Pharmacy Automation: a Q&A with 3 Pharmacists

In this blog post, we share highlights of a panel discussion hosted by CEimpact on The Pharmacy Network, where RxSafe customers discuss their experiences with pharmacy transformation through automation.  In the discussion, three pharmacists talk about RxSafe's RapidPakRx strip packager and the RxSafe 1800 automated storage and retrieval system. The customers share how these products have revolutionized their respective practices, how the products have helped advance the profession, and how the technology has moved pharmacists towards the ability to offer better, more efficient services to their customers and patients.

CEimpact: I am going to go ahead and pass it off to our first panelist for an introduction.

Rusty Adams: Hi. My name's Rusty Adams. I'm a pharmacist and pharmacy manager here at Osborne Drugs in Miami, Oklahoma. Been here for five years and enjoy working with them.

CEimpact: Thank you. All right, Lisa, you're up.

Lisa Kocian: I'm Lisa Kocian. I'm with Gibson Pharmacy. My husband, father, and I co-own Gibson Pharmacy in Athens, Texas. I actually grew up in the pharmacy and I've been in this pharmacy my entire life.

CEimpact: All right, Terry.

Terry Perkins: I'm Terry Perkins. I'm a pharmacist and pharmacy owner. We have three locations in North Little Rock, Arkansas, it's Medicine Man Pharmacy. I took over the first store from my parents. I grew up in it. So, this is all I know. And I have a four-month year old daughter, so I need to work for a lot longer to be to be able to raise her, because I'm 44 years old.

CEimpact vlog live

CEimpact: What sort of impact have RxSafe products had on your business?

Rusty Adams: So, we have the RapidPakRx and that product has rapidly increased the adherence of some of our patients. We have a sync program and it works great, but being able to offer the RapidPakRx to our patients, that just gives them another level of security and adherence to make their lives easier. The patients that really need it; I think it's really helping them. Patients that struggle with either staying adherent because they have a difficult regimen, or they don't have somebody to help them set up their weekly pill planner, things like that. It really helps with their adherence. And then it also brings in new patients, because we're the only pharmacy in the area that has this. So we can offer something that they can't get anywhere else locally, without going through mail order or something like that. And we box it up, make it, and deliver it right to their door if they need that. So, it brings in new patients and it also helps improve the lives of our current patients.

CEimpact: And Rusty, how long has your company had an RxSafe product?

Rusty Adams: Well, we started with the original PakMyMeds machine, and then transitioned to the RapidPakRx after it came out. I think we've had it for three to four years, somewhere in that range. We were, I believe, one of the first 10 or 15 stores on the old system. And then we transitioned to the new system, which was a big help. The new system is much more smoother than the old system was, and the update with the machine helps increase the time and the profitability factor of it even greater.

CEimpact: That's great. Rusty, if you were able to guess, do you know how many patients you currently have on the system?

Rusty Adams: Yes. Currently, we're running between 200 and 225. Some of those numbers have changed with COVID, but we've had as high as 280, but right now, I think we're running around 225 a month.

CEimpact: That's good.

Rusty Adams: And that's with one technician running the machine by themselves all month.

CEimpact: All right, Lisa, same question. What sort of impact have RxSafe products had on your business?

Lisa Kocian: So, we have both the RxSafe and the RapidPakRx. The Safe is what we got first, and over the last 20 years we've had, I think, the RapidPakRx as our seventh piece of automation. Honestly, the Safe is my favorite. I do a lot of the financials, and our inventory was completely out of control. The Safe really has transformed our inventory. We literally reduced it by over a hundred thousand dollars, and we went from probably about six turns to almost 20. I won't give my Safe up. I love my Safe.

Lisa Kocian: We converted from a competitor’s strip packager, and we just sing the praises of the RapidPakRx. It's so much more user-friendly. The universal cassettes are the bomb. We've got about 450 people in the packager and it continues to grow. I feel like it's transformed our workflow. I think that we've gained lots of new patients, and the increased adherence not only helps the patients, but it helps our bottom line. They refill their prescriptions on time and more regularly. And so, I think overall the benefit has been great with both of the automations.

