Seven Reasons Automated Will-Call Defines Cost-Benefit for Pharmacies

Category: Pharmacy Success Written by Dr. Charles Shively / February 10, 2017

Recent independent pharmacy visits have confirmed the value of in-place automated will-call or retrieval systems. This technology, when integrated within the existing pharmacy operational software, pays for itself through the savings in time and various costly error correction events that can occur during everyday pharmacy workflow. From my experience as a pharmacist, I offer the following reasons below. These reasons are based upon use of an Automated Retrieval System (the ARS) offered by RxMedic Systems of Wake Forest, NC. It is the only automated will-call retrieval system available today which is integrated into existing pharmacy software and is not a separate software add-on to deliver medications at point of sale.

#1. Increases pharmacy workflow efficiency. Various definitions of efficiency exist in our pharmacy environ. Efficiency to me as a pharmacist means the accomplishment of or an ability to accomplish a job with minimum expenditure of time and effort. Use of an integrated system which allows placement of labeled and barcoded medication into a secure bag as the last step of the adjudication and filling process consumes no more workflow time than traditional ways medication is “bagged” for subsequent patient delivery. It actually saves time based upon time-event studies. A recent summation study conducted by the Thomsen Group, and published in ComputerTalk for the Pharmacist (, outlined a broad and significant impact of automated will-call systems through increased productivity and particularly labor and space savings. Congestion at pickup is eliminated and retrieval time is reduced from traditional manual will-call bins.

#2. Ensures Safety and Correct Medication Delivery. Every pharmacist has experienced wrong medication delivered to the wrong patient. It seems to go “with the territory” of patient medication delivery. Use of automated will-call retrieval systems with digital connectivity to the sealed and hanging pickup bag at point of sale eliminates delivery errors. Once the patient provides date of birth to the pickup area individual, the system signals the correct bag or bags for pickup through blinking lights…specific to the patient/customer… in the hanging bag area. Retrieval of the bags is quick and accurate. Recall how much time can be spent trying to find misfiled bags or multiple bags for the same customer which were filled at different times? The Integrated automated retrieval system (ARS) offered by RxMedic saves time…and time means labor costs…which are reduced.

#3. Avoids HIPAA Violations and Audit Issues. Today, maintenance of confidentiality for the patient regarding medication usage is mandated by regulations. Yet how often are other individual’s prescriptions viewable to the patient who is picking up their medication…and when a same name patient medication is pulled from a manual bin in contrast to an integrated automated retrieval system which “pulls” medication for delivery specific to a patient’s date of birth? Beyond the possibility of delivering wrong medication to wrong patient is the breach of patient confidentiality which they…in today’s environ…are aware is the responsibility of the pharmacy. Automated retrieval systems preclude these issues.

#4. Helps Avoid Legal Challenges for Incorrect Medication Delivery. Recall the amount of time it takes to deal with a possible wrong medication delivery? Let alone multiple problems during the pharmacy year! Discussions with the patient, fellow pharmacists, technicians, physicians, nurses to define what and how the error or incident occurred and in extreme cases of patient harm where lawyers and trial time can be involved. Estimates of the time and potential costs to resolve various types of incidents related to incorrect medication delivery have been previously discussed in another article entitled “Zero Misfills with RxMedic ADS Dispensed Drugs” and posted at . The labor cost, due to time necessary to investigate, for different incidents, can range from $1090 to $57,500. If legal suits are involved total dollar expenditures, as reported by pharmacist malpractice insurance companies typically can range from $350,000 to $1,250,000 depending upon the type of law suit filed by the patient. Contrast the cost to resolve these incidents relating to potential patient harm due to incorrect delivery with the cost to be involved with an integrated automated retrieval system (ARS).

#5. Show Me the Money! How often do pharmacies review and pull medications still in the bins waiting for pickup? 5 days, 7 days, 10 days or even a month! Unless filled, but not picked up, medications are regularly accounted for inventory purchases will have been made which could be avoided. These medications, not picked up, represent money to support cash flow and patient medication compliance activities which today determine satisfaction values which are reported to the pharmacy benefit managers and insurers who control remuneration levels.

#6. Eliminates Lost Inventory Issues. In the Thomsen study mentioned earlier it was learned that in one high volume pharmacy there was an average of twelve (12) lost or misplaced prescriptions per day with an average locating time of 9.6 minutes using traditional manual bins. After installation of automated will-call retrieval these numbers reduced to only two (2) lost or misplaced prescriptions per day with a retrieval times averaging 6.2 minutes per prescription. This is a 102.8 minute savings with a calculated potential labor savings of $437 per day or approximately $13,000 per month. Automated retrieval systems can be acquired for this amount.

#7. Supports and Increases Customer Loyalty. Patient/Customers value this type of technology. They perceive the pharmacy is dedicated to accuracy through technology and contemporary pharmacy workflow efficiency. Pharmacists at pharmacies where the 2017 America’s Pharmacy Tour has visited openly witness about the excitement and delight that their patient/customers share when they see the automated retrieval system (ARS) complete its efficient and accurate delivery of their medications. In one pharmacist’s words, “At first the facial expression was one of awe. Then the expression changed to a smile with a confirming head nod expressing “this is very good”. I, as a pharmacy owner, know this creates loyalty to my pharmacy”.

Examination of the cost-effectiveness and cost benefit for an integrated and automated will-call retrieval system can help pharmacy success…in many ways. It is worth the expense. PERIOD!

Think about the phrase “If I only knew then what I know now” and what impact it would have had on prior business profitability. Today, future success is possible with a minimal investment.

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Thank for sharing!

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