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Improving Dispensary Workflow-So What Pharmacy Market Should Australia Benchmark Against?

Mark Bouw
From a Dispensary Systems Perspective

Issue 59: April 2007
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Throughout my career in the pharmacy industry, I have had the fortunate opportunity to spend time across pharmacies in Europe, North America, Asia and closer to home in Oceania. Current discussion has focused around the changing landscape of pharmacy in North America and the potential threats domestically from entrants such as Walmart, Walgreens, Albertsons, etc.
A more realistic view of what pharmacy practice landscape can be based on for the Australian environment must be that of The Netherlands community pharmacy.
A re-calibration of our bench marking process may be worth considering when reflecting on dispensary work flow efficiency.

The Netherlands has a population of 17 million people within a geographical area similar to that of Victoria.
Social demographic trends are on par with Australia as are basic health care issues such as an aging population and westernized disease prevalence of diabetes & cardio vascular conditions.
For pharmacy, a pharmacist can own one pharmacy excluding certain rural areas and is governed by law to be the only person who can dispense medicines.
The pharmacy dispensary is focused on original manufacturing pack dispensing, with over 90% of all medicines dispensed to patients through community pharmacies.
This is a large difference to a North American pharmacy which dispenses bulk medicine pills into vials- something we do not do here.
The calibration and solutions for dispensing solutions suitable for an Australian community pharmacy dispensary need reviewing and Northern Europe has the bench mark.

Dutch pharmacies have always been noted throughout Europe as at the fore front of dispensing design and use of efficient dispensing systems to drive pharmacy practice.
The process did not occur by chance but more by need.
For some Australian pharmacy owners out there, this may be your reality now!
For the average Dutch pharmacy in the late 1990’s prescription numbers were increasing whilst prescription revenues were decreasing.
Pharmacists and dispensing technicians were in high demand and the overall condition of pharmacy margins were falling.
Pharmacies were being bought out and general market consolidation occurring.
The system was at melting point and the government purse strings were getting tighter. Innovative pharmacies started looking for solutions to the dispensary work flow solution, though little research existed and experts were sought.
A well respected German company, Ger. Willach GmbH was known for their specialist storage systems to assist pharmacies with their work flow solutions and this was the catalyst for a new solution.

During the late 1990’s, Willach launched a series of dispensary work flow solutions that included robotic dispensers linked to the central dispensing software of the pharmacy.
For over 117 years Willach had been involved in the European pharmacy industry as a provider of work flow storage solutions.
Willach saw that the traditional pharmacy dispensary process included one staff member in charge of inventory, another for greeting the patient and passing the script to a dispensary technician, who would then walk through the plinth shelving to find the product, print a label & CMI with the final check by the pharmacist before the patient received the product 10 minutes later and left the store.
Sound familiar?

The Willach dispensing solution saw a total improvement in dispensary logistics.
The robotic dispenser and modular storage system on average took up a floor space of 10 square meters, requiring refilling once every 10 days, with the product delivered directly to a front dispensing pod where the pharmacist was counseling the patient on their medicine.
A patient dispensing process that took around 3 minutes.
Up to eight dispensing points existed across the dispensary dependent on the dispensing task at hand and work load.
With the robotic dispenser holding the pharmacy’s top 400-500 medicines, accounting for 80% of dispensed stock and the remaining stock in modular, easy accessible storage systems, the work flow efficiency not only allowed for true forward pharmacy practice, the improvement in cash flow was self evident and real.
These pharmacies were improving profits.

Today, over 2600 pharmacies through out northern Europe have a dispensing solution that includes an original manufacturer pack robotic dispenser. 
The entire supply chain has become more efficient with pharmacists of all size and shape moving towards the new space of work flow efficiency.
So what about Australia?
Over the last two years, Willach has been present in the Australian market with multiple systems across the country.
Innovative pharmacists are seeing significant competitive advantage from the improvement in their dispensary work flows and I am sure they would like me to keep quiet about it for a bit longer!
I must state that the level of interest and willingness to embrace this emerging science of dispensary work flow by pharmacists, pharmacy academics and key stake holders is a credit to the Australian pharmacy industry.

Yes there will and always are skeptics and dooms-dayers out there.
The challenge I put to either the curious, interested or skeptic is come and spend some time in our Melbourne based showroom to experience a Willach dispensing solution in action.
If that is not your fancy, I am sure that one of the pharmacists out there who has one of our systems in place will be more than happy to share their experiences from improving the dispensary work flow, as long as you are not too close by!

Yes, North Americian pharmacy front of shop practices are like nothing on the planet.
Though if you want to see efficient dispensing and happy pharmacists like no other place on the planet, visit Northern Europe and in particular The Netherlands.
As a patient, it is a simple as walking through the front door of your local “Apotheek”, straight up to a dispensing station, being met by your pharmacist who counsels you whilst the product is being collected within 6-8 seconds-an experience you will never forget, unless that is you have one in your store…...


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