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Automation's Contributions to the Pharmacy

Kurt Wyant
OCTOBER 05, 2017


I’ve been a pharmacist for 16 years and I’ve seen firsthand how automation technology has helped to advance the profession. It does change your workflow, but it’s not something that should be a hindrance: for our pharmacy, it’s only been able to help and enhance what we do.

There used to be a lot of steps, and a lot of areas where something could cause a potential error. Now, with e-scribing, you don’t have to try to decipher handwriting, and you can communicate with physicians without having to wait forever for a phone call: you can just send messages back and forth.

Once it has been entered into our system, a script is put automatically into the queue of the KL60 robot, which runs pretty much nonstop for the 10 hours per day that we’re open. It pops out, the label is taken care of, and everything’s ready to go. You just pull the vial out and double check it. It’s much more efficient. Stocking and optimizing have improved, too, because we know what we’re going to use in an average day or week, so our inventory is much more managed.

The whole premise of getting the KL60 was ROI. We were hoping for that in 2 years, and instead we met it in about 11 months. It’s saved us on inventory, it’s decreased errors, it’s increased efficiency.
Start to finish, a script used to take us 6 to 8 minutes, depending on the complexity and the number of tablets to count. If it was a double count, that could increase up to 8 to 10 minutes. Now, we’ve cut that in half: by the time a script has moved down to the pharmacist, you’re looking at 3 or 4 minutes.

Our pharmacy, before the KL60, was averaging 225 to 240 scripts per day. Now our current volume is quickly approaching 300+ per day. The Kirby Lester was put into place just about 2 years ago now, and has really helped improve our efficiency and our safety. Since it handles the filling of 65% of our total daily orders, it allows us to actually spend more time with the patients and do counseling in the outpatient setting.

Immunization offerings were always a concern from the staff, since they take a lot of time during often busy days. Now we are actually offering more immunizations, our pharmacists are still able to fill scripts on time, and it’s allowed us to do more medication therapy management (MTM) and consultation. We are able to have a more in-depth conversation and actually ask how the medication is helping them, if they are having any concerns or side effects, because we are gaining so much time that we did not have previously.

It also eliminates a lot of gaps and holes that in the past could have been problems. The error rates have dropped dramatically. With medications in the same class, tablet form versus a capsule form, you can make a mistake and pick the wrong formulation. The Kirby Lester doesn’t allow that to happen, it’s NDC-driven so the wrong med can’t get to the wrong patient.

We’re more of central fill for a lot of areas now, and we’ve reached out to the community and other businesses and said ‘we’d love to partner with you, and we can take your business because we can accommodate it.’ In a couple of years, we’re building out a 200,000 square foot addition at the St. Joseph’s site, and we’re looking at providing meds-to-beds. The Kirby Lester will be a part of that conversation, to make it more feasible.

Kurt Wyant is pharmacy manager at Lakeland Health (St. Joseph, MI), overseeing both outpatient and inpatient pharmacies within network. Here, he writes about how technology, particularly the Kirby Lester KL60 robotic dispenser, has made the pharmacy workflow less error-prone and more patient-centric.

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