You return home from a three-week trip exhausted. You have been eating in restaurants, using random pillows, and are wrestling with a two-hour time change. You jammed clothes, dress shoes, a few hundred dollars of souvenir gifts along with your tablet into your checked luggage and boarded a plane for some bad news awaiting your arrival. Your luggage did not make it home and the airline will keep you updated. …you hope. Now you have unanswered questions nagging at you and at some point you will probably have another trip to the airport to collect your bag.
For the pharmacy world struggling with back orders, recalls and mixed-up orders, owing is a part of the job. But owings – or debt – for a pharmacist are analogous to the problem of lost luggage.
What is frequent becomes normal
Often, repetition desensitizes us to believe in a new normal. If we see enough owings, we begin to believe they are just part of doing business since we are simply trying to stay afloat. However, this is a belief we need to push back on.
Lost luggage is good for no one. It frustrates the customer, having to worry about next steps and making a second, low-value trip. It forces the staff to ‘re-work’ in performing all the dispensing steps twice, effectively cutting the fee per Rx in half. We are risking human error again and using up twice as many consumables.
Furthermore, owings clutter our pick-up area when they are not picked up. Sometimes, they are forgotten so long that their billing is hard to reverse elegantly.
If you have accepted owings as your new status quo, examine inventory with each owing for the next few weeks. For each owing, cycle count the physical on-hand drug and ensure the electronic inventory matches. Then set the reorder points and check for ‘do not reorder’ flags mistakenly being turned on. Then skim the other medications on that patient’s list until you feel good that you will not owe them on a different drug.
Stop the status quo by putting in the effort to reduce the rework of owings. Then ask yourself what other rework is going on right under your nose. What steps are you taking to cut down on rework?
Owe me once; it happens.
Owe me twice; transfer out.
Workflow efficiency for retail pharmacy is discussed in more detail in Jason’s Labcoat to Leader accelerator course.