Pharmacy Fulfillment Considerations in a High-Volume Environment


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High-volume pharmacy fulfillment requires addressing unique factors like demand profiles, prescription throughput, and specialized processing to design a solution to address your specific needs and growth goals. This article covers steps for designing fulfillment solutions, including assessing demand, choosing appropriate automation technologies, and addressing conveyance, packaging, and sortation needs.

Pharmacy fulfillment solutions for high-volume pharmacies may require significant amounts of capital investment and space and must address factors unique to the setting. At iA, we work alongside high-volume customers to plan and scope a high-functioning pharmacy solution before the building begins. The solution should be informed by the location of the facility and the potential demand for the customer’s pharmacy environment. The resulting schematic allows the customer to socialize the plan across the enterprise, working with stakeholders to make the business case for the investment in the fulfillment solution.

Considerations for high-volume automation solutions

Here are the major steps and decision points we go through with high-volume customers to design a customized system for their pharmacy automation solution. The first points of consideration are product demand profiles and types, along with overall daily prescription throughput targets and how they scale over time. Once product profiles, throughput goals and specialty processing requirements are understood, we begin to evaluate the correct technology fit.

After determining product type mix, throughput growth goals, supporting equipment and rough square footage, we begin a more detailed design effort.

For example, in a high-volume environment, the solution can benefit from a variety of automation technology choices including:

  • Automated tablet/capsule filling devices
  • Automated unit of use filling
  • Manual filling of standard, cold chain, and controlled products.

Conveyance considerations

At this point it is important for customers to examine conveyance options, with the conveyance recommendation being informed by the following considerations:

  • Complexities of the pharmacy’s business rules
  • Method of order consolidation
  • Online and offline center workflow
  • Hourly volume/throughput targets
  • Increasing efficiency of each work center

A final aspect of conveyance is to ensure that all products are transported securely. Our capping system allows the vial to be closed prior to it reaching the conveyor, limiting exposure to an open environment.

Packaging solutions for high-volume pharmacy

The final element of high-volume pharmacy design is packaging. Packaging solutions are a critical element where patient choice comes into play.

High-volume system packaging recommendations:

  • Allow for patient choice
  • Can include a variety of packaging options from fully automated to semi-automated and manual
  • Involve packaging choices including poly bags, poly bubble, cardboard boxes, paper bags, Styrofoam coolers, and insulated bags
  • Trend toward increased use of automated bagging packaging solutions and eco-friendly packaging

Sortation in a high-volume central fill environment

Next, we work with customers to address sortation needs.

Sortation recommendations can:

  • Range from fully manual to fully automated
  • Be scaled for a small number of mail order sortation points, or large central fill sortation points
  • Be arranged by courier hub, stop destination, and cut off times
  • Combine mail and central fill in a single sorter
  • Allow flexibility to scale or reduce active induction and sortation points during peaks and valleys of an operation

Designing a high-volume pharmacy fulfillment solution is a significant undertaking with a lot of considerations. At iA we leverage more than 25 years of experience in creating pharmacy fulfillment solutions for customers of all sizes, walking them through the process, building the business case for the investment, and ultimately transforming their pharmacy practice and improving patient choice.

iA offers pharmacy fulfillment solutions designed to help pharmacies improve workflow and increase efficiency, tailored to meet the needs of varied pharmacy environments. We partner with pharmacies in a variety of settings, from retail to mid-sized fill to high-volume central fill, customizing solutions to align with each organization’s goals. Learn more about the importance of design in pharmacy fulfillment here.

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