How are supermarkets faring in regard to their pharmacy operations?
Brian Glaves: Supermarkets are masters at keeping expenses low while working with razor thin margins on the grocery side. They must also maximize their pharmacy operations in the face of declining prescription reimbursements. Their goal is to make the most of their highest priced hourly employee, the pharmacist.
What should supermarkets be doing to continue moving forward with the department?
They need a more seamless integration of the pharmacy, developing a “healthy options” area of the store—offering food choices, vitamins and OTCs that complement the customer’s medications. For this to work, the pharmacist needs the opportunity to be out front with their customers—not just filling prescriptions behind the counter. For example, when the pharmacist gives a personal recommendation for a specific probiotic or yogurt with an antibiotic, or lower glycemic snacks with a diabetes medication, the interaction builds customer loyalty between that customer and the supermarket.
Talk about ScriptPro.
ScriptPro’s robot was designed to make pharmacy safer. Early studies on prescription error rates across all pharmacy types identified that errors were a problem on a national level. Errors were predominantly the wrong drug, the wrong strength and incorrect instructions. The barcode scanning functionality in our robotic prescription dispensing and workflow systems have dramatically improved errors in all three categories. After 20 years, ScriptPro has more than 7,000 customers in 20 countries. We are achieving our goal of creating safer pharmacies, while also improving efficiency—and in turn, making them more profitable.
We designed our line of Compact Robotic Systems (CRS) to fit into very small pharmacy spaces. With a footprint of just seven square feet, it is the perfect solution combining cost, utilization and space for supermarket pharmacies.
How can ScriptPro make retailers’ pharmacy operation more efficient and profitable?
ScriptPro automation can help lower dispensing costs. As a retail pharmacy, the two things that have little variance from the market as a whole will be the product, which is from a wholesale drug contract negotiated every three to five years, and the insurance contracts that come up annually. The one thing that does have variance and that you can control in your pharmacy operation is labor. ScriptPro really can help with that. We have regional supermarkets that have seen an 80-basis point drop in labor costs in their stores that utilize ScriptPro robots. These stores also see an increase in sales behind the counter and in the higher margin OTCs, vitamins and health foods in front of the counter.
What new technologies are coming down the pike in the future?
Technology helps pharmacies create a safer, more efficient and profitable operation in the filling process, but those gains can be undone in the will-call management process. With greater scrutiny than ever on the handling of narcotics, the organization and security of the will-call area provides a hotbed of opportunity not only for mistakes by a clerk, but also for shrinkage. One in three bags holds a controlled substance secured by a plastic bag. ScriptPro is working on a solution to help with this.