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Automated ideas to save more time

Automation can free up pharmacy staff time, allowing you to focus on delivering clinical services and expand your business. Here's a preview of some of the robotics solutions that can be explored at the upcoming Pharmacy Show

Designed to automate those everyday tasks, such as dispensing medication and managing stock levels, automation – and robotics in particular - has been enthusiastically taken on board by community pharmacies keen to free up staff time for expanding services and making everyday tasks more efficient.

We look at what’s new and what’s coming up in pharmacy automation for 2024 with a Pharmacy Show preview.

Omnicell will be exhibiting the JVM 208, launched in September. Kath Hughes, senior national sales manager, Omnicell UK and Ireland, says: “The JVM 208 – the first of its kind in the UK – can free up valuable time to allow staff more face-to-face interaction with customers and time to explore additional clinical services and revenue streams. It’s great for smaller pharmacies with limited budget or space.”

The JVM 208 is less than 1m wide, and comes in at an affordable price point, allowing smaller pharmacies the opportunity to adopt automation and help drive patient medication adherence. “We feel strongly at Omnicell that our portfolio of solutions should incorporate a wider range of options for all retail pharmacists, regardless of their size and budget,” says Hughes.

“In a competitive landscape and faced with significant challenges – funding cuts, staff shortages, rising costs, increased demand and the continuing growth of mail order pharmacies – pharmacists need viable solutions to help them streamline their day-to-day working processes. For pharmacists who run small community pharmacies and are looking at options for MDS pack-filling automation, the JVM is a great starting point. It can help pharmacists keep on top of new medication trends and policies and even potentially take on more community patients and care homes, without the need to increase headcount.”

The system typically takes a few weeks to get up and running, including installation, software integration and staff training, says Omnicell.

A showcase for innovation

Cegedim will be exhibiting its range at the show, including some of the latest deliverables such as fast labelling and automated clinical checking to help free up pharmacy staff time. “The Pharmacy Show is a valuable long-standing event for Cegedim and a great platform to promote our Pharmacy Manager product suite, while addressing the evolving challenges and opportunities for pharmacists,” says Sandra Carnall, group sales and marketing director.

“We’re looking forward to meeting industry professionals, networking and sharing learning plus showcasing IT innovations for the pharmacy market.”

Case study: Fusion Pharmacy, Leicester

Sarfraz Patel, chief pharmacist at Fusion Pharmacy in Leicester, says: “I run a busy hub‑based pharmacy in Leicester, with a team of six, providing home delivery prescriptions for local residents and care homes. We installed the Omnicell JVM 208 four months ago as part of a six-month beta trial and we are already reaping the benefits. The time savings and increased efficiency it provides have been significant. For example, it would normally take the team four to five days to prepare the dosettes for the following week. Since the JVM has been installed, the time needed to complete this task has been reduced by one to one and a half days.

“We also use the Omnicell de-blistering machine, which ensures there is a sufficient supply of required medication. This allows us to keep at least a month’s worth of stock in hand which has been de-blistered, kept either in the JVM cassette or in our containers. Once the software alerts us to low stock, we top up the cassette with our excess supply. This has complemented the JVM and allowed us to streamline the entire process.

“It took approximately one week to install the JVM, with full team support from Omnicell, including installation of the technology and integration with existing software and the PMR system. Following the start-up phase, Omnicell support staff visit and check for any issues every one to two days. Staff can prepare and keep ahead of the next week’s workload with ample time to manage any issues.

“Our staff were already highly knowledgeable in robotic technology (we also have a dispensing robot), so were quick to adapt to the JVM. I can’t imagine not using automation now – managing high volumes and streamlining key processes would simply not be possible without it.”

The Concis.C is the latest Willach offering to be showcased. The robot was released internationally in 2022, with its first install in the UK taking place in early 2023. Willach sales director Georg Frosch says: “The machine is Linux-based for stability and for an excellent user experience and comes with a huge touchscreen at the front. It integrates with many PMR systems, can handle split packs and mapping and is optimised for speed – in and out.

“Design is becoming more of a consideration, so we also gave the robot an attractive exterior. It’s a ‘chaotic robot’, which is new to most UK pharmacies but fits perfectly with the current sourcing situation.”

Louise Laban, sales and marketing director at Centred Solutions says: “We’re showcasing our range of original pack automated dispensing solutions including FLOWRx Hub, FLOWRx InStore and FLOWRx Tote2Spoke. As a specialist in original pack automation and integration, we know that every pharmacy is different. That’s why we offer a range of solutions that are both modular and scalable, enabling pharmacies to invest in technology that will grow with them.”

