Technology paves the way for delivering clinic-centric tasks, ultimately improving job satisfaction and minimizing burnout.
Pharmacy technicians are undeniably the backbone of the pharmacy. Pharmacies rely heavily on technicians to help serve their communities and help patients lead healthier lives. Traditionally, technicians have been assigned various roles, including answering phone calls, counting pills, collecting patient information, and labeling vials. These roles have created an environment in which technicians feel exhausted and dissatisfied, which contributes to a shortage of technicians in the profession.
It is more important than ever to reinvent and reuse the technician’s work as a role that can be better aligned with their talents and better suited to the growth trajectory of the pharmaceutical industry. The solution is automation. Pharmacies are growing beyond just being drug dispensaries into more clinic-focused centers, delivering the care patients demand and deserve. This means offering vaccinations, drug therapy management, point-of-care testing, and more. Without automation, it is extremely difficult to find the time to devote to these services.
One such solution, the Parata Max 2 high-speed vial filling robot, equates to more than 40 hours of a technician’s work in a pharmacy without automation. Creating this time allows technicians to do other things, allowing them to take advantage of opportunities to build a career with extended roles. This alleviates burnout and improves job satisfaction by reducing the turnover rate of technicians.
Recently, the National Community Pharmacists Association reported that about 70 percent of independent retail pharmacies were struggling to find technicians, according to a survey they conducted.1
A key part of talent recruiting is educating potential technicians about what opportunities exist and what their future might look like once they enter the industry.
Erin Lomenick, a pharmaceutical technician at Tyson Drugs, Inc in Holly Springs, Mississippi, spoke in an interview about ways she was able to excel beyond pill counting. She has been a certified pharmaceutical technician at Tyson Drugs for 3 years and, thanks to the support of automation, she had the opportunity to grow within the role. For the first two years, Lomenick was more involved in the filling process, working closely with the Parata Max 2.
Automation allowed her to cut the time it takes to fill a patient’s prescription in half, allowing her more time to spend on the pharmacy’s drug synchronization program.
“While the machine fills the common prescriptions, you are able to do many other things. We have a lot of patients in our medical synchronization program, ”Lomenick said.
“When I finish filling those drugs that are not in the machine, the drugs filled by the machine are ready to use and I’m done with that patient, [saving me] double the time it takes to fill them all by hand, “he said, adding that it’s important to have the flexibility to get away from the filling station.” Automation gives me more time to interact with patients and help out wherever it’s needed. “
Additionally, his role as a technician has evolved to become the designated caller for medical synchronization.
“Instead of bench techs making synchronization calls, I have an office space away from the pharmacy where I can talk to patients one-on-one with absolutely no distractions,” Lomenick said.
This personalized time with patients is an essential element in developing trust between patients and the pharmacy, letting patients feel more cared for and valued and thus improving adherence.
Tyson Drugs is implementing chronic care and remote patient monitoring, which are clinical programs that technicians can be trained on. Tyson Drugs has a vision to transform from community pharmacy to clinical setting using automation.
In a recent webcast discussion, Lindsay Dymowski Constantino, co-founder and president of Centennial Pharmacy Services, discussed how the organization has been driving change into the future of the pharmacy by having technicians manage operations.2 At Centennial Pharmacy, a pharmacy focused on the adherence solution, technicians take care of billing, cyclical operations, compliance, delivery, filling, call synchronization and workflow. These are all fulfilling roles, where technicians can excel with the help of the time created by using envelope adhesion solutions.
“It is not possible to obtain 1000 to 1500 prescriptions per day in the pharmacy without a high use of technicians and high quality automation. It goes hand in hand, ”Dymowski said.
There is a direct correlation between advancing to leadership roles for technicians and success in the pharmacy, and automation is at the heart of creating the time to do so.
It is important to reimagine the pharmacy as part of the overall healthcare landscape. Automation is an important element in enabling this mental shift. Automation offers technicians the opportunity to become part of patient care. When automation replaces the counting, filling, labeling and capping process, technicians have the ability to carry out more patient-centric tasks that can create a fulfilling career. Automation is the answer to creating a more efficient and organized workflow so that technicians can succeed. Talent-based role reallocation cannot happen without freeing up time through automation. Automation can help reduce turnover rates and improve retention.
Traditional technician roles will soon become obsolete and new advanced and specialized roles will become essential as pharmacies continue to evolve.
Elena Johnson, BS, PhTis an associate segment marketing manager at Parata Systems, LLC, in Durham, North Carolina.
1. Most independent pharmacies affected by ongoing labor, supply chain problems, says an NCPA survey. Press release. National Association of Community Pharmacists; November 10, 2021. Accessed March 10, 2022. https://ncpa.org/newsroom/news-releases/2021/11/10/majority-independent-pharmacies-affected-ongoing-labor-supply
2. The changing healthcare landscape for pharmacy technicians.
Pharmacy times®. January 26, 2022. Accessed March 10, 2022. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/the-shifting-health-care-landscape-for-farmacia-technicians