as a clerk, to focus on front-end development, merchandising, and front-end innovation as a front-end manager. Your front-end manager can investigate new products to offer, manage sales and promotions, keep your front end up-to-date, and redesign your store’s layout to maximize front-end browsing.

With a devoted eye, a front-end manager may spot issues you previously overlooked, like aisle spacing that’s hard for people with mobility aids to maneuver in or a persistent layer of dust on the top shelves.

Having staff members in the front of the store when patients walk through the door is a critical part of providing top-notch customer service. When you free up staff with automation, have some focus on the front end.

7. Continuing education

Devote some of your newfound time to bettering yourself through continuing education events.

Aside from being required to maintain your license, continuing education classes can be a unique opportunity to make connections and learn about emerging trends in the industry. Just like automation, investing in CE and applying what you learn to the pharmacy can help you get ahead of the pack and become more productive and profitable.

Help your pharmacy staff find professional development opportunities as well. Whether it’s taking an online certification course to help a staff member learn about marketing or assisting a front-end staff member in getting certified as a pharmacy technician, when your staff members expand their knowledge, your pharmacy business will benefit.


An Independently Owned Organization Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The member-owned company serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited (formerly VAWD) warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.

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