Productivity must be at its peak for pharmacy revenue to reach the highest level. Productivity must be at its peak for. Pharmacy is no exception when it comes to guidelines for operational improvement. In this blog, we’ll examine how operational efficiency can make or break a long-term care pharmacy, and offer suggestions on how to improve your process with cross-training, good pharmacy management and effective use of technology.
Workflow practice and organizational culture
Once a pharmacy develops a workflow practice, it is often difficult to get employees to work differently. “That’s the way we always did it” is a common phrase. Employees fall into a comfort level and continue working that way until forced to change. Pharmacy operations can improve if management follows these basic guidelines:
- Recognize staff frustrations
- Ensure proper workflow is implemented and maintained
- Hold employees accountable
- Motivate and empower staff
Employees in long-term care pharmacy tend to follow established practices. It is important to get staff to realize that the “old way” is not always the “right way.” When you process STAT or same-day medications first, your services improve, and you establish trust and reliability with your facilities. If you develop a schedule for the processing of medications, assignment of workstations, and cross-training of employees, you will improve operational efficiency. This move requires motivated staff with proper and complete training.
Proper staffing and organizational structure
Having an appropriate setup is an excellent starting point for optimal workflow. Design your pharmacy to help ensure that steps occur in sequential order. If you don’t have the luxury to redesign or remodel a space that is not conducive, you can improve your operations with some simple changes:
- Addition of bins or baskets to sort prescription processing time
- Proper organization and pharmacy structure
- Staffing fluctuation during peak/valley business
Importance of cross-training
Cross-training of employees is critical to the success of your pharmacy; without it, productivity can falter, and pharmacy services will decrease. It’s a simple formula.
Lack of cross-training can cause:
- Setbacks and bottlenecks to pharmacy production
- Delays that reduce pharmacy operations
- Decreased employee morale
- Staff to hoard information for perceived value
Benefits of cross-training include:
- Enhanced staff morale and sense of worth
- Improved sense of importance to company
- Lowered levels of staff fatigue and burnout
- Improved prescription processing
Efficient prescription order processing
Pharmacists and pharmacy staff tend to want to process prescriptions / orders as they arrive. While this process of filling prescriptions works, it is not necessarily the most efficient. Following proper workflow for processing orders can improve prescription processing. Many facilities have limited scheduled deliveries, and if organized appropriately, your pharmacy can efficiently plan the processing of orders.
- Triage must be done accurately and kept current, as nothing happens until it is sent to the appropriate department in workflow
- Process STAT or urgent orders daily within a required time frame
- Process medication changes or discontinuations immediately
- Allow refill orders to have a longer turnaround time — this will allow you to focus on urgent new admissions and new orders and fill in the rest of the time with these routine reorders
- Process standing (profile only) orders during downtime for each facility and ensure they are current before any scheduled records printing
Utilization of technology
Pharmacies have access to many types of technology to assist them in improving prescription processing and therefore increasing revenue. However, many pharmacies do not properly utilize their technology. Dispensing automation machines can provide valuable time-management assistance with productivity. Along with these machines, though, come increased policies and adherence to proper documentation.
To ensure proper utilization of packaging machines:
- Document all actions of each machine (who filled a container, which pharmacist verified)
- Determine “top movers” for each machine
- Keep fragile medications out of each machine
For example, some medications may be too large to be effectively be used in a machine, and others may be too fragile. These medications should be flagged to hand-fill. If your staff place the wrong medications inside a machine, they have to spend additional time emptying or cleaning it — wasted time they could have spent on revenue-generating activities.
Putting it all together
Workflow is one key factor in the operational efficiency of any pharmacy, but so are others including staffing, production, order / prescription processing, and proper use of technology. All of these factors can harm or improve prescription processing, and therefore, operational efficiency.
To ensure your LTC pharmacy revenue is on-track for success in 2018, first review your process, policies, staffing, and technology. The good news: you can employing some simple fixes to enhance your pharmacy operations. If you’re not sure where to start, give Infinx a call. Our Pharmacy Revenue Cycle Management Services help LTC pharmacies improve their processes and increase revenue.