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More to say on a touchy subject

By Dennis Tribble posted 09-01-2022 06:00


I was recently recruited to write a couple of thought pieces for a new on-line publication, one of which was entitled “7 Mistakes Pharmacies Make with Automation”. It is a quick read and I encourage reviewing it first as it should make reading the rest of this clearer.

My insights on the topic were constrained by word-count limits and it left me with additional thoughts I wanted to share on the subject.

In re-reading the article after it was published on-line, my first thought was that I had things out of order. What was listed in the article as the 7th mistake (Lack of an overall vision for automation) should have been the first due to its importance

Not only is it  vital for there to be a vision for pharmacy automation, it is crucial for that vision to be regularly reviewed and refreshed, and to be bold. We must not, as a profession, sit back and wait for the industry to bring us the next wonderful thing. Rather, our vision must look forward to what automation could be if all the right tools were available so that we can recognize them if and when they appear, or, better, advocate for them with our automation providers.

One of the other mistakes identified in the linked article is attempting to overlay automation atop the current manual practice. In my experience, manual processes tend more to be evolved than designed; and that evolution can take as many paths as there are people trying to navigate that process. Indeed, one of the grim realities I learned as a Director of Pharmacy was that I likely did not know all the things my team did to get through their day. As a result, trying to automate a process that everyone does differently (and feels strongly about) can lead to frustration and failure. So, bringing automation to a process within our practice requires that we first understand all the varieties of our current process, and then design a new one that maximizes the impact of the technology we plan to deploy.

Within that context, it is important to realize that bringing in automation may include accepting some new risks that need to be mitigated. This means that automation implementation must include risk identification and mitigation strategies as an integral part of the planning process.

Finally, one of the real opportunities that automation brings that I have seen “left on the table” is the opportunity to standardize practice. Given our tendency to be a profession of rugged individualists, this may be difficult for the team to accept. Without taking that advantage, a pharmacy can wind up with mistake number 5 (Inconsistent operation of the technology). There cannot be a “my way”; there must only be “our way”.

What do you think?

The opinions expressed in this article are my own, and not necessarily those of my employer.

Dennis A. Tribble, PharmD, FASHP
Ormond Beach, FL