New prescription system receives rave reviews

By Danielle Frost

Wait times at the Grand Ronde Pharmacy have decreased substantially since a new prescription retrieval system was installed two months ago.

RetrieveRx electronically organizes prescriptions. After client information is entered in the computer, a light on the plastic bag containing the corresponding prescriptions lights up, making it easier for Pharmacy employees to find quickly.

The new system saves Pharmacy clerks from digging through rows of last names to locate prescriptions ‑‑ no easy task in Grand Ronde where many people often share the same family name.

The Grand Ronde Health & Wellness Center Pharmacy has started using the RetrieveRx system for prescription bags. The bags are equipped with lights to make for quick and easy retrieval of prescriptions. (Photo by Michelle Alaimo)

“We were dealing with pretty long lines in the lobby,” says acting Pharmacy Director Lincoln Wright. “Even though the system was alphabetized, it took a while. Now we just go to the bag that blinks. This is the first pharmacy I have worked in that uses this system.”

The wireless RetrieveRx system is specifically designed to work with software at the Pharmacy and helps with customer service by allowing staff to answer price and pick-up questions directly from their work stations.

“This matches up nicely,” Wright says. “Most of the planning happened before my tenure here. … Essentially they were looking for other options to improve patient experiences.”

The idea for customer service improvements came about shortly after Health Services Executive Director Kelly Rowe was approached by a Tribal Elder, who pointed out the lengthy lines to obtain medications from the Pharmacy.

“We spoke about how to improve our systems and how to best to meet patient needs,” Rowe says. “The new RetrieveRx program has supported our ability to decrease staff time searching for patient medications, and shorten patient wait times.

“Having this new equipment is a great addition to our Pharmacy and has been well received by staff and patients. We are thankful for the opportunity to improve our services for the Tribal membership and community.”

So far, response from patients and staff alike has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

“It’s always an adjustment to figure out what to do if the bags don’t light up,” Wright says. “But so far when it stops we have been able to get it going in a few minutes.”

Sensors are positioned around the Pharmacy that emit infrared light signals that connect to the new system from several different access points. The hardware includes heavy-duty bags and handles, which remain closed on the rack and light up whether on the hanger or not, and also accounts for prescriptions that require refrigeration.

Pharmacy Technician Sarah Mode says that the system makes it easy to find patient prescription bags.

“Also, if there is more than one bag, they all light up for one person’s prescription,” she says.

Pharmacy Secretary Isaiah Sherwood describes the RetrieveRx system as much more efficient.

“It is safer as well because bags are linked to the patient name, so it decreases the risk of the prescription going to the wrong person,” he says. “Also, it makes things easier for our clerks and has cut the lines down by more than half.”

Sherwood says that Pharmacy clerks are typically novice employees and it is easier to learn the new system without becoming overwhelmed, which has positively affected training and stress levels.

“When customers walk up it is much less of a guessing game,” he says. “Before we would have to check multiple locations to find things.”

Another bonus? Less confusion for family members picking up prescriptions for another person.

“Sometimes they will have the information for two prescriptions, but there is actually more,” Wright says. “This system will show all of the meds and not just what they tell us, so they don’t have to come back later.”

RetrieveRx is made by QS/1, which specializes in pharmacy management systems in Spartanburg, S.C.