Coop’s existing pharmacy stock control system supplier was not Initially offering an integrated solution, they don’t have any robots and, of course, capital investment for 49 branches was significant. This led them to choose a standalone system.
Selecting a suitable system
Coop started with six early adopter sites representing a cross-section of branches and scenarios such as high volumes of electronic prescriptions and branches with stock turnover. During development they used a closed test system that wasn’t connected to the National Medicines Verification System (NMVS) to work out the best way to implement FMD across their estate.
At their Lincoln branch, Coop have installed a touch-screen tablet and two 2D barcode scanners. The scanners sit in cradles so they can be used hands-free, whilst the tablet is mounted to the wall to save taking up counter space – an idea the branch team came up with.
The teams are able to scan very quickly because they direct the scans through FMD Connect into their own intranet, and then out to the NMVS, which allows them to buffer the transmissions so they can scan without waiting for a scan result before scanning the next item. The scan results are then returned without interrupting the dispensing process but still before the medicines are handed over to the patient or representative. They have also configured the scanner on their electronic point of sale (EPOS) system to decommission medicines, which gives additional scanning flexibility if needed.
As the medicine packs are picked from shelves, pharmacy staff use the presence of FMD compliant packaging (2D barcode and anti-tamper devices) to identify they need to scan it and know the barcode will be located alongside the human readable expiry date which we check as part of the existing dispensing process. We verify and decommission during the dispensing process, so it adds a little time, but means we only need to handle the packs a single time for FMD scanning.
“We’ve implemented a process of performing the verification and decommissioning scans at the dispensing stage, which worked out as the simplest and least time consuming method of implementing FMD into our pharmacies”
Training on new processes
Coop updated their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and developed specific guidance for FMD which was mainly in the form of flow diagrams, rather than lengthy text additions to the SOPs. Each branch has had flexibility to introduce FMD scanning in the best way for them long as they are in line with the SOPs.
Problems with FMD
As with other pharmacies, Coop are seeing more variety than expected in the way the barcodes are printed and the actual location on the pack. Some re-configuration of scanners was needed to read barcodes that are printed white on a black background, as opposed to the usual black on a white background. Robert estimates around 5% of stock currently has an FMD barcode and anti-tamper packaging, but not everything teams are scanning has an entry on the NMVS.
Using FMD for stock control
FMD covers Prescription Only Medicine (POM), which is between 70% and 80% of Coop’s stock. Although their FMD solution can be used for stock control, a separate system is still needed for non-prescription items and appliances. For this reason, Coop intend to use their existing pharmacy stock control system for this and for processing any medicine recalls.
Benefits from implementing FMD
The team at Lincolnshire Coop has high confidence in their medicine supply chain, so don’t expect to find any falsified medicines. The way they are implementing FMD as a standalone solution means they also don’t expect to see any additional benefits from FMD such as accuracy checks or stock control improvements. Realistically, the team is only seeing the disbenefit of additional time to scan medicine packs during the dispensing process.
Coop’s existing pharmacy stock control system supplier now offers an integrated FMD solution with an accuracy check performed as part of the dispensing workflow, which is a useful benefit the team don’t receive currently with their standalone solution.
“We estimate only around 5% of our current stock has an FMD barcode and anti-tamper packaging, although not everything we are scanning has an entry on the NMVS which results in an error message.”