Craig is ARTARx’s Pharmacy Assistant, working behind the scenes to keep the pharmacy running smoothly. We asked Craig a few questions about his role, and how Pharmacy Assistants and automation practices help shape the patient experience.

How long have you been a Pharmacy Assistant?
I started as an assistant back in 1997. Things were really different back then. Over the years, I’ve seen the technology we use come a long way, especially when it comes to packaging prescriptions. When I first started working in this field, we would count out prescriptions by hand and fill vials ourselves. When it came to blister-packing, we would do the same, using a big heating press to seal the packaging. Things are much easier now, and a lot more efficient.

What role does automation play at ARTARx?

When we’re getting prescriptions ready, either for in-person pickup or to load our delivery van, most routine prescriptions go through our automated sorting and counting machines, like ScriptPro or our PacMed machine.

These machines have 200-300 canisters, all loaded with the drugs we dispense most often. I just need to program them with a patient’s prescription, and the machines will dispense the different medications, in the correct amounts, automatically. They can seal and label too, meaning we can process a large number of medications with incredible accuracy.

How does this efficiency and accuracy impact the patient experience?

Generally, it means we can serve a lot more patients without sacrificing the quality of service. It also allows us to offer services like medication pouching. Our machines will be able to count out all your daily medications, package them into one pouch, seal the pouches, and label them. The labels have easy to read times and dates, making it easy to remember what medications to take and when to take them. And the automation replaces a process that would take many human hours to do; it all leads to better compliance and better patient outcomes.

What do you do with all the extra time automation provides?

Where before, you would need to put a lot of hours into counting, packaging, and verifying, now it can all be done by one person. And now that Alberta legislation allows pharmacy technicians to have the final sign off, pharmacists don’t have to spend too much time being involved in the process at all. They can spend that time on things like patient consults, medication plan reviews, and administering injections. Basically, it allows patients to have more one-on-one time with their pharmacist.