Patient-Centered Care Improved with Automation
Just over 20 years ago, Carmenza Meza had a vision of how healthcare should work and benefit patients. She worked at a health clinic and knew she wanted more for patients, especially senior citizens. So, she founded Comfort Health Medical Center, and turned her vision into a reality. In the greater Miami, FL area, Comfort Health now has four locations providing full-service medical care to 6,000 people, most of whom are senior citizens. When Meza became ill, she entrusted her dream to her daughter, Gina Portilla. Today, Gina and her husband, Alejandro, are responsible for patients.
“Doing the right things for our patients means even more because it is my mother’s legacy,” Gina explained. “I’ve worked here since I was 18. Some of our patients still remember me from my teenage years. They know I am going to honor my mother’s legacy. We believe in patient-centered care, doing everything we can to help people stay well. ‘No’ does not exist in our vocabulary. We want everyone to be 100% satisfied.”
The growth of Comfort Health over the years is even more impressive when combined with the Five-Star Ratings the clinics consistently achieve.
“We want the clinic to be a true medical home,” said Alejandro. “Patients can see primary-care physicians as well as specialists, including urology, neurology, cardiology and psychiatry – all right here.” Because Comfort Health believes taking care of the whole patient is the key to good care, ancillary services, such as optometry, chiropractic, dentistry and physical therapy, are also located within the clinics.
“We are a one-stop shop,” said Gina. “We also offer social activities. Our patients can schedule a couple of appointments with different providers, if necessary, and have something to do during the time they wait. We have exercise classes, and some of our patients attend those even if they don’t have an appointment scheduled.”
Expanded Services to Improve Patient Outcomes
About four years ago, the Portillas decided there was an important service missing from Comfort Health: a pharmacy. “Of course, patients can fill prescriptions wherever they would like,” Gina said. “But for many of our patients, transportation and even knowing what programs they are eligible for make getting prescriptions filled more difficult. And that affects their adherence, which impacts their health.”
Like the clinics, the pharmacy is having a great clinical impact on patient care. Great customer service, including a robust delivery program, has helped to keep adherence rates very strong. “A lot of our patients utilize the delivery service or mail order. We call patients to let them know a delivery is coming, to confirm they will be there to receive it or to make other arrangements,” explained Gina. This added touch is not only good customer service; it also gives patients an additional opportunity to ask questions about their medications, increasing their understanding of the importance of taking their prescriptions properly. Pharmacists also work with physicians on filling 90-day prescriptions where appropriate. “That way, patients have only four ‘miss opportunities’ – where they might forget to get a prescription refill – a year instead of twelve,” Gina said.
Handling Increased Prescription Volume with Automation
Comfort Health Pharmacy is currently in one location, but there are plans to open a second pharmacy soon. The pharmacy fills 700-800 prescriptions a day, several hundred of which are to be delivered. The large volume of prescriptions put a lot of stress on pharmacy operations, so the Portillas started thinking about automation. “We had a lot of overtime,” Alejandro said. “Sometimes overtime was 2-3 hours a day just to keep up, and the volume just kept growing.”
“The atmosphere in the pharmacy became stressful as prescription volume continued to increase,” Gina added. “We didn’t have space to add more people, so there were times when emotions boiled over.” Since great customer service happens best when staff is happy and enjoy their work, Gina and Alejandro wanted to make the employee experience better in the pharmacy.
“We went to pharmacy conventions and looked at every single piece of automation available on the market,” Alejandro said. “It was a long decision process to get the right fit for our pharmacy.” Comfort Health is already using QS/1’s pharmacy management software. The bi-directional communication offered with RxMedic® technology was an added bonus. Ultimately, the Portillas chose to invest in two RxMedic RM200®s: one for the existing location and one for the future location.
The RM200 builds on existing technology found in the RM64® and the Automated Dispensing System, but offers new features. The RM200 can fill two prescriptions a minute, utilizes auto-calibrating cell technology for fast and easy stock changes and allows users to replenish vials by pouring them directly from the box into the hopper. Unique photo verification of vial contents and the fact that the robot dispenses directly into the vial, eliminating cross-contamination risks and air quality concerns, ensures safety.
Comfort Health Pharmacy has customized their cell configuration to include 24 super cells and 172 standard cells, which allows them to automate about 60 percent of their daily oral solid prescription volume. Combining this level of automation with the Eyecon® Visual Counting System for those drugs not in the pharmacy robot has greatly increased efficiency in the pharmacy. Like all RxMedic products, the RM200 boasts some of the best accuracy rates in the industry.
“Our pharmacy is a happier place to be now,” Gina said. “Our staff is able to go home on time. They are much more efficient and much less stressed now that the risk for errors has been greatly reduced. Training was fast. The cells were fully utilized within about a week.”
Comfort Health Pharmacy is prepared to open its new location when the time comes. Ordering a second RM200 was the logical step. As for additional growth, the Portillas want to make sure that growth only comes when it is what is best for patient care. “We don’t want to grow too much too fast and get out of touch with our patients,” Alejandro explained. “Our growth comes from word of mouth. Our patients have a good experience and they tell others. Currently, when new patients visit the pharmacy, they can meet with staff. We spend time getting to know them, finding out what they are looking for and making them feel comfortable. We aren’t going to do anything to change that.”
For more information on RxMedic, the RM200 and Eyecon, please visit RxMedic.com.