New machine at pharmacy expected to improve customer service

A new piece of equipment at the Vashon Pharmacy has been drawing a lot of attention since it was installed late last month: an automatic pill dispenser, meant to increase efficiency and customer service.

Pharmacy owner Tyler Young said he has heard some islanders wonder if the new machine will take the place of some staff members, but Young said that is not the case. Currently, the staff is getting used to working with it and a new software program installed at roughly the same time, but soon, he predicts that customers will see the service improvements it is meant to bring.

“In a month or two, customers will be much happier with their experience here than they may have been recently,” he said.

The machine, common in pharmacies, holds up to 188 medications, and Young said it is filled with the medications the pharmacy dispenses most frequently.

The pharmacy has always been busy, and while it is not dispensing more medications than in the past, now Young said he and other pharmacy staff spend a great deal of time dealing with insurance. He added that counting medications by hand is a full-time two-person job. Currently, the pharmacy employs six pharmacy technicians to do so and does not have the space to add more.

“Something had to give,” he said.

With this machine in place, he said pharmacy technicians will be able to focus more of their efforts on customer service and less on counting pills.

He added that the two most common complaints at the pharmacy are people not getting a phone call if there is a problem with a refill and that the waiting line for medications is often too long. Soon, he said, those problems should be addressed with further service improvements, such as the ability to text people when their medications are ready and providing automatic refills to those who take medications regularly.

Young said that with technology that prevents errors, the new equipment is more accurate than a human being. And while it is just a few weeks old, he said he is pleased with the results.

“I am already seeing a difference,” he said.

— Susan Riemer