STOCKTON, Calif. — As the future of community and independent pharmacy becomes increasingly unpredictable, many pharmacies are utilizing automation to position themselves for success. According to research from the BBC, the global market for pharmacy automation held a value of $3.5 billion in 2015 — and an increase of $2 billion is expected before 2021. For those pharmacies that serve care facilities, it is critical that they be able to meet high-volume demand on short notice.
At BJRx, we’ve started utilizing automation to serve our diverse customer base — from walk-in patients and caregivers to a variety of care facilities that include long-term care and group homes. We also work closely with behavioral health facilities to help them care for their patients’ complex medication regimens as well as any emergency medications. The long-term care setting in particular requires especially comprehensive support, since many of these patients are older, taking more medications and present with more need for medication management. Particularly, the incidence of comorbid conditions requiring additional medications spikes drastically in this group; some patients require as many as 20 medications per day.
For these patients, managing medications can be a hindrance in their day-to-day life, as it may take hours per week to sort and manage their prescriptions. Medication nonadherence is an issue that reaches every corner of the country, and costs the U.S. $337 billion in direct and indirect costs annually. Keeping patients on their medications is critical to reducing overall costs to the health care system and allowing us to continue as a resource to our community.
To meet this need, we provide adherence packaging, the SureMed by Omnicell multimed adherence blister card, which sorts a patient’s medications by day of the week and time of day. This assures both patient and caregiver that medications have been taken in the correct dose, at the right time. It prevents dangerous medication errors, such as taking the wrong pill at the wrong time of day, or overdosing on a particular medication. The patient-specific card has a label with color images of the medication and dosing and time instructions, ensuring correct usage. The cards are also perforated, so the patient or caregiver can take an individual dosing time with them or more closely monitor adherence.
In order to fill these cards at the pace required for our operation, we use automation called the Omnicell VBM 200F. The VBM 200F efficiently and accurately fills and verifies medications in the SureMed cards, at a rate of up to 500 cards per 24-hour period. Further, the VBM 200F significantly reduces human error and allows our pharmacists additional time to verify medications are correctly dispensed. As a partner to more than 300 care communities across California alongside our retail patients, this technology allows us to be a frontline resource to countless patients each day — ensuring their safety and peace of mind.
These partners rely on our ability to provide efficient and reliable access to their medication. Outside of enabling our partners to provide quality care to our community, implementing automation has produced an outcome that may be surprising to some. While the common conception is that automation can reduce the value of or even eliminate some roles, we have been able to refocus our attention on expanding our team and dedicating more time to clinical and customer-facing activities. The VBM 200F allows us to respond to emergency medication needs 24/7 and our pharmacists to more closely monitor psychotropic and opioid adherence in behavioral home settings.
While transforming and growing our staff, implementing automation has allowed us to truly scale our business and be responsive to community needs at any given time. Though a majority of our services are provided to the immediate Stockton community, we now have the bandwidth to provide services throughout all of California, paving the way for future growth and opportunity while ensuring our viability as a community pharmacy for years to come.
Automation allows us to stand out in California and establish ourselves as an integral and necessary component to providing quality care through medication management.
Pratap Anne is a pharmacist and the owner of BJRx Pharmacy in Stockton, Calif.