Increasingly, pharmacies are turning to automation as a way to increase efficiency and free up their pharmacists — employing everything from lower-cost, in-store automation to sophisticated robotics systems that help make central fill operations more efficient and reduce dispensing costs.
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“We’re striving to help [our customers] reposition their pharmacists so they can work at the high end of their credentials, which leads directly into helping them reap the rewards of their intense focus on delivering patient-facing care,” Innovation COO Tom Boyer told Drug Store News.
The increased need for efficiency in pharmacy is expected to continue, with Transparency Market Research projecting that in 2018, the pharmacy automation systems market will hit $7.8 billion, compared with the market’s $4.7 billion value in 2011.
In the past year, Innovation expanded its offerings for high-volume central fill pharmacies, unveiling its RxCollect robotic collation technology and showcasing what it deems as the next generation of our workforce, cobots, which are flexible and adaptable robots that work alongside humans, at its Pharmacy Operations Symposium, co-hosted with Binghamton University’s Watson Institute for Systems Excellence.
The company also is piloting a digital shelving solution with robotic back-end fulfillment that can improve efficiency and improve inventory management, and is collaborating with leading chains on a reduced-footprint, will-call solution that would make prescriptions accessible via kiosk or drive-through, as well as behind the counter.
“Last year we introduced the RxCollect technology for high-volume central fill sites,” Innovation EVP global business development Doyle Jensen told DSN. “This year we’ll continue our efforts with digital shelving technology, along with new will call and storage and retrieval systems.”
Alongside the interest in improving pharmacy efficiency has come increased pressure on pharmacies to deliver on patient outcomes, with adherence taking precedence in the metrics by which pharmacies are judged. For a growing number of pharmacies, automation plays a central role in improving adherence.
Synergy Medical has been playing an important part in this trend with proven and reliable technology for blister card automation. The company completed the first installation of its in-store robot in 2008, and in the ensuing years, the company’s blister card automation has grown to service 200,000 lives. “We see adherence packaging as a natural extension to medication synchronization; it is the final step to closing the patient adherence loop,” said Synergy Medical’s senior director of sales, North America, Mark Rinker.
Rinker said the company is committed to being an innovative leader in this space, and is expecting to launch a new solution this year that has its eye toward high-volume and central fill pharmacies, the SynMed Ultra. The company also is continuing its focus on accuracy and efficiency with additional tools to increase capacity, traceability and improve pharmacy workflow.
“Synergy Medical’s 11 engineers are continuously working to upgrade the technology, allowing SynMed to interface with virtually every software system, and to fill [more than] 30 different types of blister cards,” the company told DSN. “Already, Synergy Medical’s software team has released [more than] 80 updates of SynSoft, continuous improvements that were mainly inspired by customer feedback.”