“The Pharmacy Show provides us with a great platform to showcase the various types of original pack automation that are now available on the market. It allows us to dispel the myth that there is only one model for hub and spoke – one that costs millions of pounds and is only an option for larger groups of pharmacies. That’s no longer the case. There are now a whole host of affordable options that will allow pharmacies to automate their original pack process in the same way they have done with multi-med in recent years.”

“We’re looking forward to showcasing our latest development, FLOWRx Local, at this year’s show. FLOWRx Local will bring many of the benefits of hub and spoke dispensing – resource and stock efficiencies and improved patient safety – to stand alone/single store pharmacies.”

BD Rowa will be on stand B30 at the pharmacy show with the BD Rowa Pickup Cloud, which works with the Vmax system to seamlessly store pickup items and orders. It can also be used as standalone software, according to UK marketing manager Bojana Vukelic, who says: “The software takes care of everything, organising your pickup storage for Vmax and shelf items, ensuring everything is in its place. Transparency is key, and BD Rowa Pickup Cloud provides real-time insights into pickup orders, status, availability and stock location. It keeps customers informed automatically, reducing enquiries and saving valuable time for your staff.”

Company profile: Meditech

Meditech is a Belgian designer, manufacturer and distributor of bespoke automation & digitalisation solutions for community pharmacies with over 20 years’ experience in the market.

The company says: “After more than 20 years of experience and being active worldwide, we can say that we’re an expert in pharmacy automation and pharmacy robots. Our Belgian craftsmanship excels in every custom-made robot, which makes our products reliable and durable. We strive every day to deliver complete peace of mind to our customers.”

The MT.XL dispensing robot is a modular device set up according to the wishes of the pharmacist. It has a flexible design and is compatible with all Meditech upgrades. The robot can stock up to 60.000 boxes. Its unique multi-picking, multi-packaging manipulator takes several boxes (up to 8) of different sizes in one batch. 

According to Meditech, “together with the automatic loading modules (external or internal, MT.OPTIMAT or MT.INTEGRATED), the pharmacist can enjoy the complete automation experience. The medicine boxes are loaded automatically into the pharmacy robot with a simple button press. With its ultra-fast delivery module, high runners (popular products) are delivered in bulk with an average of 15 boxes in 3 seconds”. 

As well as its automation products, the company creates digital solutions to elevate the community pharmacy to the next level and generate extra turnover. Its digital touchscreens upgrade the OTC wall and give added value to the customer experience, while its digital service & sales modules help pharmacists deliver a 24/7 service to their patients.

Meditech will be at booth G45 at the Pharmacy Show.

The Pickup Cloud connects with the online ecosystem and offers data efficiency, stock check capability, elevated service levels, time savings and repeat prescription management. Vukelic adds: “It’s a transformative tool designed to elevate your pharmacy operations to new heights.”

The Poppitts Company will be exhibiting on stand D62 next to the Technology Theatre, with the Midi Demo Unit, coupled with the Professional Poppitt de-blistering device, while the big news from Pharmabox24 is the development of the EVO unit, which is 85cm wide with capacity for 90 packages. This allows for the maximum storage from a collection point with just 0.9 square metres of floor area. Pharmabox reports steady growth, as does the company that installed the first Pharmabox24 in the UK, which is installing three more Maxi units across Greater Manchester. “Prescription business is growing at our installations, while time is being saved for the pharmacy team. New customers are moving to these pharmacies because of the extra convenience of 24/7 collection,” says Alistair Carmichael, managing director of The Poppitts Company.

Steve Russell, chief operating officer at Positive Solutions, says: “We’ve exciting news to share this year, with most of our Hx product suite now available to see in full and we anticipate lots of signups at the show and a busy stand. We’ve lots of innovation to offer Analyst customers and prospects with a re-engineered workflow that delivers paperless dispensing and incredible time savings across the pharmacy team. 

“Conservatively, we believe those savings equate to about a full third of time in a typical pharmacy every single week. By freeing up pharmacists so that they can focus on spending more time in a clinical role with their patients, delivering services, we’re making technology drive efficiency and add additional revenue streams.

“Those open to adapting their workflow and making time savings should join our session ‘What can you do with 45 hours every week?’ in the Technology Theatre at 13.25 on Sunday 15 October. 

“For a fully hands on experience, come over to stand E35 to see Analyst take your pain away and to check out our new pharmacy software ecosystem, Hx.”

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