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Buckets in the Pharmacy? A look at pharmacy operations…

I’m a visual person.

In the pharmacy, visual cues help me make quick decisions regarding prescription status. As a student at a “chain pharmacy” I would put prescriptions in blue buckets or red buckets. Blue buckets for folks picking up their prescriptions in one to two hours, and red buckets for folks picking up in 30 minutes or less.

Throughout pharmacy school it was blue bucket versus red bucket. It’s a pretty efficient model. So efficient I took the practice up at the independent pharmacy that I manage. These buckets can easily be purchased online.

Then I went to business school and started studying operations management. I started to gain an appreciation for the blue bucket/red bucket workflow process. It was an effective method of ensuring customer satisfaction. It gave the Pharmacist visual cues as to what order prescriptions needed to be filled. Lastly, it helped maintain organization, thus decreasing “defects“. With the buckets you can simply drop the prescription in the bucket with the drug. Thus, things matched up when it was time to enter the order and fill the prescription.

I began reading articles on how other Pharmacist maintained organization. I read an article by a man that discussed how he used multiple colors of buckets. When I read the article, I felt like a pharmacy nerd when I read the article and became giddy. For me I had only known blue bucket and red bucket. How could I incorporate more buckets? I know I know…sounds lame!

I began writing up a method and came up with the following:


WORKFLOW

DROP OFF —> DATA ENTRY—>FILL PRESCRIPTION–>VERIFY PRESCRIPTION–>PICKUP PRESCRIPTION

BUCKET COLORS (Pharmacy Tech/Pharmacist organize accordingly

BLUE- prescription to be picked up in 1 to 2 hours

RED– prescription to be picked up in 15 to 45 minutes

GREEN– prescription medication is high dollar; pickup likely next day  

YELLOW-prescription has an issue ( order needs clarification, call pharmacy benefit plan, etc.)

BLACK– prescription to be compounded

WHY we WORKFLOW

Workflow improves patient safety. Please keep with the workflow to better serve our patients.


 

This is what works for me as the manager of a pharmacy. The buckets allow me to remain efficient and organized. Both Technicians and Pharmacist can be on the same page with a simple color cue.

I know some people will think this is entirely too much! I would completely understand if you felt that way. It’s an idea…consider it and think of ways that you can tailor it to fit your own practice. I use this technique for pharmacy, however this same technique could possibly be used in the operations of other business models.

Is your business predicated on “volume” to maintain appropriate profit margins? Colored buckets are a cheap investment and can potentially increase your worker’s efficiency. Increased efficiency will increase worker output. Maintaining appropriate output very well could be the difference in business success or failure. IMG_3806


Sam Blakemore is the Pharmacy Manager of Peds Rx Pharmacy Solutions. Connect with him via: LinkedIn

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