Satellite pharmacy provides efficient care for Nellis family

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jessica Martin
  • Nellis AFB Public Affairs
With a base as large as Nellis and a very high operations tempo, one pharmacy just isn't enough. Located next to the Information, Tickets and Travel office and Health and Wellness Center, the satellite pharmacy fills 2,000 prescriptions a day to help meet the needs of Nellis' Airmen, families and a large retiree population.

The satellite pharmacy opened on main base in the fall of 2003 to alleviate foot traffic at the hospital's pharmacy--patients went from waiting three days for refills to two days, and from waiting four to eight hours for new prescriptions to as little as 30 minutes.

"There wasn't a lot of room in the pharmacy's waiting area and parking was a problem at the hospital," said Master Sgt. Tiffany Murphy, noncommissioned officer in charge of satellite pharmacy services, and one of the first six employees to work at the satellite pharmacy. "The idea for renovation was patient convenience."

Today, the satellite pharmacy employs three pharmacists and 20 pharmacy technicians made up of Airmen and federal and contracted civilians. Adding to the staff are 50 retirees, spouses and pharmacy students volunteering their time handing out prescriptions at the windows, pre-packing medications and stocking shelves.

"Volunteers help out immensely; they are a huge time-saver," said Maj. Shelbi Kaneshiro, satellite pharmacy deputy flight commander.

Also contributing to the pharmacy's efficiency is its Robotics Dispensing System, affectionately called "Robby," acquired during the pharmacy's renovation as a safety initiative.

"The RDS increases productivity and lowers the margin of error to less than .1 percent," said Major Kaneshiro.

Nellis is the second base of seven to have this capability as the Air Force moves to mandatory automated services.

The system kicks in when a patient calls into the automated refill system, which signals the robotics package to begin. A vial descrambler selects an appropriate-sized bottle according to how many pills the patient is getting, labels it, and then shoots it through an air-pressure chute into the robotics package.

A robotic arm moves the vial to under one of 360 cells filled with medicine to be dispensed. The bottle is then sealed and dropped into a bucket on a conveyer belt. Each bucket has a radio frequency chip that determines if that refill is ready to be checked by a pharmacist or pharmacy technician, or if it needs to continue on to a manual fill station for more medications such as liquids, ointments or inhalers.

This technology helps free up personnel to staff the windows and answer patient questions. With the RDS, drive-through pickup window and large lobby, the facility works to provide prompt and convenient patient care.

The satellite pharmacy is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with the lobby open until 5:30 p.m. For more information, to include updates on the formulary listing and holiday hours, visit www.nellis.af.mil and click on the "Medical Services" link or call 653-2728.