RxSafe CEImpact Transform Your Pharmacy

CEimpact:  So actually, the RxSafe is a product that I am not as familiar with. So, if you don't mind just kind of giving us a little bit more of a background there. Obviously, with the packager, it's kind of self-explanatory, but how exactly does the Safe function and how has it changed? You said it allows you to get better turns in and better control, and that's awesome, but for a lay person, or for someone who hasn't owned in a few years, how would you sell me that product? What is it that you love so much about it?

Lisa Kocian: The RxSafe tracks your inventory. We tried for years to do perpetual inventory and could never keep it straight. When you've got multiple techs pulling drugs and putting back drugs, stock bottles on the shelf. We had 10 bottles of a drug that we dispense twice a year. And now they're all in the Safe, which is great because they don't accumulate dust, our out-of-dates are reduced because we can run a report and it tells us which drugs to pull to send to the reverse distribution. It keeps it accurate. And it's actually really accurate when I do my control count and my annual control count. It is spot on. Keeps the controls, added security of the controls aren't where anybody can get to them, but it does keep your counts. It's not a perpetual inventory, it's a real-time inventory, but I can log in at any time and see what my inventory actually is. And I do the financial side of the pharmacy. And so, I love that aspect of it.

CEimpact: All right, Terry. So, same question. What sort of impact have RxSafe products had on your business?

Terry Perkins: So, we have the RapidPakRx machine and the store where I have it has just opened in October. So, it's a new startup store. So, I wanted the RapidPakRx machine just to offer something different in the community, and also as a way to attract new customers. Currently, I've got 50 patients on it and they average about seven scripts per patient. I'm getting a margin of a little over $5,000 a month from that. So, it's helping my business. I need to quadruple that number. That's where I would feel comfortable, but we're on that path to do so. Where my new store is, we're located in like a medical office building, so there's several physician clinics around me and they're impressed by the strip packaging. So, they have patients that are on multiple meds and we get referrals from them, which is nice. That's where we are there.

CEimpact: So, how have your patients responded to the services that RxSafe products have allowed your pharmacy to offer?

Lisa Kocian: As far as the Safe goes, I don't know that patients directly understand that. I think that our efficiency is improved. One thing that I really like about the Safe is that you can track along. Coupled with our pharmacy software, I can track a drug from the time it comes into the pharmacy until the time it leaves. So if I've got somebody that lost their bottle that rolled into their car seat, we can know for sure exactly what happened and if they actually got the prescription. And so, I think that gives us an added advantage. We know exactly where anything is at any given time. The RapidPakRx, we have had very few patients that it didn't work out for. The majority of patients, once they're on it won't go back to bottles.

Lisa Kocian: I personally have my medicine in it, and I honestly probably wouldn't take my meds if I didn't have it in the strip packager, because most mornings I grab my pack as I'm running out the door and take it later when I sit at my desk. So, I think that the patients appreciate the convenience. Originally, we thought our target market would be elderly, but what we found is that my age group, and I am not elderly yet, but my age group is the perfect market for it because of convenience. We're fairly mobile, people travel, they can tear off just the packs that I need to throw in their suitcase. It's really, really convenient. It does add that reminder factor where yes, you can tell if you've taken your meds, it gives you a reminder, but it's really very, very convenient. And so, I think that that's probably one of our biggest sellers is just the convenience of it.

CEimpact: So, same question, Terry, how have your patients responded to the services that RxSafe products have allowed your pharmacy to offer?

