Buckley Pharmacy makes DoD history, creates faster service times for patients

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Holden S. Faul
  • 460th Space Wing Public Affairs

The Buckley Pharmacy conducted a study in February to determine the time it took an employee to locate and provide a prescription to the customer. The study revealed the average time was three minutes. After recognizing this, the pharmacy implemented the PickPoint system, the first of its kind at any military installation in the Department of Defense. This new system has effectively decreased prescription dispensing times by roughly 84%.

When looking at Air Force bases within the continental U.S., Buckley Air Force Base is amongst the smaller bases. However, being located in the Denver Metro area and home to the world’s premiere missile warning capabilities, Buckley AFB is credited for providing services to roughly 88,000 individuals. Of those, the pharmacy provides prescriptions for 7,500 Active Duty personnel and dependents and roughly 80,000 beneficiaries in the local community.

With large numbers of patients utilizing the Buckley Pharmacy as their main means of receiving medications and a small team of both service members and volunteers operating the pharmacy, it was often frustrating for patients who found themselves waiting in line to receive prescriptions they were told were ready for pickup.

It’s not uncommon for more than 1,000 prescriptions to be prepared and waiting to be picked up by patients. Prior to this new system, these prescriptions were manually organized by the patient’s date of birth. One can imagine the frustration when a prescription was incorrectly filed, causing the employee to search for up to seven minutes while the customer waited.

“There were times when a prescription was filed improperly and it caused a significant delay in the operation,” said Capt. Alexander Tran, 460th Medical Group chief of outpatient pharmacy. “When this happened, not only is that person now searching through hundreds of prescriptions, but it often caused another employee or volunteer to step away from their task to assist in the hunt. Misfiling and being unable to find the prescription would cause increased workload on the pharmacy when a technician and pharmacist would have to fill and verify the prescription again.”

After recognizing their system could use improving and listening to customers who were not fully satisfied, the team decided it was time for change. On March1, that change was made and the PickPoint LED-light-guided will call system was implemented, increasing the pharmacy’s accuracy, efficiency and prescription management.
This new system makes their operations simple. Now, once a patient arrives at the pharmacy to pick up their prescription, the employee is able to verify their order and an assigned pouch on a prescription rack will light up, revealing to the employee exactly where the order is located.

“This new system has made the process of locating prescriptions extremely easy for us,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Rourke, 460th Medical Group pharmacy NCO in charge. “I, personally, think this system is amazing because it makes the jobs of our volunteers, who just want to help, much easier and faster. Even if the bag was placed completely out of order, it’s still going to light up and reveal itself.”

In the PickPoint system’s first month, the installation has reduced the time it takes to locate prescriptions from sometimes up to seven minutes to now just under nine seconds.

Additionally, it has helped to reduce the time for other vital daily tasks such as Return-to-Stock processing. According to Tran, prior to PickPoint, RTS was a manual and time-intensive activity that pulled one individual from the pharmacy line for around 105 minutes each week. With PickPoint, the process of finding medications for RTS and processing them takes around 25 minutes per week.

“The pharmacy’s adoption of the PickPoint system is a true testament to their efforts of increasing operational efficiency while ensuring a quick and positive experience for all patients,” said Col. Shannon Phares, 460th Medical Group commander. “One of the top priorities for the Air Force right now is innovation, and I strongly believe the pharmacy team has shown their ability to make strong, effective changes for our mission.”