MAMC lines lessen

Pharmacy improves wait times

By Cassandra A. Fortin on March 14, 2010

You are standing in line at the door of the pharmacy at Madigan Army Medical Center waiting to take a number.

When it is your turn, you take your number and look up at the numbers flashing on the wall.  Your number is A98. The number flashing is A 22.  A feeling of dread comes over you.  Do you get your prescription now or wait until later?

Well, that is a decision that you do not have to make anymore.  Filling about 5000 outpatient, refill, and drive-through prescriptions a day, the pharmacy has implemented several things to increase the speed and efficiency of their service.

"Last year when you came to the pharmacy you would take a number and wait for an hour or two," Jose Rodriguez, the supervisor of pharmacy technicians, said.  "Today, about 74 percent of all of our patients are served in less than 30 minutes."

Johnny Hong, the outpatient supervisor, attributed the difference in service to more staff, extensive training, a team concept, and new technology.

"The biggest fix came with a dramatic increase in staff," Hong, who has been at the MAMC pharmacy for the past ten years, said. "We were allowed to have up to 17 pharmacists, and we only had 10.  The wages were too low for pharmacists and we were not getting any applicants."

With an increase in salary compatible with the private sector, the pharmacy now has 15 pharmacists, he said.  Also there are 38 pharmacy technicians, compared to 28 in 2008, he said.

With the hiring of the new staff came a new team concept, Hong said.  Originally the pharmacy has windows with individuals at each window.  Now they have five teams comprised of two technicians and a pharmacist who are responsible for two windows, he said.

"When the technicians needed to ask a pharmacist a question, you had to hunt one down," he said.  "Now the pharmacists are stationary."

Another change came with the upgrade of the phone service, he said.  A year ago the phone system was a single line with no answering machine, Hong said.  The phones have been upgraded to include four lines which include a line for doctors, and lines for patients.  Also staff members are assigned to answer the phones.

"People are finally getting a live person to talk to," Hong said.

Also the pharmacy has implemented a new cueing system.  Whenever more than 50 patients are in the waiting room, Keith Nelson, a pharmacy technician comes out and directs traffic, Hong said.  Also the hospital purchased ScriptPro 200 prescription dispensing systems that automate manual dispensing tasks.

Finally, MAMC is redecorating the waiting room by this summer, Hong said.