Article courtesy of the Kiowa County Signal
By Patrick Clement - Signal Editor
Greensburg, KS - Starting on the first day of February, area residents will be able to fill their prescriptions locally thanks to a 40-year pharmacy veteran and an innovative new machine that might be the pharmacist of the future.
“This has been a long time coming, “ said Kiowa County Memorial Hospital Administrator Mary Sweet. “It’s just another sign of progress and rebuilding. For people in the community it will be more convenient and for our patients it means not having to drive half an hour to pick up their medications.”
In anticipation of the opening of the pharmacy, the hospital is circulating flyers and forms for area residents to fill out. “The forms are so people can get into the system ahead of time,” said Sweet.
The pharmacy is one of a number of pharmacies owned by Merlin McFarlane, a south-central Kansas based pharmacy veteran. McFarlane owns locations in Kingman, Cheyenne Okla., Harper and Wichita.
“I’ve been talking about this for a long time with Mary [Sweet] and Dennis McKinney,” McFarlane said. “I knew Dennis for a long time, since he was our state legislator. I was on the Board of Pharmacy and got to know him. Since the tornado both of them were coming by trying to get me to put a pharmacy out here. Until now there had not been an option to do that.”
McFarlane cites the large prescription-dispensing machine as the primary reason he will be able to provide services in Kiowa County. The computer-integrated system can accept and fill prescriptions automatically, keeping costs down while still fulfilling patients’ needs.
“My store in Kingman has some automation, but nothing like this,” continued McFarlane.
“We’ll have a staff member in the hospital that will be able to access our system and enter people’s information. The computer will take the information, put it into our work queue in the pharmacy. We will be able to access it and if the certain medication is in the robot, it will dispense the medication properly into the bottle, put a lid on it, print and stick the label and bag it for the customer.”
The machine does not and cannot complete every task. But it can reduce overall man-hours and reduce labor costs without interrupting services.
“It holds about 180 of the most popular medications in it,” McFarlane noted. “It can’t have everything, but we hope it will do 60 to 70 percent of the orders. Then the pharmacist will be able to provide those to the customers during the open hours.”
McFarlane has hired Julie Keeton and her husband, Bucklin native, Wayne Keeton to run the facility beginning in June and will have pharmacists from Pratt oversee operations starting in February.
“After she takes her board exam [in May] they plan on moving out to the area. Hopefully into Greensburg, if they can find a place to live. In May or June they will be out here. He’s got a business degree and she’ll have a pharmacy degree. He’ll probably do something else, but he’ll help with the accounting [at the pharmacy],” continued McFarlane.
Labor costs are the biggest concern says McFarlane; especially considering the small number of customers a rural pharmacy serves. He says that the machine allows flexibility for the future in regards to expenses and the pharmacy’s ability to withstand economic ups and downs.
“There really is almost no downside to having equipment like this. They are working on regulations right now that would allow communities where there is no pharmacy the ability to do telepharmacy or remote dispensing. Those regulations are probably a couple of years away. This machine could become a satellite pharmacy, worse case scenario.”
McFarlane says he’s seen a lot of changes in his 40 years in the business. So what does he think of a more computerized and automated system?
“It has gotten and will get more and more automated,” he acknowledged. “Now, we can’t bill an insurance company without a computer. You can’t send a paper claim to an insurance company anymore. I think the way we are doing this is pretty cool. I think it’s pretty neat the way this all works.”
The new pharmacy inside of the Kiowa County Memorial Hospital will open at 1 p.m. on Feb. 1. Find more information at www.KCMH.net