Anyone who owns or runs a business likely realizes there are always ways in which they can do better. However, it’s difficult to identify areas of opportunity by mere intuition, and the difficulty becomes more pronounced the more complex the operation. With so many critical steps in your pharmacy workflow, it’s absolutely vital to understand each step in your workflow so you’re making the right improvements in the right order. This guide from Shelving Design Systems can get you off on the right foot.
Why Map Your Workflow?
A study conducted at Penn State (PDF) spells out the reasons for a workflow analysis. The study states, “An inefficient floor plan can produce high levels of interruption in the natural flow of prescription processing and cause dispensing errors. Medication errors can in turn, lead to poor patient outcomes.” They go on to point out that workflow mapping has benefits, as well: “By prioritizing the planning and design of a pharmacy, pharmacists can help to ensure whether patients are receiving medications safely and effectively. Proper design may even improve staff satisfaction.”
How to Map Pharmacy Workflow
Given that a better workflow improves margins, outcomes, and satisfaction, how should you conduct an audit in your pharmacy?
There’s a lot to measure, including productivity, time on task, staffing, and the steps taken to fill and dispense a prescription. Measure everything thoroughly and record your results. These will establish a baseline that helps you identify problems and measure the outcome of any solutions you implement. You’ll also be better able to identify the bottlenecks in your workflow, the better to change pharmacy shelving design, scheduling, or available tools and equipment to make improvements.
Inventory management is often an area of opportunity for pharmacies. Better pharmacy shelving helps, but unless and until you manage what’s going on those shelves, how long it stays there, and whether it sells well enough to justify keeping stock, it’s not nearly enough. Building relationships with your patients helps in this respect, since it can help you identify medications that can be ordered on a just-in-time basis instead of keeping back stock.
Waste motion in pharmacies leads to a host of problems, including everything from wasted payroll to repetitive strain injuries. Some of this can be addressed by a better layout, but introducing automation can also assist you in improving efficiency and better deploying your human capital for a better patient experience and smoother operations.
In the article cited above, you will have noticed simple schematics of the pharmacy layout. This can be helpful in its own right, since it gives you a literal bird’s-eye view of your workflow. A potential improvement that’s hard to recognize as you conduct a walkthrough may become immediately and glaringly apparent when viewed from above.
Hopefully you have the kind of work environment where employees are comfortable suggesting improvements to current practices. If you do, continue. If you don’t, this is a good time to start. With a little prompting, your staff can think through their workflow and often identify ways in which their jobs can be made more efficient.
A Process, Not a Destination
Perhaps the most important advice we can give you today — besides calling Shelving Design Systems for a pharmacy shelving consultation — is to put your pharmacy workflow in its proper context. No matter how carefully you’ve tracked, planned, and improved, there’s always room for improvement, and always some new way to wring more efficiency from your pharmacy workflow. This isn’t a one-time effort, in other words, so much as a process that should be ongoing, and revisited frequently. For more help addressing your workflow and pharmacy shelving needs, get in touch today.