Retail Pharmacy Workflow Basics

July 17, 2014 • Pharmacy Operations • Views: 91621


You now know the 6 basic steps to the prescription workflow in a typical retail pharmacy.  We have not focused on pharmacy software or hardware per se.  We haven’t talked about many other essential elements to operating a successful pharmacy.  But we’ve reviewed the basic workflow, the critical hinge upon which the whole pharmacy turns.  A focus on workflow is critical for patient safety, staff development and job satisfaction.  A well functioning workflow will promote pharmacy growth, as prescription will be filled more efficiently – allowing more time for interacting with patients, providers and marketing of services.


An understanding of workflow also helps to inform managers and business owners about staffing essentials.  Although it is possible for the same person to take a prescription through every step, you can quickly see that in a busy pharmacy there are certain minimal staffing requirements if things are going to be efficient.  One person cannot be involved in both DROP OFF and PICKUP at the same time..  FILLING and VERIFYING are separate steps.  In some pharmacies the PICKUP cashier can double as an OTC associate who helps stock the shelves and assists customers finding products while keeping an eye on the register.  Given these workflow steps, in a busy pharmacy without any extensive automation, a minimum of 4 people (1 pharmacist, 2 techs and a cashier) should normally be present at all times.

A well-functioning workflow is work – but it is well worth it in the end.



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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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