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Let the robot take the strain

26.11.2020
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Read time 5 minutes
Best Practice
Pharmacist
Process Optimization
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Maintaining efficiency, accuracy, safety and levels of customer service in this year’s exceptional circumstances has been extremely challenging for pharmacists. Like many other businesses, pharmacies have been re-imagined, with new processes and workflows introduced to cope with an overwhelming demand for prescription and over-the-counter medicines.  With GPs also under pressure, patients are increasingly going direct to pharmacies for minor ailments, family planning, COVID-19 testing, flu vaccinations and more.

The dependable constant

A stockroom robot is the one dependable constant which keeps going come what may; eliminates human error; and shoulders high volumes without compromising standards. They have helped many pharmacies weather the COVID-19 storm and will continue to deliver a range of benefits throughout the pandemic and beyond.

“Staff retiring, off sick and self-isolating left us extremely under resourced with no way to replace people at short notice,” explained Scott Conlon from Mackie Pharmacy in Glasgow. “Our automated stockroom has been invaluable, allowing us to continue operating effectively and safely with no impact on our level of service. I felt confident that despite staff shortages, I still had the robot doing extra product checks and limiting any potential mistakes at a very difficult time.”

Fast and very productive

Queues feature heavily in the ‘new normal’ and with restricted numbers allowed into the pharmacy, will continue through the winter. Repeat prescriptions can be fulfilled and stored by the robot and when a customer arrives, accessed via computer and delivered to the counter in seconds. Having prescriptions ready and waiting significantly increases throughput and cuts down queueing time.

In order to give staff more working space, split shifts have become commonplace in pharmacies. Robots maintain productivity by efficiently and safely handling three times the number of prescriptions with half the staff – which post-COVID-19 will give staff time to handle other services and see more patients.

Rachel Potter from Windmill Pharmacy in Manchester reported, “Our prescription numbers rose by 25% in just a month and at the same time, we lost around 20 technician hours due to splitting shifts for social distancing. We did not experience any safety or productivity issues and managed the extra business with ease – none of this would have been possible without the robot.”

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A safer environment

Shops, restaurants, gyms or offices, everywhere looks different and in pharmacies, a robot can support a safer, socially distanced environment for both customers and staff. Innovative layouts are all part of the BD Rowa design service provided before installing a robot and can include COVID-19 compliant work processes.

If one member of staff tests positive, the pharmacy would have to shut so safe workstations are vital and very possible with conveyors, drop chutes and lifts automatically delivering prescription medications direct to individual desks and on different floors if necessary. Stock rotation, waste reduction and real-time stock counts contribute to a highly organised and very accurate stockroom with a very fast pick speed.

The many benefits of automation have been well documented and the pandemic has certainly underlined how a stockroom robot can transform services, boost revenue and grow the business more efficiently. By storing packs far more densely, they also make excellent use of expensive floor space and the technology is very reliable – BD Rowa robots typically operate on 99.9% uptime.

“Thanks to a robot, our team coped with some extremely busy periods, managing the extra work load without fatigue or stress and maintaining high levels of accuracy. We had time to see patients and handle more services,” added Nick Watts from the Welsh based Neath Pharmacy. “In addition, our digital Vmotion screens also helped to market the pharmacy.”

Whether responding to a crisis or looking to diversify and expand, a robot can help make it happen.

Best Practice
Pharmacist
Process Optimization

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