1st SOMDSS opens ScriptCenter

  • Published
  • By Airman First Class Hailey Ziegler
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

The 1st Special Operations Medical Group and 1st Special Operations Medical Support Squadron opened use of the brand new ScriptCenter, located in the base exchange on Sept. 4, 2020.

“It’s what we call, in the pharmacy world, an external will-call system,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Michael Braud, chief of pharmacy operations with the 1st SOMDSS. “That’s just a fancy way to say a medication pick-up cabinet, but it’s external to the pharmacy so you’re not having to wait to pick up your prescription.”

The ScriptCenter can hold approximately 560 prescriptions, not including the cabinets and lockers it has for patients with multiple or larger prescriptions to pick up.

“We fill on average 174,000 prescriptions a year and of those, about 70,000 are refill prescriptions,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Justin Read, the 1st SOMDSS pharmacy flight commander.

Read’s goal is to have 25-30% of refills going through the ScriptCenter within the next six months to a year.

“We’ve always thought about ScriptCenter, but truly never realized the need for it until COVID-19 hit,” Braud said. “Our mindset, instead of, ‘how do we serve our patients?,’ which is also very important, is now ‘how do we also protect our patients and keep them safe?’ That became a top priority, how we mitigate viral exposure to our patients.”

The ScriptCenter is currently only for refill prescriptions, but patients now have access to get their refills another way.

“We still have to talk to the patient and council them on their new medications,” Braud said. “Every time your prescriber writes you a prescription, that first initial fill will have to be done at the pharmacy.”

Patient safety and care is still a huge priority for the pharmacy, which is just one of the benefits the ScriptCenter brings.

“We don’t know how long COVID-19 is going to be around, and not even just COVID-19, there’s the flu, strep throat, cancer and more,” Braud said. “This [ScriptCenter] is actually really nice because you don’t have those patients that may be immunocompromised waiting in a lobby full of people for their prescriptions. COVID-19 was definitely the push in protecting our patients from a very contagious virus, but should anything really happen this could be a great alternative for patients picking up their prescriptions.”

The ScriptCenter gives patients a more flexible schedule to pick up their prescriptions, whenever the exchange is open.

“That does a lot for people, the convenience factor is the biggest thing,” Read said. “The asset also prevents so much unnecessary foot traffic into the medical group, decreases wait times in the pharmacy for people actually waiting for new prescriptions and keeps everyone safer in a time of COVID-19 uncertainty.”

When patients call the refill phone line there are two options they can select for pickup location, the pharmacy or the ScriptCenter.

“We’ve got people that work swings, nights, atypical shifts or just can’t get here Monday through Friday during normal business hours,” Read said. “This is the right move for us based on our size and manning. To put this will-call for the pharmacy in the exchange, which is open 68 hours a week when you include all their weekends and nights, that expands to more hours than what the medical group is open for. It’s a smart move, it’s innovative and it helps a lot of people out.”

The ScriptCenter not only saves patient’s time, by giving them more hours for pick up and decreasing lines at the pharmacy, but it also saves the pharmacy staff time.

“Every time a patient comes to the window, we have roughly one or two minutes, on average, worth of time that’s needed to dispense their prescription,” Read said. “If I were to use one minute and say I divert 20,000 prescriptions for 15,000 patients, 15,000 minutes per year can be potentially saved if we get to our goal. That means 250 man-hours dispensing can be saved in a year, which cuts down lines, improves patient satisfaction. Because lines are shorter, we can execute new prescriptions quicker, it gives us flexibility, staff can work on additional duties, staff morale can improve, because they’re getting more done in a day, so it’s efficient on so many different levels.”

The time it took to get the ScriptCenter approved, funded and fully functional was much faster than expected. Normally, a project like this might take 12-18 months, according to Read, but with the support of command, medical logistics, civil engineers, base contracting and more, it took less than six months.

“I think that’s what’s great about Hurlburt is we’re champions for innovation and we really support continuous process improvement,” Braud said. “What’s really cool about being a part of an organization that pushes for these improvements is that you can become the first to recognize the standard and be the first to pioneer it. This could be something that takes off in other places.”

Hurlburt’s ScriptCenter was the first ScriptCenter package to be put together under the Defense Health Agency, but it’s not the first base across the Department of Defense to receive one.

“I think it’s important that we got this now, it’s very timely,” Braud said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes an industry standard in the future, and we’re just happy in the pharmacy to be able to provide this service that makes it more convenient for our patients and decrease wait times.”

When enrolling to use the ScriptCenter, which is necessary in order to send prescriptions to it, all that’s needed is an active prescription number. Once signed up, you can use your DoD ID, a four-digit pin number that you create when signing up or a biometric fingerprint scan.

“I’m looking forward to it gaining popularity, I think it’s a big hit with active duty and dependents of active duty, but I’ve already had a large number of retirees express interest and I’ve already had some of their medications diverted there,” Read said.

After only a few weeks of being open, the ScriptCenter has already had over 200 prescriptions diverted to it.

“It’s so nice to see projects come to fruition for once,” Read said. “I think everyone’s happy with it, yes we all feel like we’ve been working our butts off trying to get it done, but at the end of the day we support the 1st Special Operations Wing, all the other wings and our 93,000 beneficiaries in the regional area. That’s what it’s all about.”