Terry Perkins: All my patients love it. One woman, she came in to get her mom's medicine organized, because she would come and get all of her mom's medicine and it was a lot of meds. She's on like 11 different medicines. And her mom's elderly, having a hard time keeping up with it. So, we packed her mother's medicine and she loved it and the mother loves it. She was happy with it. So, the daughter came back, she said, “I want you to pack my meds. And I got two kids, and want you to pack their meds, too.” So with that one customer, we gained three additional, and it's really helped them out. I've visited people's homes. My patients have called me for help when they mess up their little weekly plastic planners that they drop all their pills in, and I've gone over their houses and seen how badly those can get messed up.

Terry Perkins: And so, this is a really good service to provide for patients, especially if they are having trouble keeping up with it. They try to dole them out in their little weekly planners, and if they spill it, that can become a real problem for them. So overall, I haven't had a single complaint about it, for sure. My patients like it. And it also improves the workflow in the pharmacy too, just by having them sync it up. It makes our work easier, because we're looking at their prescriptions a week before they're asking for them to make sure that we have refills and that everything's in stock and ready to go. So, it improves the patients' lives, it also improves ours.

CEimpact: All right, Rusty. So, same question, how have your patients responded to the services that RxSafe products have allowed your pharmacy to offer?

Rusty Adams: So, they've responded great. I've kind of got two stories about patients that are probably our biggest success with the way they responded. When we first started kicking off the RapidPakRx and trying to market it towards our patients, we had a gentleman that was on sync and he was getting 19 medications a month. And I offered the RxSafe package to him, showed him our strip of candy that we had, a demonstration strip that we have at the pharmacy, and he's like, “I don't think you can do this for me. I've got 19, that's not something that was built for someone like me with so many medications.” And I looked them dead in the eye and I said, “that's exactly what this machine was built for. It was built for somebody exactly like you to help you keep everything straight and make your life easier.”

Rusty Adams: And he's been on the machine for three and a half years. Like I said, he was one of our first patients, and he loves it. He picks it up every month and it's great. It helps him keep on track. And I don't think he's missed a month or his dose is always within the right day, or a day or two from when he needs to pick it up. And then, we have another patient that is a quadriplegic and he has 24 hour care. And he has eight dosing times per day that he has to take medications. They have a nurse at the house all the time and she was having to go through on a checklist, check everything off at each dosing time and make sure that she could pull everything out of the right bottle, had the half tablets right, things like that.

Rusty Adams: And so, we were able to offer this to them and it has just greatly increased their ability to care for the patient. And instead of spending 30 minutes every two hours on getting medicine ready, they can look at the pack and verify that everything's on there in less than five minutes and know that they've got the right medicine at the right time, and just increase their ability to provide better care for the patient without having to spend so much time on the medication. So, making it more user-friendly for patients and increasing their adherence is the two things that has really made our patients just love the machine.

CEimpact: So, has there been any patients that you've had trouble convincing and if so, maybe what was the tactic that finally convinced them to give it a shot?

Lisa Kocian: We've had a very few people that did not want to give up their independence. They felt like that was taking away their control and usually fate steps in and says, hey, you're going to have to try this. We actually have only had one person that did not stay in it. And she was just determined that she wasn't going to use it. She would get the packs and open them back up, and put them in plastic baggies. I think that cognitively, I don't know that she was where she could make a rational decision on it. Once people get it, it's just so hard to go back. Particularly if you have multiple meds, to go back to fishing a pill out of 10 bottles multiple times a day. And so, once they get past that feeling of I'm not in control anymore, then I think that the organization is probably the greater benefit.

CEimpact: So, what was the catalyst or decision point that made you choose RxSafe in their products, or in general, automation in general, if it's your first time with automation. So Terry, you're first on this one.

Terry Perkins: What I really liked about the RapidPakRx machine was that I could start small with it. I looked at the other options on the market and usually the cartridges were NDC-specific, and you had to have inventory tied up in a big machine. And so, that was the deciding factor for me with the RapidPakRx, because I just wanted a machine that I could go plug in the drugs that I wanted to pack in and move on without having to keep a separate inventory. And the cartridges in the RapidPakRx are universal, so they're not barcoded, tied to any specific NDC. I liked the freedom there.

