Retail Pharmacy Workflow Basics

July 17, 2014 • Pharmacy Operations • Views: 91616


The second step in the prescription filling process is known as “input.”  Here is where the actual prescription is read/interpreted and entered into the filling software and patient profile.  When a patient who has previously been to the pharmacy comes in with a new prescription, the prescription will move almost immediately to the input step.  In some software systems the prescription may still be scanned at the drop off step, but other systems call for scanning the prescription during or after the “input” step.


If your drop off area and inputting area are separate, and if you don’t scan in prescriptions at drop off, then your workflow must have shelves on which to line up (in order) the prescriptions as they come in (typically in baskets or bags).

In my opinion, this step is probably the most important in the whole process.  More mistakes are made right here than anywhere else.  The physical location of this station will depend somewhat on the pharmacy software that you are using.  This is why it is important to pick your software prior to designing your workflow.

If your inputting step comes prior to scanning the prescription, be sure that this area has plenty of room for neatly organizing and laying out the prescriptions which have to be entered.  Having floated for a staffing company for a while, I can’t tell you how many inputting stations are not designed with sufficient room to put prescriptions down to be read and entered.  They have been crammed into a corner of a counter with no logical place to put the prescription while entering it.

The input station needs to be equipped with a phone and hopefully an ergonomic keyboard to prevent or minimize the strain on the hands and arms while typing.  The whole pharmacy needs to be well lit, but this station especially needs effective lighting.

Because the inputting station tends to encounter most of the troubles, a good workflow will allow for inputting at multiple locations in the pharmacy.  Getting hung up for any number of reasons can disrupt your workflow.  If you don’t have the ability to handle the input function from multiple locations, you will run into a bottleneck and the pressure will  build up.


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Author: Jason Poquette

5 Responses to Retail Pharmacy Workflow Basics

  1. Vagabond says:

    Scan the Rx? What magic is this? Paper,paper,paper here.

  2. Gary Morrow, RPh says:

    Please eliminate a seemingly universal mistake at the drop-off station of workflow. I hear it all the time as a floater pharmacist and as a customer. I refer to the question “Have you been here before?”, or worse “Are you in our system?” or some variation of these. What are the possible answers to this question? A) “Yes I have.” The technician then looks in the computer for the patient info. Or option B) “No”, or “I don’t know”. The technician then looks in the computer. One day some smart-ass is going to sound off with option C): “You have the computer; why don’t you look it up and tell me!” Do you get it? Either way, the input station starts with accessing patient information. So skip those kinds of questions. They make you sound lazy. Besides, that is not the way to welcome the patient/client/guest to your pharmacy. People like to hear their names, so say it aloud as a form of greeting. It is the first step toward building goodwill and putting your customers at ease.

  3. jasonpoquette says:

    Hi Gary,
    You make a great point. Questions that don’t need to be asked are a waste of time and could be replaced by important questions for sure. The key to efficiency is to eliminate waste. This is definitely going to be included in my next article on Workflow 201 – Efficiency!

  4. Keish Hale,CPh.T says:

    I remember when I was working at Wal-Mart I worked the drop off window and enjoyed it. It takes precision to run the drop off effectively. Firstly, you have to make sure that you provide customer service because our customers are our bread and butter and we need to make sure that we treat each customer the way that we would like to be treated. Secondly, you must follow the 5 Rights to make sure accuracy is on point. The Tech has to be able to multi-task while at the drop off.

  5. Tom Hanson says:

    You forgot another workstation area, the drive-thru window. This adds so many more headaches and problems to the workflow you would not believe it. It also would requires your minimum staffing levels in a pharmacy to be 5 people and not 4.

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