While discussing about automation in pharmacies, the duties of a pharmacist come to the fore. The pharmacist may be a retailer or the one attached to any hospital. In both the cases, they store and dispense drugs to inpatients and outpatients. In every case, the pharmacist has to maintain licensure and should fulfill the responsibilities as per the ethics and law. As supplying medical products and rendering other services to the public is the duty of a pharmacist, it is important to minimize or nullify the possibility of errors in selling the products or in rendering the services. As the pharmacists are involved in new methods of selection as well as distribution of pharmaceutical products, the automation in their services can reduce human errors in rendering the services. Moreover, the duty of pharmacist is to select, analyze, and standardize the pharmacological moieties as well as their evaluation and preservation. Hence, the automation in the above aspects will save time as well as the accuracy of recalling the product thus ensuring the safe distribution. The next step of a pharmacist is to supply drugs according to prescription by a doctor. Hence, the automation in selecting, analyzing, standardizing, evaluating as well as preservation can help in saving the time while supplying drugs to the consumer. The most important aspect is to extend the automation in the above aspects to supply of drugs to consumers. As the first step to that aspect, it is important to computerize the data of drugs classifying them into two parts; first being the classification of drugs that can be sold without prescription and the ones that can be sold only with prescription (Willig, Sidney H, 2000, pp. 293-294).
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Survey of a Pharmacy
In the present context of this paper to have a survey about a pharmacy and the data can be used to analyze the automation of the systems. The customers of CVS pharmacy find that the shop classifies its products into different categories and the customers find it easy when they shop online. Moreover, it is important to classify and divide the stores in the shop according to different categories, so that the customers can approach respective keeper of the drugs and can save time. The customers can find it easy to locate the place in the shop as different drugs in the shop are divided in the following manner;
- Baby & Child.
- Diet & Nutrition.
- Home Medical.
- Medicine Cabinet.
- Natural & Organic.
- Personal Care.
- Sexual Health.
- Skin Care.
In addition to that the shop offers features brands and thus enables the customer to choose between the brands that offer drugs of same composition. Hence, in the above context automation of the storing, selecting, recalling as well as sales systems can help the pharmacy to increase business and can save the time of both customer and the pharmacist (CVS.com, 2009).
Hence, in the above-mentioned context the point of sales automation is necessary that includes inventory solutions so that the supply also can be managed. The automation of the pharmacy enables the pharmacist to have two-way pharmacy management system integration as well as OTC inventory management. This in turn results customer retention as well as the growth of customer base. The automation systems in a pharmacy can control prescription movement thus preventing the walk-out of the customer. The system that contains prescription watchdog enables the items to be displayed in POS screen, so that the customers also can have a view of it. As soon as an item is sold, it will be reported to back office for change in inventory or to replenish in case of no stock. Hence, the above aspect increases supply chain efficiencies with timely two way communication; that is with customer as well as supplier. Hence, integration of the activities of pharmacy is crucial in automation mixed with networking. Moreover, comprehensive inventory management technology with automatic purchase orders is necessary to maintain the required inventory so that there will be no instance of customer walking out without the drug they asked for. In addition to that, the purchase order acknowledgments as well as shipping notices are as important as invoices and promotions with price updates. The next stage is supply chain automation for independent retailers. As per the automation aspects mentioned till now, the supply chain automation is an extension for comprehensive inventory management. In the context of supply chain automation, the synchronization of pharmacy with suppliers is an essential aspect. The tax by store, zone pricing, real time store to store inventory query, remote store management as well as centralized pricing and promotions are part of supply chain automation. Hence, it is necessary for the suppliers to have these automation systems. In all the above activities, information sharing is crucial and accuracy matters most for efficient output. Moreover, the synchronization avoids the pricing mistakes also when the pricing is done manually. In addition to that the networking with banks other financial organizations is part of the automation and signature capturing and detecting and comparing is necessary to accept credit and debit cards (ecrsoft.com, 2009).
Packaging Solution: The first step in the above mentioned automation is regarding easy filling and refilling of medications with high speed dispensing. The pricing also should be part of this package to avoid miscalculations. Most customers feel delay in delivery of medicines and the afore-mentioned automation can minimize it. The automated unit has to pack, store and dispense the drugs that are necessary for the customers. The system is more necessary in the pharmacy units attached to corporate hospitals and medical centers as they need supply of substantial quantity of medications timely manner. In the above context, the barcode assisted medication administration can help in developing a packaging system. Moreover, in the above context, the system that can streamline patient-specific medication is necessary for medication cassette filling and checking processes. The pharmacist can take instructions from the clinician or doctor and can fill the medical cassette of the patient accordingly. Automation is necessary in the above context, to minimize the errors. In addition to that the automation and synchronization mentioned in above chapters are necessary aspects for the packaging system to make a pharmacy of a large hospital an efficient counter for drug dispensing. The important advantage inherent in the above solution is regarding speedy delivery and minimum errors (Swisslog.com).
