UChicago Medicine enhances delivery of retail pharmacy services

Pharmacy technician Kina Roberson, CPhT, scans medicine to place in one of the two Parata robots, new high-speed, tablet filling machines that will count tablets, put them into the containers, label and cap and sort vials in an average of 34 seconds.

In an effort to improve services and enhance the experience of patients, the University of Chicago Medicine will open its newly renovated and expanded outpatient retail pharmacy on April 1.

Pharmacy services at UChicago Medicine have seen significant growth over the past several years, due in large part to improvements in operations and additional clinical offerings.

“As we continue to grow the pharmacy business and see the impact on the enterprise, it is our goal to become the primary outpatient retail pharmacy for our patients,” said Kevin Colgan, MA, FASHP, vice president and chief pharmacy officer.

Renovations to the retail outpatient pharmacy located in the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine (DCAM), the Medical Center’s flagship outpatient facility, began last year.

To deliver a better patient experience and improved services, UChicago Medicine will increase the size of the pharmacy by 71 percent (an additional 1,990 square feet), incorporate the latest pharmacy technology and improve coordination between inpatient and outpatient care givers to give patients the optimal therapy.

The outpatient retail pharmacy will include:

  • An increase in prescription drop off and pick up windows
  • A patient waiting room
  • A private patient and pharmacist consultation room
  • The ability for patients to track the status of their prescription on a waiting room monitor.

New service offerings for patients include:

  • Text alerts when prescriptions are ready for pick up
  • Ability to refill and ask questions about prescriptions through MyChart, UChicago Medicine’s patient health portal
  • 100 generic medications will be available for $5 or $10
  • Combined medical and pharmacy records improve coordination and continuity of care

“The upgrades to the pharmacy and its services underscore the high quality, coordinated care that is delivered to patients in the outpatient setting,” said Allyson Hansen, senior vice president of ambulatory services.

Even before patients are discharged, pharmacy technicians coordinate with care givers to ensure medications are ready and given to patients when they leave. A mobile point-of-sale system will enable patients to pay up front. Studies have shown that compliance with medications are improved when patients exit the hospital with their prescription in hand.

Prescription mail order is one of the key pharmacy services that UChicago Medicine wants to expand. The service has been available for more than a year, shipping more than 80 packages a day. Pharmacists will be placed within the DCAM clinics to enroll patients in the mail order service and to manage patients’ compliance with medication therapy even before they leave their clinic visit.

Employees were also a target group for outpatient pharmacy service enhancements, as they represent about 45 percent of pharmacy’s business. This summer, ScriptCenter, a machine that operates similar to an ATM machine or Amazon Locker, will be installed in the lower level of DCAM for employees to more conveniently pick up their prescriptions and purchase over-the-counter products 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Upgrading the information technology infrastructure will be essential to improve the outpatient pharmacy’s operational efficiency. The adoption of Epic Willow Ambulatory, an operating system that is tied into the Epic electronic health records system, will provide continuity of care for patients. The software integrates with MyChart, third party point-of-sale systems, various billing applications and is capable of processing high prescription volumes.

Other technology upgrades includes the installation of two Parata robots. These high-speed, tablet filling robots will each stock 400 unique medications. It will count the tablets, put them into the containers, label and cap and sort vials, filling a prescription in an average of 34 seconds. The new compliance packager, also coming this summer, will put multiple medications in pouches that are organized by a patient’s medication cycle, increasing a patient’s adherence to their medication therapy.

Future plans include the administering of flu vaccinations by pharmacy personnel, and the opening of an outpatient retail pharmacy in the adult emergency department later this year.