Pharmacy Forward
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The pages of ComputerTalk are filled every month with accounts of pharmacies that made serious cash investments in cutting-edge prescription-filling technology. The more automation, the merrier! But that’s not for every pharmacy. In fact, “technology paralysis” can prevent well-intentioned management from taking that first step toward improvement. Sometimes, the best technology is the simplest: the basic tablet counter that yields a fast ROI (return on investment), eliminates problems, and lightens the workload.

The humble pill counter is the foot soldier of the community pharmacy. It’s come a long way since the first models of the 1970s — today’s counters are offered as either noncomputerized (in conjunction with scan-verifying first with your pharmacy management system), or a combination scan verification plus counting. Both levels eliminate tedious hand-counting, mistakes, and concerns about narcotics discrepancies. Tens of thousands of pharmacies have embraced the “KISS Principle” (keep it simple and straightforward) with their trusty tablet counter, especially when their computer system is handling the verification. Here are just a few examples.

Danny Tsang unwraps his new Kirby Lester KL1 counter at Accurate Pharmacy in Brooklyn, N.Y.  Ottawa Health Mart in Ottawa, Ill., has used simple Kirby Lester tablet counters since 2012.

Danny Tsang unwraps his new Kirby Lester KL1 counter at Accurate Pharmacy in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ottawa Health Mart in Ottawa, Ill., has used simple Kirby Lester tablet counters since 2012.

Danny Tsang had always used a tablet counting device before opening his own business, Accurate Pharmacy in Brooklyn, N.Y. Being a new owner, Tsang had his mind on cash flow. “A tray is five bucks, a counting machine is a few thousand,” he says. “I worried, ‘Was this a luxury or an investment?’” He budgeted for five months, and when his new Kirby Lester KL1 arrived, he was reassured: “No more counting, counting, counting. This was the right way to spend, because we did it carefully. We already scan through MicroMerchant, so this technology was exactly what we needed.”

The Neighborhood Pharmacy, Brownsville, Texas, specialized in pediatrics, but two years ago expanded into geriatric care. Suddenly, 180 and 360 counts were logjamming the process. Using PioneerRx, the staff was scan-verifying already. “We knew we had options of bigger technology, like the computerized pill counters that connect with PioneerRx; we just wanted to automate the counting,” says pharmacy manager Michael Ortiz. His ROI was well under a year — in time savings alone.

Since 2012, Ottawa Health Mart in Ottawa, Ill., had relied on a tablet counter after processing scripts through EnterpriseRx. Business manager/owner Chris Thrush says his choice was black and white: The technology that pays for itself is the right technology. “Every pharmacy does what works for them. But I don’t see why anyone would hand-count exclusively when this is an affordable option. We felt the difference immediately, like we added another person, because it took up the gap when we got busy.”

In many pharmacies, the little guy is just as valuable as the big dog, like at K&K Pharmacy, Muleshoe, Texas. With Computer-Rx verifying all orders, a dispensing robot fills high movers while a Kirby Lester KL1 fills everything else, especially narcotics. “This is the perfect blend of technologies,” says co-owner Kay Campbell. “The robot is great but it miscounts every now and then. We don’t want to be off on hydrocodone. So the simple Kirby counter is a necessity. I’d recommend it all day, every day.”

In today’s increasingly complex world, the humble tablet counter inspires fierce loyalty, as evidenced by Nancy Ritter-Peacock in North Charleston, S.C. “If the building was on fire, I’d grab my Kirby counter and my purse before evacuating. It’s the best thing around!” CT