Will-call systems can range in price from next-to-nothing for alphabetized bins, to hundreds of thousands of dollars for large bulky cabinets and machines that require a lot of space. You’ll want to understand what drives prices up or down, how to assess long-term cost of ownership, and where to look for return on your investment.
What to weigh:
• Size, based on the average number of prescriptions in will call. The more volume you do, the bigger and more robust the system you’ll need.
• Mix of hardware and software. Advanced will-call automation systems require a combination of hardware, such as the hanging bags and necessary infrastructure, and software to run on your pharmacy computers. Most systems on the market are priced based on the hardware components rather than purely on the software licenses. Be sure to consider the quality and warranty of the hardware, as well as the quality, utility and maintenance of the software.
• Purchase or subscription. Do you want to lease or own your system? Some cost more upfront because you’re buying the hardware, while the cost of others is spread out over time as a subscription. Note that ‘leasing’ or ‘rental’ agreements can also mask higher interest rates, insurance, taxes, and rigid long-term contracts.
• Length of term. You may be looking at a one-year, three-year or five-year contract term. Term length can make a sneakily substantial difference, especially if you’re looking at a subscription/lease vs. capital purchase. Look at both upfront and annual costs, and conditions that adjust them over time.
What drives costs up or down:
• Speed of turns in will call. Consider a good-sized 1,200 Rx/day pharmacy that fills 500 prescriptions each day and sell 300 prescriptions per day. If they’re open 6 days a week, that means they have as 1,200 in will call at a given time. If they actually sold fewer than that – say, 200 per day on average – they may need more will-call real estate for up to 1,800 patient orders. As efficiencies increase, patient follow-up gets honed, and return-to-stock (RTS) processes get streamlined, turns will increase.
• Return-to-stock percentage. How many of your filled prescriptions do you typically return to stock after 10-14 days? Knowing this trend will not only impact the size of system (i.e., number of scripClips) you need and speed of will-call turns above, but also help pinpoint opportunities for better patient coordination and inventory management.
For example, conducting RTS for a few minutes every day will help keep the process manageable and current, while also freeing up scripClips for use with other prescriptions. Running an RTS report for prescriptions aged a certain number of days or for those of a certain copay threshold will help you prioritize follow-up with the patients who most need a reminder. Reducing your RTS by a single percentage point – say, from 7% to 6% – could save you thousands of dollars every year. Think more about the high costs of abandoned prescriptions to pharmacies and patients and what you can do to address them.
• Hardware life, and repair or replacement costs. How frequently will you need to repair, replace or repurchase hardware? Whether you’re talking about hanging bags that could break or tear, or more infrastructural components like computers, cabinets or electric rods that could require an upgrade, you’ll want to evaluate the likely lifespan, warranty and repair policies.
• Customer acquisition and loyalty costs. It’s not cheap to attract new customers, which makes it particularly painful when you lose any due to prescription delivery mistakes, in-pharmacy experience frustration, or simply the pharmacy down the street. Knowing that, improvement in your will-call workflow can have a profound impact on customer loyalty, pharmacist-patient relationships, lifetime value and likelihood to recommend, which lowers marketing costs while exponentially increasing profitability.
• Peace of mind. What is it worth to you to not lose sleep over right-patient delivery errors, staff efficiency and satisfaction, etc.? Your mental health and mood are contagious in the pharmacy. Taking one thing off your plate can make all the difference in long-term costs to the business.