Information about Drugs and Management
According to Malone, Patrick M. (2006, 132), the development of technology can accelerate the drug practices also. Pharmacies can use internet to inform the users about the drugs and the users can interact with pharmacists through e-mails. Hence, the first step of automation of pharmacies can be in the form of microfiche and then the computerization. However, the microfiche facility can be used to provide information for users about the drugs the pharmacist can sell with and without prescriptions. In addition to the above aspect Malone, Patrick M. (2006, pp. 133) states that pharmacists can have access to vast amounts of data from computer systems in the world in seconds. However, in the above context, it is advisable to pharmacists associations if any to develop a network of pharmacists to help the consumers to find out the drug, which is available scarcely. Moreover, the computerization of a pharmacist can help him/her to recall the stored drugs and thus automation can help in quick service, which in turn saves time of both pharmacist and customer. However, a precaution exists here about training. Without relevant training to handle the automation process, it is difficult for a pharmacy to use the automation tools. In this context, the statement of institute of medicine can be taken as guideline. According to it, the health science schools need to provide further training in informatics (Malone, Patrick M. 2006).
Hence, according to survey by Institute of Medicine the report states that the health science training can provide a way to communicate data that is available with pharmacist as well as on Internet. By accessing internet, pharmacists can integrate the resources and can manage information as well as communication methods with customers. Moreover, the computerization and networking is part of automation and the afore-mentioned aspect can help the pharmacist to have contact with clinician who is moving from place to place on health care needs. Hence, the second step in automation is to have local area network between institution, clinic, pharmacy as well as having internet. In case of small pharmacies that are not able to install personal computers or not having enough places for them, it is important to have personal digital assistant that contains some functions of automation as well as the data about drugs and clinician. Hence, along with retrieving information, the automation of a pharmacy can help in disseminating the information to the necessary persons. In the above context, the clinician can advice the non-emergency patients according to drugs available with pharmacist online. Though the first step in computerization is to enter the information of drugs and suppliers as well as the customers and patients into the computer, unless it is connected to the LAN or internet or in a suitable network, the automation is limited to just counter sales in a pharmacy. Though the basic purpose of the automation in a pharmacy is to simplify the sales process, the extension of it can enhance the capabilities of pharmacists as well as clinicians and doctors. However, it is important to take care that the simple material regarding drugs and patients has turned into advanced form; it is a necessity to have training for the people who are handling the automation as well as networking of the pharmacies. By using the information, the pharmacist can concentrate on availability of drugs that are economical as well as mostly preferred by doctors (Malone, Patrick M, 2006, pp. 134-136).
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After automation of different processes, it is important to note the organizational change that occurs due to it. As organizations consist of various interdependent elements, the automation in an area can affect the other dependent elements thus forcing automation in that area also. In the absence of automation in all the interdependent areas like storing, packaging, selling and pricing as well as supply chain management, the pharmacy performance cannot exhibit efficiency in its activities. Hence, it is important to use networking to minimize the negative effects of automation in a pharmacy. Moreover, automation with networking can result in meaningful competition in different areas of organization as the coordination is inevitable. Moreover, to enhance the efficiency of pharmacy by automation and networking, it is important to identify the effect of process in functional areas like selling, purchasing as well as maintaining inventory according to the sales. The effective business process management in a pharmacy is to identify processes across the drug storing, purchasing, selling and pricing as well as retaining customers. The automation will help the company to win over customers with different offers by managing well the dependencies among different departments in the company. As pharmacies cannot ignore hospitals their activity of registering, consultations and prescriptions should be a part of the pharmacy and the pharmacist need to register at hospitals and act according to consultant doctor. The automation in pharmacy allows allotting a slot for each consultant and hospital so that the system can receive prescriptions online thus avoiding customer the burden of taking prescription from doctor and then approach pharmacy. If the customer is willing, the doctor can send prescription directly to pharmacy and can provide a copy to the customer and in turn the pharmacy can provide home delivery to retain the customer in future (Hee-Woong Kim, 2004, pp. 1).
As per the discussion and analysis in the paper, it will be clear that the automation and networking in a pharmacy enables to expand its customer base thus increasing the business. Moreover, it is important to note pharmacies can corporatize their activities by combining automation and networking. However, in this context, the networking can be termed as an extension to automation, as the latter enables the former. While automation is implemented in storing and selling as well as pricing, the efficiency of process can be enhanced by being connected with supplier to maintain the required inventory according to sales. In addition to that the automation of sales process also prompts a pharmacy to be connected with hospitals and doctors so that they can prescribe online and the pharmacy can home deliver the drugs to customer thus saving the time of patients as well as doctors, which is crucial in enhancing the sales activities of a pharmacy. Moreover, the automation and networking combined with internet information can help a pharmacist to gather more information about drugs, suppliers and doctors as well as hospitals. In turn the above-mentioned information can be used to increase the base of network of suppliers, doctors as well as customers. The networking and internet can enable the customers to shop online and that increases the business of the pharmacy by decreasing pressure counter sales activities. Hence, automation as well as networking combined with internet can enhance efficiency of a pharmacy by improving the quality in services increasing customer base.
Willig, Sidney H. (2000). Good Manufacturing Practices for Pharmaceuticals: A Plan for Total Quality Control from Manufacturer to Consumer. New York, NY, USA: Marcel Dekker Incorporated.
Malone, Patrick M. (2006). Drug Information: A Guide for Pharmacists. Blacklick, OH, USA: McGraw-Hill Medical Publishing Division.
CVS.com. 2009. Shop CVS/Pharmacy. Web.
ECRS. 2009. Catapult. Web.
Swisslog. 2009. Pharmacy Automation System.
Hee, Woong, Kim. 2004. Business Process versus Coordination Process in Organizational Change. International Journal of Flexible Manufacturing Systems. Volume 12, Issue 4. Pp. 1. Web.