Automated Will-Call Solutions- A better way then just a bin!

By
Jonathan Jacobs
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Will call bin

bag pickup system

Automated Will-Call Solutions

A busy pharmacy today dictates that the PIC, technicians, and even your clerks are constantly in motion.  This of course also pertains to your inventory, prescriptions in process, and finished product before we even put those precious bottles and Monographs in a bag and a place to wait.  The opportunities to loose or ‘misplace’ patients prescriptions are countless.  An automated Will-Call Solution can be a great savor of labor-time, inventory, dispensing erorrs, and most of all money!

Situation

Most common problem every single store owner will confirm is a misplaced prescription. Your PMS (Pharmacy Management System) says you billed, filled, labeled, and verified your patients’ prescription BUT when Jane Doe comes to pick up her items they’re all not there!  The clerk spends some time looking for them in the bins or shelves they are ‘mostly’ stored in.  Then he or she probably calls over the technician to look as well and maybe even the PIC gets involved!! Three people to locate a prescription that all three have probably already previously touched in some way during the entire Workflow/fill process. Now you need to refill this prescription on the spot.  Pay for an additional transaction to transmit the claim, use up precious inventory, and of course…more time.  At this point other customers are waiting on-line at the store and it honestly looks embarrassing.  Everyone reading surely gets my point!

Additional situation

Sunday is generally viewed as a catch-up day in a busy store.  This pertains to squaring up on inventory. Cleaning up your stores’ shelves/front-end and re-stocking where needed. Most importantly it means going through your stores’ current Will-Call area to seek out older prescriptions that have been completed yet still sit in the store unsigned for and thus not picked up.  This can be costly to a pharmacy in expired inventory alone.   The amount of time spent on reconciling your unsigned for prescriptions in a store that does approximately 250 prescriptions a day could be as much as 3-4 hours just finding the bags on the hangers or in the bins.  This is such a waste of labor time and resources and of course a killer when those prescriptions that had to be refilled during the week are discovered sitting right where the tech or clerk originally left them!!!  Imagine a store whose volume is six or seven hundred prescriptions a day and double the time to reconcile this mess on a Sunday?

Why automated Will-Call?

There are a few products out there in the field with varying levels of options with one constant. Pick-to-light systems are the new constant in the spectrum of implementations of automated Will-Call solutions.  This essentially means that when a prescription or a patients prescription is chosen in the automated Will-Call system that a light in a bag or bin that is associated with said patient or prescriptions flashes alerting the clerk and or technician where the proper prescriptions are located.  One variance in this concept is the ‘rotating’ bins scenario. Some systems use mirrors to reflect the light and some use an RF (radio frequency) signal  to trigger the individual bags or bins’ light!  This concept quickly allows for prescription location recognition and dispensing to the right patient with the assigned prescriptions.  Many systems have preventative measures that ensure and eliminate dispensing errors in various forms of implementation.   Additionally, an automated Will-Call should also assist in locating unsigned for prescriptions in one quick-step eliminating a huge problem we earlier outlined.  Imagine fifty bags all unsigned-for flashing or beeping without having to go through the entire Will-Call area? The time savings alone is immeasurable.

Inventory Savings

In my opinion the greatest reason to deploy an automated Will-Call is to eliminate an inventory shortage and to avoid giving any patient zero or a limited quantity of pills.  Most automated Will-Call solutions work by creating their own inventory of which NDC’s have been “checked-in” or rather are in your will-call waiting to be picked-up.  When a customer comes in or has sent over a prescription for an NDC you happen to be out of you can quickly search what unsigned for prescriptions of matching NDC to possibly use as a source to fill the current needed prescription to be filled.  Three possible scenarios have now been solved.

  1. You can re-label the prescription to ‘sell’ immediately to the customer in or on their way to the store for pick-up.
  2. Contact the patient for the unsigned for prescription to verify when they are coming in for the NDC you just used. This will also allow you to properly purchase additional inventory for said NDC wisely instead of a quick to rush order in an untimely fashion and probably at an unsatisfactory cost.
  3. Eliminate the cost of reversing and resubmitting a transaction for a prescription you’ve already filled

 

Space Limitation

My personal experience in working with independent pharmacies leaves me with truly only one drawback or problematic situation is in the space needed to effectively install a pick to light automated Will-Call. Most of these ‘type’ will-call solutions require a rod to hang bags for prescriptions to sit in so that each bag can easily be found quickly (remember that is the primary idea of automated Will-Call).  This can be precious space already configured in the store for bins and/or shelf inventory.  A reconfiguration is often needed to effectively deploy and receive the complete benefit of the Will-Call system. There are times when a store with limited square footage may need to reconfigure what seems like your entire back end. Despite this hurdle the benefits far outweigh the reconfigure cost.

Summation

Most important to know is how impressive these systems appear to your customers and the confidence your own staff will have in dispensing the right prescriptions to the right patients!! Systems are priced based on bags in use, number of automated bins, and sometimes prescription volume.  There is a huge savings in time, labor, and inventory!  We’ve put together a few companies who offer both fully automated and hybrid-type solutions.

Point of Care systems work with several Automated Will-Call systems. To schedule a demo of our new Pharmacy Management System Insightrx click here.  We at Point of Care Systems encourage all to continue to practice safe social distancing and wear a mask when necessary.

For a look at additional articles in this section click below:

A Compelling Case for Automating Pharmacy Workflow

Abandoned Prescriptions: A Major Concern for the Healthcare System

The Ever-Expanding Role of the Pharmacy Technician

Business as Usual, Not Anymore. What do disruptors do right?

 

 

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