AFSO21 revolutionizes pharmacy

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The Goodfellow AFB pharmacy recently held an Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, or AFSO21 event. The Air Force program designed to improve the efficiency of work processes by eliminating superfluous or non-value added work steps. To date numerous units have employed the AFSO21 learning tools to revamp multiple Air Force programs and the Goodfellow pharmacy's improvement project is the latest success story.

The principle goal of the project was to improve the prescription dispensing process of the 17th Medical Group Pharmacy, with a significant reduction in prescription wait times and the elimination of dispensing errors as primary improvement objectives.

When the group of 11 initially met to chart the current dispensing process, they measured an average prescription wait time of 18 minutes and a peak time of 34 minutes. Their goal was to reduce prescription processing time to 10 minutes with the completed prescription in the patient's hand by 15 minutes.

The team leader, Pharmacy Flight Commander, Capt. Robert Rainey, reports approximately 90 percent of prescriptions are now completed within the target time range. This rapid improvement was facilitated by multiple immediate or "just do it" fixes identified by the AFSO21 team. Further improvements in dispensing efficiency will be realized as additional improvements are made over the coming year.

A notable improvement is the launch of an interactive web-based drug formulary.

"We've significantly improved communication and information flow with the providers, both here and at downtown civilian hospitals," said Capt. Rainey. "The new interactive formulary provides physician's with current drug availability and will even suggest a suitable substitute if the desired medication is not on the Goodfellow formulary, this significantly reduces the number of problem prescriptions presented to the pharmacy," he said.

The pharmacy, like many Air Force units, expects a reduction in manpower in the not so distant future. To meet and maintain their time goals, the AFSO21 team identified and implemented the phased introduction of multiple dispensing technologies to offset the manpower differential.

"We're acquiring a robot to process our prescription refills," said Capt. Rainey. "It's called the RoboTx®, and is capable of filling up to 250 prescriptions an hour. That's almost a 600 percent increase relative to our current process or the equivalent of doing the same workload with 67 percent less manpower," he said.

"This will allow our other staff more time to counsel and serve patients...it's a win-win situation."

Another new addition to the clinic will be an APM--an Automatic Prescription Machine. Similar in concept to an ATM, the APM will allow patients to pick up refills 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The APM is expected to debut at Goodfellow in the next 6-8 months.

A final issue the team sought to improve was to minimize the time "sick call" students must wait for prescriptions. The solution, the pharmacy will be installing a PickPoint® dispensing machine in the Student Clinic.

"It allows providers to issue prescriptions to students prior to the pharmacy opening, reducing wait times and allowing the students to return to training," said Capt. Rainey. The machine is scheduled to be in place within the next three months.

With big changes in store, Goodfellow pharmacy patrons should notice reduced wait times immediately, said the captain. And "that's our goal--to provide efficient and accurate and safe pharmacy services to all beneficiaries."