As you look to establish or strengthen the integrity of your will-call processes, how do you determine whether alphabetized bins or simple hanging bags will do the trick; if you need a more sophisticated pick-to-light solution like scripClip; or if a substantial cabinet system is more up your alley?
Start by considering what features and functions would be helpful or even non-negotiable as you start to compare will-call automation technology options. Here are 8 great things to think about:
Pharmacy infrastructure and appetite for remodeling or retraining:
How is your pharmacy set up today and how much are you wanting (or willing) to modify it? Do you already have rods for hanging bags, or prefer shelves for paper bags and bins? Do you have room to dedicate to a large cabinet? Are most of your orders located in one spot or are many dispersed in remote areas, such as refrigerators, bulk packaging, delivery zones or locked cabinets? Do you need to manage and track deliveries to multiple locations?
If you don’t want to overhaul your store structure, you’ll likely want to consider solutions that require little-to-no remodeling. For example, the scripClip system works with existing or inexpensive rod or shelving systems. Two hanging bag sizes accommodate different size vials or multiple prescriptions for a single patient; clip-ons are easily attached to paper bags, oversized packages, compounding components or urgent “stat” orders; and flash beacons in the main will-call area can help clerks readily identify when prescriptions are located in another area of the pharmacy.
You’ll want to consider, too, how easy the system is to use and how complicated the onboarding and training process will be for your staff. This brings us to the next, more specific point.
User-friendliness on pharmacy computer workstations:
How tech-savvy is your team and what applications are they used to using in your pharmacy? What pharmacy management system (PMS) do you have, and does it facilitate interfacing or integration with will-call technology? Is it ‘plug and play’ or does it require substantial IT resources for implementation and ongoing upkeep?
You’ll probably want to make sure the software component of your will-call automation system works seamlessly with your existing setup, interfaces with your PMS, and is easy and quick for staff at all levels to use when filling/filing and selling/delivering prescription orders.
You’ll also want to consider how many point-of-sale (POS) stations you have in the pharmacy. A solution that preempts confusion may be particularly important. For example, scripClip offers multiple color and sound patterns so each clerk only has to pay attention to their unique one when finding a patient’s order.
It’s smart to also determine whether your will-call solution is a set-it-and-forget-it type of deal, requires routine maintenance, provides robust self-service resources or has a highly available tech support line. If you’re like most pharmacy teams and don’t have an information technology (IT) wizard on hand, chances are that you’ll need a Help Desk at some point. For example, scripClip’s system is modular and essentially implemented out of the box, with Tech Support also available 24/7.
Centralized fulfillment operation serving multiple locations:
Do you have multiple pharmacy locations supported by a Central Fill facility – or are you considering a micro-fulfillment strategy?
Many retail chains and multi-location providers are centralizing fulfillment of common medications to help with inventory, cost and workflow management. However, the need to check in individual prescriptions upon delivery to each retail pharmacy location can be a real hassle – taking away from the time and cost savings of Central Fill. If those savings are important to you, you may want to consider a will-call solution that syncs up with Central Fill, so prescriptions are essentially checked into will call at the point of filling and easily filed at each retail pharmacy location when they arrive. See how the process works with scripClip totes.
Similarly, though more simply, scripClip also supports delivery management to multiple locations – helping track where prescriptions are in the pharmacy, if any were missed in a delivery or taken to the wrong location, and preventing delivery errors.
Volume of prescriptions, and noise and foot traffic in the pharmacy:
Do you typically have a lot of prescriptions in will call at one time? Are there times that are louder and busier than others?
Keep in mind that a will-call system is as valuable as it looks. Literally! If your staff can’t find prescriptions in the will-call area, it won’t matter how snazzy the technology is. So, you’ll want to consider how bright the lights are, whether they can be seen from multiple angles, and if audible tones would also be helpful, particularly for compact or crowded spaces, or visually impaired staff.
Again note that it may be valuable to have multiple light and sound options for busier pharmacies with multiple POS stations.
Importance of error alerts and security monitoring:
Do you have issues with diversion, theft or compliance – or anxiety that you could? Do you dispense many high-cost, brand-name or controlled substances in your pharmacy? Do you have a large staff or frequent turnover? Are you seeing trending discrepancies or errors but having trouble identifying the cause?
A tamper-resistant solution that offers a verifiable chain of custody may save you headaches by ensuring orders that are put in will call are filled correctly and not touched until they’re handed to the correct patient. If something does go awry, you’ll want to be able to pinpoint when it happened and under whose watch, so you can remedy the issue and prevent it from happening again.
Some systems also provide in-app alerts when patient safety errors are likely to occur – halting premature transactions, encouraging staff to double-check their work, presenting opportunities for coaching, and avoiding costly mistakes.
Consistency and reliability:
How much manual effort are you willing to plan for, and would technology ‘down time’ frustrate your team?
Like your Internet connection or the lock on the door, your will-call system ‘just needs to work.’ If you aren’t willing to innovate and adopt new digitally supported ways of working, you probably don’t want a smart will-call solution – not to mention that your pharmacy probably won’t be around very long. However, that doesn’t mean you have to take a gamble on whether your technology works the way it’s supposed to all the time. If it’s not 95-100% reliable, your staff will find ways to work around it, putting you right back where you started.
You’ll want to consider how a vendor sticks behind their product and what sort of “uptime” they promise. Better yet, you’ll want to know what other pharmacies are experiencing. Look into the hardware warranty. (If it’s only backed for a year, it might be prone to breakage.) And then look deeper into how the system works, including how it’s powered – special electric rods, wall-outlets, expensive and hard-to-find batteries, or easily accessible batteries? – and how the signal works, via radio frequency, Bluetooth or otherwise. Understanding the ‘how’ will help you determine the likelihood of issues and difficulty of fixing them when they come up. Again, check into the availability of tech support to make sure you’re covered in an emergency.
Do you conduct return-to-stock (RTS) processes regularly? Does it bog your team down? Do claim reversals cause red flags and eat away at your margins? Are you able to identify trends in RTS so you can better manage inventory and medication adherence programs?
If the idea of conducting RTS more regularly, quickly and smartly appeals to you, you’ll definitely want to weigh the RTS functions of your will-call solution. scripClip, for example, enables pharmacy staff to easily search and find all prescriptions in will call that are a certain number of days old, a certain drug name or NDC number, or above a certain copay amount. It helps staff prioritize patient calls for the highest-impact or highest-cost medications, avoid overstocking certain drugs, and simply take a tedious, hours-long process down to a few minutes a day. Furthermore, it can provide automatic daily alerts.
Note: Some will-call/PMS integrations also facilitate automatic claim reversals. However, the wrong prescriptions commonly get returned to stock and it’s wise to take caution that multiple ‘calls’ for the same prescriptions can drive costs up unexpectedly and exponentially, so you may be better off keeping a manual eye on reversals.
Do you want your staff to love coming to work and to show them you’re invested in solutions that make their lives easier? Do you want to impress your customers and keep them coming back?
Of course you do. It may be invaluable to not only make workflows more efficient but more pleasurable – for your staff and patients alike. Will-call solutions that look cutting edge and make search-and-retrieval so much smoother, help patients get in and out more quickly, inspire awe, and foster trust and loyalty.
Think about it from a customer’s point of view: When you see that your pharmacy has invested in new technology and are waited on by a staff member that is friendly, calm and confident in what they’re doing, you’re left with a positive feeling, more comfortable asking for guidance, and likely to keep coming back to spend your hard-earned money there.