Two of the most familiar spots for many UHN patients now have a new and high-tech look.
The Toronto General Hospital and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre's Outpatient Pharmacies serve hundreds of patients each day, making them among the busiest and most visited locations in both hospitals.
Patients rely on the pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to ensure they receive the right medication in a safe and timely manner. In recent years, both outpatient pharmacies had outgrown their spaces making it difficult to meet the demands of an increasing volume of patients and the expanding scope of pharmacy practice.
"Both pharmacies have gone through significant renovations to modernize the spaces and improve workflow for staff," says Anna Lee, Director of Pharmacy Corporate Business and Outpatient Operations.
"We've focused on bringing in automation technologies and creating space to expand the kinds of services we can provide."
One of the biggest changes to both pharmacies has been the introduction of dispensing automation by installing two new devices – ParataMax and RxSafe.
ParataMax is an automated, robotic dispenser for the pharmacies' higher volume medications. It dispenses medication into a vial and the machine labels and caps it.
"Because it's automatic dispensing it helps to reduce workload – some of the technician work that had to be done in counting pills," says Christine Tse, Acting Manager of the Princess Margaret Outpatient Pharmacy. "The vials are packaged and labelled when it's ready, so now the pharmacist just has to give it a check, which saves us a step and allows more time to focus on clinical issues."
RxSafe provides secure robotic storage and retrieval for pharmacy inventory. It is a storage system for each pharmacy's narcotics or controlled drugs, as well as high-dollar value prescription drugs.
"The automation is helping us to better keep track of our inventory, and overall reduces the workload," says Eugenia Chan, Manager of the Toronto General Hospital Outpatient Pharmacy. "Of course, with automation comes different steps we have to learn, but the process becomes more efficient and will help us to reduce errors."
The Princess Margaret Outpatient Pharmacy also upgraded their ticketing system for patients picking up their prescriptions.
"When patients check-in we can tell how long they've waited, on average how we're doing, and hopefully work on cutting down wait times," Christine says.
Both pharmacies now feature a private patient counseling room, which helps the teams expand the types of services they can provide.
"It's a space to better service our patients – as we evolve as pharmacists, and services we're able to offer evolve, we wanted to be able to meet that need," Anna says.
"Before we just didn't have the space. Now we can offer smoking cessation counselling, flu shots and those types of services in a more consistent manner."
Pharmacy staff also said they wanted new layouts to have more room to work behind the scenes.
"Before we were bumping into each other and borrowing desk space," Christine says of the Princess Margaret pharmacy. "We actually have enough computers now so I think that helps improve productivity and staff morale overall."
"Even if we had wanted to hire more staff to deal with increasing volumes that wouldn't have been an option in the previous spaces because we didn't have enough work stations," Anna adds.
"Now they're both workable spaces where we can grow with the business."
Final touches are being put on both spaces, with the finished products expected to be complete in the New Year.
PM Outpatient Pharmacy:
TG Outpatient Pharmacy