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News | May 31, 2024

Beaumont pharmacy improves wait times.

The William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC) pharmacy reduced their patient wait times down to an average of 10 minutes over the last couple of years using a mix of automation and face to face interaction.

Several years ago, the WBAMC pharmacists noticed that patients were getting frustrated waiting for medications. Sometimes, waiting up to an hour while the staff filled prescriptions by hand. WBAMC’s team got to work finding a solution in automation technology to improve the quality of care.

“Patient safety is always number one, but technology can also assist us with that,” said Dr. Selina O’Hara, WBAMC’s deputy chief of pharmacy, “and we found that was one of our keys to success.”

The National Institute of Health published a study in 2023 that found 20 percent of medical errors happen in pharmacies, and the cause is often human error.

Using automation technologies such as barcode scanners to quickly find the correct medication and dose among thousands of other different medications, helps reduce time lost finding the right medications while also improving safety by removing some risk of human error.

“We have robots that help us fill prescriptions,” O’Hara also said, “and we make sure that we put in our most frequently used prescriptions in there.”

Pharmacy technicians work in tandem with the robots by bringing the prescription label to the machine and scanning the label. Once a dispenser lights up with matching medication information, the pharmacy technician fills the prescription and brings the medication back for one final check with a pharmacist before handing it to the patient.

“Since we’ve implemented these changes, we haven’t seen any increase in errors,” said O’Hara. “We have staff that promotes a culture of safety. We report any near misses or good catches, but our technology is really where we catch those things.”

All these implementations resulted in a reduction of pharmacy wait times, which also helped improve the overall quality of life at Fort Bliss for Soldiers and dependents.

“We’ve worked really hard to improve the wait times,” O’Hara said. “I think from the outside that’s what our patients see.”

Photo By: David Greeson
Caption: Pharmacy technician David Gamboa scans medication labels while filling prescriptions in the William Beaumont Army Medical Center pharmacy on April 23, 2024. Barcode scanning medications makes finding the correct medication and dosage faster and ensures patient safety.
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