Running a pharmacy can feel like being on a small boat in a storm. You’re buffeted on all sides by competition, high overheads, inventory challenges, regulatory pressures, and fickle consumer tastes. It’s easy to look for a silver bullet or quick fix — a big, bold solution to your problems — but all of us at Shelving Design Systems have found over the years that taking care of the fundamentals is what really ensures long-term viability and profitability. One of those fundamentals that’s capable of forming a solid foundation for many of the others? Efficiency.
Why Efficiency Matters
In a recent interview, McKesson pharmacist and regional director of pharmacy performance Steven Oh made a strong case for efficiency as the backbone of good pharmacy operations. He points out that pharma has undergone some big changes over the years, and now offers the potential to offer new programs, build trust, and generate higher revenue. But the key to accomplishing these things is maximizing time; without it, your team won’t find the time to service patients, expand offerings, and improve outcomes. You are, in short, wasting prime opportunities.
How to Improve Pharmacy Efficiency
Unfortunately, we can’t simply tack a few more hours onto the day. Labor laws, common sense, and self-care all dictate that we cannot simply work ’til we drop. So it’s vital to find ways to wring more time out of our operating hours. Here’s how.
While it helps when your staff can step outside their assigned roles when you’re extremely busy or have members who've called out due to illness, having everyone responsible for everything at all times just leads to fatigue and waste. Assign roles and make sure that they’re deviated from only when absolutely necessary. For example, Oh suggests having technicians fill prescriptions so pharmacists get more time with patients. Furthermore, if you have a pharmacy management system, automation, or other labor-saving tools at your disposal, make sure you’re using them properly and consistently. You may also find it useful to evaluate your pharmacy shelving and design’s place in those processes.
Keeping your team productive comes down to making minor adjustments for a big payoff later on. Evaluate each member’s capabilities and strengths against their responsibilities, providing additional training where needed. Staff effectively so that team members aren't overworked or, just as important, not looking for busy work during slow periods. Also, once you've standardized your processes, ensure that everyone is fully trained and brought up to speed; your staff can’t implement that which they don’t fully understand.
To some degree, addressing the first two points effectively will go a long way toward the third. But let’s be honest: we can, should, and must do better. That means optimizing purchasing and inventory control. On a more philosophical level, it can mean letting go of the way we've always done things in order to find new things that work better.
That doesn't mean reinventing the wheel, but it can mean getting rid of thinking and processes that are no longer serving us well. Automating picking and filling, redesigning your pharmacy workflow process to eliminate redundancies and waste motion, or installing new pharmacy shelving that maximizes stock can all be small but meaningful steps to that end. Getting started is easy; the first step for your pharmacy, like many others in the Southeast, can be as simple as contacting Shelving Design Systems.