With retailers and healthcare providers across the country struggling to find ways to get their pharmacists more involved in patient care, pharmacy automation supplier Innovation brought together executives from a diverse range of companies earlier this month for a detailed look at how its partnership with Binghamton University’s Watson Institute for Systems Excellence is helping retail pharmacy in this effort.
“Our association with WISE is in no way accidental,” Innovation COO Tom Boyer told attendees at the two-day symposium at the university’s school of engineering. “We are in an excellent position to leverage the research being done here.”
During the event, entitled “Exploring Successful Change Management for Pharmacy Operations,” Boyer and more than a dozen Innovation senior staff, professors and students explained the work that they were doing to make high-volume automation an option for more pharmacies. A critical part of the discussions focused on ensuring that once a pharmacy commits to high volume automation for a central fill or mail order site, the installation and operation of the system goes smoothly.
“We have a mutual goal,” Boyer said. “You have this asset that you have acquired from us, and the more it stays working effectively the more beneficial it is to your business and to us.”
Symposium participants, which included drug chain and supermarket pharmacy executives from such companies as Rite Aid, Wegman's, Publix, Giant Eagle and Brookshire Food and Pharmacy, as well as representatives of mail-order operations and pharmacy benefit management companies, said they came away with a clearer picture of the benefits that high volume automation can bring to their businesses.
In addition to the discussions, the symposium also included a tour of the Binghamton University School of Engineering where attendees saw some of the work researchers are doing in 3-D printing, computer-assisted design and simulation and modeling.
A live “cobot”– an extremely flexible and adaptable robot that works in collaboration with a human – demonstration showed the impact these small-footprint devices can have on speeding up the prescription-filling process and making a pharmacy more efficient.
“I definitely see cobots being the future of robotics,” BU assistant professor Dr. Chris Green, who led the demonstration, said. “While I don't like to use words like 'paradigm shift,' cobotics will represent a paradigm shift.”
All in all, attendees who were already using Innovation technology told Drug Store News that the event gave them a better understanding of how to get the maximum benefit from their systems. Attendees whose companies were exploring the possibility of adding high volume automation came away with a clearer picture of what the technology could do for them and how to best plan for such a complex implementation.
“The information that was given was something that will help us make informed decisions that can aid us in enhancing our patients’ quality of life,” Rite Aid manager of pharmacy technology and operations Steve Smith said.