The Right Bar Code Prescription For A Chain Store Pharmacy
POS/AIDC VAR helps chain of 1,000 drug stores reduce the risk of medication error using bar-code labels and customized software.
One in 250 prescriptions filled at drugstores and other retail outlets in the United States contains an error - or an estimated 46,000 errors per day. These results are from a survey completed by the California Pharmacist Guild and reported by the People's Medical Society, the largest U.S. consumer health advocacy group.
One national drugstore chain wanted to reduce its risk of prescription errors. The chain, with over 1,000 stores, was already running its own point of sale (POS) and pharmacy software. It wanted a "double check" system to ensure the proper medications were dispensed to its customers, explains POS VAR, John Gabos. He is president of Direct Source, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN), the company chosen to provide the store's solution. Direct Source specializes in POS and automatic identification and data collection (AIDC) hardware and software for the retail, hospitality and medical markets. The company reported gross sales of $10 million in 1997 and employs 13 people.
Modular Components Needed
"The drugstore chain wanted a modular system, with a separate display, keypad and scanner. Because space in the stores' pharmacies is limited, large PC terminals were not appropriate," Gabos explains. Direct Source's competition for the project was a much larger company that only offered a PC-based, networked solution with integrated display. Direct Source, unlike its competition, offered customized hardware components that integrated into the store's existing pharmacy environment. Because of this, Direct Source landed the multimillion-dollar account.
Direct Source developed the Pharmacy Verification System (PVS). It includes its Rx For Pharmacy Automation software. The software verifies that customers are receiving the correct prescription. It also expedites the storage and processing of customer transaction information. "The software is designed to integrate into existing systems, including UNIX and NT networks," explains Gabos. The drug store chain was not required to change its existing POS or pharmacy software.
In addition to the software, the system also included an IEE (Industrial Electronics Engineers, Inc.) pole display, Symbol scanner and generic keypad. The IEE pole display was chosen for its flexibility. "The customer wanted various mounting and pole height options, which the IEE display offers," explains Gabos. "The IEE display also met our technical requirements."
How The System Works
The PVS uses bar codes to verify that the pharmacist is putting the correct medication into the customer's prescription bottle. After the pharmacist enters the transaction, the PVS assigns each prescription a unique bar code which is printed on the prescription bottle label. The pharmacist scans the bar code on the prescription bottle and the NDC bar code on the bulk bottle of medication used to fill the prescription. The PVS cross-references the two bar codes. The system displays if it is a correct or an incorrect match. Once a match is confirmed, the pharmacist fills the customer's prescription. The records the event and provides an audit trail that the verification was performed.
Solving The Problem Of Only One Available COM Port
One challenge Direct Source faced was the lack of available ports for the add-on system. The stores had only one communication (COM) port available to connect three separate devices. These components also operated on different voltages, ranging from five to 12 volts. To solve this problem, Direct Source designed a customer terminal that powers and manages the communications between the host terminal and the display, scanner, and keypad. "It took several months to develop the final product, which has since been installed on over 3,000 terminals," says Gabos.
Chain-Wide System Benefits
Gabos says the drug store chain has benefited in several ways from the Prescription Verification System. These benefits include: reduced risk of prescription errors, increas-ed customer confidence, improved productivity and a more safety-conscious work environment. According to Gabos, the system has been enhanced by adding a PenWare signature capture pad. It delivers prescription information to customers and captures their signatures electronically.