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When pharmacy owners list their “gotta haves” in choosing an automated robotic dispenser, their lists run the gamut: ease of use, footprint, cost, number of cassettes, projected labor savings. Usually, one item on the list is so important that it is nonnegotiable.
For Ron Strickland, that number-one need was accuracy. Hands down. A deal-breaker. “With a pharmacy robot, the main function should be to count everything perfectly, right? It’s the whole point of automating,” says Strickland, the owner of Lincoln Pharmacy in Lincoln, Ala. He was adamant about accuracy because for 17 years, his old robot could not be trusted. “We were double-counting every script filled by the old one. We didn’t dare put C-II medications through it,” says Strickland.
In early 2020, Strickland began researching for a replacement. He found the newest Kirby Lester model, the KL-SR secure robot, and he crunched the numbers; it would cost less to buy a new KL-SR instead of continuing his long-term lease with the old pharmacy automation. Affordability was good, but his ultimate decision hinged on precise prescription counts. Since installation, Strickland’s KL-SR has delivered as promised.
The pharmacy’s 108 fastest-moving tablets and capsules are quickly handled by his KL-SR – even controlled medications and expensive pills. “It’s a relief for us to be able to load any drug and trust that every script will come out accurate. We don’t have time to waste time or steps,” says Strickland. He and his wife, Amy (both pharmacists), have seen Lincoln Pharmacy’s business expand steadily over their 20 years of ownership.
The KL-SR includes several security features to prevent diversion and replenishment errors. The system also includes newly engineered universal cassettes that do not require the Lincoln Pharmacy staff to ever recalibrate, unless they switch to a different NDC. To have cassettes quickly auto-calibrate and then stay calibrated was another plus, since there’s no room for inefficiency in this busy community pharmacy 45 minutes east of Birmingham.
The KL-SR automates fewer NDCs than the old robot, and Strickland admits that was a consideration: “We ran a usage report. After we got past cassette #100 on the old pharmacy robot, we were only dispensing eight to 10 prescriptions per month total from cassettes 101 to 200. If you are only dispensing something every other day or every third day, why automate it?”
The KL-SR consistently handles about 70% of all tablets/capsules that Lincoln Pharmacy dispenses and requires less square footage — two outcomes that pleased Strickland. The KL-SR is only 67 inches deep by 30 inches wide, easily fitting into the space of a row of shelving.
Switching to a new system can be daunting, especially when the old prescription counting system had been in place for almost two decades. However, Strickland noted that the Lincoln team found the KL-SR to be more user-friendly. Full comfort level was reached in one to two weeks for all technicians. “If I had to give advice to other pharmacy owners investigating a pharmacy robot, I’d say explore what’s out there. You may be in a similar situation, where you could get newer, better technology, and actually pay less.”