At this year’s ASHP Mid-Year Conference, White’s pharmacy product team introduced an innovative automated solution for unattended outpatient pharmacy will-call pickup: the SafeBox Rx®. This next-generation delivery system makes prescriptions accessible when needed, combining the freedom to collect them when convenient, 24/7, with online pharmacist consultation.

SafeBox Rx® is the kind of will-call pickup solution today’s pharmacies need—and today’s customers want—but its roots stretch back at least a decade to when White, the leading provider of automated storage and retrieval systems for hospital inpatient pharmacies, began focusing on the need to improve the time-consuming, error prone prescription fulfillment process in outpatient pharmacies. In fact, our first automated prescription delivery solution was installed ten years ago at the outpatient pharmacy located at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington.

Harborview’s Dilemma

Harborview Medical Center (HMC) is one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers and a Level I adult and pediatric trauma and burn center. Back in 2009, prior to the installation of White’s WillCall Rx® solution, there were six outpatient pharmacies associated with HMC—but only one managed the majority of new, refill, and discharge prescriptions for the entire organization. This pharmacy was too small to manage the high volume of work associated with the hospital system, and a decision was made to relocate it to a new building that was being added to the Harborview campus. Even with this new area, the outpatient pharmacy remained space constrained, and as construction proceeded, its footprint was reduced further in order to accommodate required utilities. Will-call prescription storage was proposed for the new space that ended up having less useable space than in the old.

SencorpWhite WillCall Rx® Solution

White’s WillCall Rx® solution utilized horizontal carousel storage solution with proprietary prescription management software that bridged the gap between the pharmacist and pharmacy technician, delivering prescriptions while disassociating patient information from the point of distribution. The WillCall Rx® system fit into Harborview’s limited space, and its compact footprint provided 2,100 discrete locations with configurable, multi-size storage options. WillCall Rx® provided a secure, self-contained enclosure with two “put/pick” windows, a touchscreen interface, and bar code scanners. The key to the system was its intelligent inventory control and management software.

WillCall Rx® Improves Patient and Medication Safety

In a typical pharmacy, prescriptions are written, filled, and then stored in a bag, on hooks, or in open shelving—a process known to be plagued with human error. For starters, the bags are arranged alphabetically by patient name, which can lead to misplaced prescriptions. In addition, many patients have the same or very similar last and first names, with the same birth dates—which introduces tremendous potential for medication errors. Finally, displaying patient information at the point of distribution does not meet the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) regulations.

By contrast, WillCall Rx® interfaces with a pharmacy workflow system, and using bar code technology, pharmacy personnel can scan the bar code to assign the prescription a unique, secure storage location within the system. The prescription is then ready for patient pickup.  When the patient comes into the pharmacy, the pharmacy technician or pharmacist looks up the customer record in the pharmacy workflow system, and the interface between the two systems sends a message to the WillCall Rx® so that the system can present the correct prescription to the technician. All told, prescription retrieval takes no more than fifteen seconds, and the technician can then complete the transaction with the patient.

Harborview saw that after installing WillCall Rx®, long lines of customers waiting to pick up their prescriptions disappeared, and human error was eliminated. (Before WillCall Rx®, relying on humans to correctly alphabetize the approximately 1,500 prescriptions awaiting pickup on any given day had been nearly impossible). Safely dispensing the right prescription to the right patient is a critical benefit of the system.

White introduces SafeBox Rx®

While the original WillCall Rx® system provided significant benefit for outpatient pharmacy efficiency and error elimination, it still required management and labor from an on-site pharmacy technician. White was determined to duplicate the benefits of the original WillCall Rx® system, but also provide it in an integrated package that can be easily installed either in a pharmacy, stand-alone (either inside or outside), or as an automated drive-through automated will-call station.

Working with White’s development partner, ICAM, utilizing their SafeBox Rx® self-service solution, we introduced a revolutionary autonomous system that securely stores and delivers prescriptions, including bulky and refrigerated medications, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In addition to the original WillCall Rx® proven benefits of secure, error-free, automated, secure prescription storage and retrieval, the new SafeBox Rx also provides:

  • 24/7/365 unattended will-call prescription pickup
  • increased storage capacity in a compact footprint
  • smart web-enabled prescription management software and payment system
  • on-line remote pharmacist consultation
  • a modular structure that can be integrated with video advertising and product specific customer graphics

SafeBox Rx® is designed to store prescriptions of all sizes (even bulky and refrigerated ones) in compartments that are reconfigurable and easily adaptable for future requirements. And all of this is housed in a reinforced structure made from state-of-the-art materials that is nearly indestructible, tamper resistant, and impervious to external environments.

In short, SafeBox Rx® offers both outpatient and retail pharmacies the opportunity to significantly improve their processes, storing and delivering prescriptions more simply, efficiently, and securely than ever before. Each year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receives more than 100,000 U.S. reports associated with a suspected medication error, and the FDA that about 1.3 million people in the U.S. are injured by medication errors annually. It’s been incredibly exciting—and gratifying—to see our automated pharmacy delivery systems evolve over the past few years, and I look forward to what lies ahead.