Retail Pharmacy Workflow Basics

July 17, 2014 • Pharmacy Operations • Views: 91617


The filling step in the workflow is where the prescription medication is selected, and if needed counted/poured/labeled.   Fundamental to an effective filling station is sufficient counter space to manage the typical volume of prescription bottles and/or boxes that an order may include.  Some pharmacies use bags, others use baskets, to organize a single patient’s order while it is being prepared.  Bags and baskets take room.  Counting trays take up room.  Access to multiple counting trays for counting highly allergenic substances like penicillin or sulfa drugs is important.


In my opinion the best workflows have designated pods or islands for handling the filling function.  When your filling area is part of a long counter which is also part of your inputting and verifying area, you tend to have more opportunities for errors and confusion.

Very few pharmacies that I have seen have gotten the filling station right.  A properly equipped filling station needs quick and convenient access to all the ordinary filling supplies (bottles, caps, bags, etc.) as well as access to the fastest moving (top 15-20) drugs (sometimes called the “speed shelf”).  I’ve worked in silly pharmacies that had a section of over 100 “fast movers.”  It was crazy, as that section took up 25% of the pharmacy, virtually defeating the purpose.  It’s much smarter, I believe, to limit those fast movers and put them on an easily accessible end cap.


Tags: , , , ,

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *