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feature Strategic Automation

Strategic Thinking: Developing an Automation Plan by Will Lockwood

How a pharmacy chain has leveraged a range of automated dispensing to bring the benefits of the technology to every one of its locations.


ruth Pharmacy, founded in 1952 and operating 25 locations in Ohio and West Virginia, has recently had the opportunity to establish a long-term automateddispensing strategy. “We wanted to put together a plan and find a technology partner that would take us through, hopefully, the next 10 years,” says company President Lynne Fruth. “We weren’t looking to put in a couple of robots or a few counting machines. We were looking for innovation that will keep us where we need to be with accuracy and safety across the range of volumes that we see in our stores.”

Identifying Opportunity The decision to develop a chain-wide automation strategy was based on several factors, according to Craig Kimble, director of pharmacy and the Fruth executive tasked with leading the selection and implementation process. “In a litigation-intense society, we were looking for technology that would impact safety and workflow efficiencies,” he says. “We wanted to improve turnaround times, improve patient satisfaction, and increase confidence among our pharmacists.” Ultimately, Fruth Pharmacy decided to partner with Kirby Lester and install a mix of the company’s automation in every Fruth location.

Setting Priorities Kimble was careful to seek out the opinions of Fruth’s pharmacists while developing the automation platform.

Company President Lynne Fruth and Director of Pharmacy Craig Kimble are seen here working with the KL30, part of the automation deployed in higher-volume Fruth locations.

“When I talked to our pharmacists about automation and technology, I was looking for feedback about what makes their job easier and what creates safety in the system,” he says. “One of the things that was clear is that there are only so many hours in the day, and so many things a person can get done.” Kimble took this perspective and looked at the differences between a pharmacy that does 200 prescriptions a day and one that does 1,000 a day, with a particular sensitivity to deploying automation in continued on next page May/June 2012