Everest Pharmacy Works With Venalink to Meet Growing Patient Need for Blister Cards Using Automation Technology
As the healthcare system evolves, today’s pharmacies are playing a growing and important role in the continuum of care through expanded services and counselling. With this, pharmacies continue to look for ways to improve operations, including finding new ways to fill blister cards and adherence packaging with medications more efficiently, so they can spend more time on patient care.
Everest Pharmacy has embraced this trend by adapting to the needs of its local community and the healthcare system at large. Through this mission, the pharmacy grew to include four branches in the Manchester/Lancashire area in the United Kingdom since its beginnings in 2009.
Two years ago, Everest decided to introduce automated pharmacy workflow solutions to help dispense to patients larger volumes of blister cards or adherence packaging, also known as monitored dosage solutions (MDS) in the UK. Shortly thereafter, our Venalink UK team began working closely with Everest to supply our automation-compatible Qube MDS, so together we could move forward patient-centred care.
Our team caught up with Anisa Nagdee, Repeat Prescription Lead at Everest’s Whalley Range branch to talk about the pharmacy’s journey adopting automation technology for MDS, including the incredible benefits the chain has seen so far.
“Do we make the change to blister card automation now? Or do we wait?”
With the pharmacy automation market accelerating in the UK, Everest became one of the first pharmacies in Northern England to adopt the SynMed® XF, an automated system for preparing solid oral medications in MDS packaging. MDS offers an easy-to-understand calendarized system that organizes multiple medications and complex dosing schedules for patients.
Waqqas Sheikh, Pharmacy Proprietor, and his team believed technology was the way forward, but continued to ask themselves, “Do we make the change now? Or do we wait?”
With a high number of patients using MDS to safely take medication and patient numbers continuing to grow, the team had a keen interest in expanding their business. This included support for a new Manchester branch. Keeping their mission and strategic vision in mind, the pharmacy decided to take the leap and invest in the SynMed® dispensing system, while also renovating their space.
Choosing the Right Blister Card – the Move to Venalink
Implementing such a comprehensive system comes with other important decisions to make, including trialling blister cards within the technology. Anisa confirmed they tested blister cards from another supplier first and experienced major challenges before moving to Venalink.
“The biggest issue with the previous blister card involved tablets ‘jumping.’ This occurs when a tablet hits the bottom of a blister after it’s dropped by the machine, and the tablet then bounces out of the blister into another cavity or elsewhere.” Jumping is sometimes inevitable, but should only take place for up to two in 1,000 tablets.
When Anisa flagged these issues with the team, Waqqas suggested trialling Venalink MDS instead. Anisa noted a number of factors that led to choosing the Venalink Qube. The team’s biggest motivator was accuracy. Since our Qube blister is designed specifically for automated dispensing systems, such as the SynMed® XF, the blister reduces the number of tablets that ‘jump’ when dropped by the machine. “If you’re investing in an automation machine, you’re not going to put the wrong thing in it – the blister card has to work seamlessly with the technology.”
What’s more, the Everest team chose a customized Qube card that includes their corporate logo and colours to showcase their brand beyond the pharmacy. “It looks professional, high quality and includes a strong seal.”
Anisa says the move to Venalink was a smooth one and she continues to enjoy working with the team. “I love ringing the cheery team at Venalink. We’ve never had an issue with service – orders come the next day.”
“There is no limit”
The SynMed® XF has capacity to prepare up to 45 blister cards per hour compared to the average rate of six cards per hour that pharmacy staff could fill manually. After an in-depth training experience with Mandy Tindale, Project Manager of the SynMed® team, Everest was ready to start dispensing within a week of setting up their new system.
“We have significantly boosted the volume of prescriptions we can now dispense in MDS. Now we can offer this valuable service to a larger number of patients. These volumes would have been otherwise too time consuming to maintain for such a busy dispensary.”
The team knows MDS to be simple to use and highly effective at improving medication adherence and preventing errors. This is true particularly in the case of vulnerable patients, who can be prone to taking the wrong tablets, or too many tablets if medications are provided in original packaging. And, with this in mind, Anisa believes there is no limit for Everest. “Even after we expanded our volumes, there’s still no problem moving more patients to our MDS service. This is reassuring news for the people of Manchester who keep complex medication schedules with multiple prescriptions.”
The team agrees moving to automation was one of the best decisions they have made, especially through COVID-19, or they would have otherwise struggled to service patients walking through their doors looking for the familiar MDS service.
Automation has given one Everest pharmacy location the capacity to dispense three times the volume of MDS packaging than the pharmacy could dispense previously, providing support for patients who unfortunately had not been able to receive this important service elsewhere.
Improving the Patient Experience With Adherence Packaging
Anisa believes Everest has improved the patient experience significantly by implementing automation and the Venalink blister card. “Customer interaction is something we’re always working on – we’re out there helping as much as we can and it’s what brings the patient back to us. If you’re not providing the MDS service, patients won’t bring their prescription back.”
Whether this is performing medicine usage reviews (MURs), Consult & Treat services for prescription items, or offering domiciliary care, having the SynMed® XF dispensing system has freed time for the team to counsel patients and focus on building relationships.
The team has spent the last two years developing an extensive knowledge of their new system, and community and long-term care facilities continue to approach Everest regularly to add new patients to the Everest MDS service.
As Anisa points out, there is now no limit to what Everest can achieve with the Venalink MDS and their new dispensing system.
For more information on Jones Healthcare Group’s adherence packaging offering, contact us.