Diane Lischin R.Ph., Owner Coats Pharmacy in Coats, NC
Diane Lischin R.Ph., Owner Coats Pharmacy in Coats, NC

When Diana Lischin, R.Ph., renovated her Coats, N.C., pharmacy in 2019, she had a very specific goal in mind: to enhance workflow to support the growing medication synchronization and compliance packaging programs generated by her traditional walk-in business.

“We’re able to expand and offer services to that select group that really needs more time and attention, services they certainly don’t get from the chain stores or mail order,” she says.

“Automation has enabled us to spend more time with the patients individually, discussing services that we can offer and how those might make their life easier. There are all kinds of things that we’re now able to do.” – Diana Lischin, R.Ph.

Two techs handle the med sync prescriptions, which is about 55% of the volume at the two stores, as well as the compliance packaging. Even with the earmarked staff, double the number of workstations, and a ScriptPro dispensing robot handling 65% of the dispensing, the process was labor intensive. The staff would pull the robot drugs off the queue to handle the med sync prescriptions, which then required a second packaging and verification station. Lischin wanted to move away from bubble card packaging to strip packaging for a more efficient workflow that included not only an interface with the pharmacy system and automation, but networking with her second location for centralized services as well.

After doing her research and speaking with peers on the various machines, Lischin went with the ScriptPro MP 100, a single- and multidose medication pouch packaging system that fills pouches from 100 medication packaging cassettes plus an auxiliary medication pouch packaging tray with an integrated control system. The MP checked off all the boxes for a seamless interface with Lischin’s pharmacy management system and her other store. Lischin likes the MP’s layout, maintenance, and the ease with which staff can add specialty drugs or supplements. Although the packages come out sealed, there’s a neat way to open and reseal a package, and to indicate that this was done by the pharmacist. Verification is a quick process as well — and with a 98% accuracy rate with the automation and the interface with the pharmacy management system, there is enough staff available to handle the exceptions or corrections that rarely need to be made.

“Before I even thought about automation, my goal was to get up to 150 patients between the two stores,” Lischin says. Now she’s at 200 patients. Her business plan includes marketing to group homes and medication- at-home services. “Since I’ve gotten the automation, I don’t know how we did what we did before. The efficiency and effectiveness are key for automation. And I think we have that in spades with what we have now.”

The Future of Pharmacy

Although compliance packaging and med sync aren’t new concepts, they are the direction that pharmacy is moving in the future, says Lischin. The foundation of both programs is efficiency, as Lischin says — for both the patient and the pharmacy. It can improve EQUIPP scores and decrease DIR (direct and indirect remuneration) fees, as well as improve inventory management through more control over ordering and keeping smaller quantities of expensive drugs on the shelf. Since the pharmacy knows when refills should be due, it’s easier to catch a noncompliant patient and give the staff an opportunity to do more clinically.

“You’ve got all the information right in front of you,” Lischin points out. “Refill requests, prior authorizations — it all wraps up into a big clinical picture.”

Before adding the MP 100 unit, techs were specialized to handle either med sync or the packaging. Now multiple techs can manage the packaging. Other techs continue to handle walk-in customers, problem-solving, and contacting physicians. By early November, Lischin says, the pharmacy had transferred most of her patients from bubble packs to strip packaging.

“I’m gung-ho and I go a million miles a minute,” she says. “I want everybody transitioned — like yesterday — and the staff reassures me that we’ll get there.” If a patient doesn’t switch the first time, the staff is confident they will have the patient transitioned over to strip packaging soon after. “They tell me not to fret. says Lischin. “So I just let them do their own thing and run with it.”

The customer service has been highly responsive and quick to troubleshoot problems, Lischin says. The company made site visits to observe how the MP 100 works in a functioning pharmacy with a robust med sync program, and how the networking between the two stores was accomplished. “ScriptPro has been phenomenal with its support,” Lischin says. “I ended up buying every piece of equipment because if you’re going to do it, you can’t do it halfway. You have to do it to the fullest capacity and then just market the heck out of it.”

Lischin is pleased that she’s able to talk to more patients and demonstrate the advantages of strip packaging to them: “We’re able to show patients these features and how much simpler their life is going to be if they don’t have the stress and strain of figuring out how best to take all of their prescriptions.”

Lischin has learned that using automation can support the human aspect of pharmacy, but it can’t replace it. “We were bogged down with the mechanics of filling prescriptions,” she says. “Automation has enabled us to spend more time with the patients individually, discussing services that we can offer and how those might make their life easier. There are all kinds of things that we’re now able to do.” CT

Maggie Lockwood is VP at ComputerTalk. She can be reached at maggie@computertalk.com.