Terry Perkins: Also with the RapidPakRx machine, it has the built-in visual inspection and it was one machine. And so I looked at some of the competitors, and they have the machine that packs them, and then you buy a separate inspection station, and a separate coiler, all these different add-ons and those add-ons were expensive.

Terry Perkins: So those were the main things, as far as the actual machine that I liked about RapidPakRx. But what I really like about working with RxSafe is with the PakMyMeds marketing support, I mean, that's been really helpful to me here. And they really do support you, and they're willing to go as far with you as you want to go to market your service. And they have great ideas in order to do that as well. So, the support that they offer, they want you to be successful with their equipment and their program. And so, the support that they offer is really nice. And we really appreciate it here.

CEimpact: So Rusty, same question. What was the catalyst or decision point that made your company choose RxSafe in their products?

Rusty Adams: So we were looking at different packaging machines, and we really liked the user-friendly software, and the ease of the machine. Not having to buy multiple pieces of equipment, like Terry said, was also an added benefit, but we really just wanted to help increase our patients' adherence, and their quality of life, and make their lives better. And we knew that this would be what we needed to take that next step, and improve on our med sync program, and help our patients just improve their overall adherence and quality of life. And it's something that we could bring to the market in our area that just wasn't available. And we wanted to do that. So patients didn't have to go mail order, and things like that. They could keep it local.

CEimpact: That's great. All right. So Lisa, this one's for you as well. What was the catalyst or decision point that made you choose RxSafe and their products?

Lisa Kocian: I begged my husband for the RxSafe for years before I finally got him to agree to it. He wouldn't give it up now. Who would have thought that a machine that retrieved the bottles for you in the pharmacy would be the way to go, you know? The company is very forward-thinking and innovative, and support is great. I think compared to the company that we were with previously, it's night and day. We had the competitor's strip packager for about three years, and we could not grow our program simply because of the time factor. We couldn't process more people's prescriptions. And changing to the RapidPakRx, we had a contest with my employees that they signed up a hundred people to go into the RapidPakRx in one month and we handled it, because it is that easy.

CEimpact: If you had to summarize the number one thing that the RxSafe products have allowed your business to do, what would you say that that is? So, for example, it allowed our patients to increase adherence, or it allowed our company to increase profitability, or it allowed us to increase our patient's quality of life and that was our goal, or it allowed us to have a more efficient workflow.

Rusty Adams: So, I think all of the things that you just said are true adherence, profitability, workflow. All of those were improved, but I think the number one for most of us is going to be our patient outcomes and their quality of life, because if we can make their life better, that's why we're here. Medicine isn't the only thing that helps our patients, making it easier to take that medicine though will make their lives easier. And so, I think that patient outcomes and their quality of life is the most important thing that RxSafe has helped with.

Lisa Kocian: All of the things we have seen, positive results and patient outcomes probably is still the top. It's tough to gain loyalty these days. And I definitely think that having a service that improves the patient's quality of life, their health, their family's quality of life. I think that improves loyalty. We talk to those patients a lot more than the patients that are not on one of our programs. And so we have a monthly rapport with those people. We end up doing a med rec every month. And so, I think overall their care and their outcomes are better. And that translates to a relationship and a loyalty that, that it's hard to get these days.

Terry Perkins: Part of our mission statement at Medicine Man Pharmacy is to provide a level of service unseen in any other pharmacy and RapidPakRx helps me to do that. RapidPakRx helps me to compete. I don't want anybody to outdo Medicine Man Pharmacy. So, I want my customers to be able to get the best service, to get the best product, and have the best possible chance of staying adherent to their medicine, having great outcomes clinically as possible with us. And so, that's what I really like about it. It allows me to compete on a level that no other store has anything over us.

CEimpact: For all of you learners out there that have joined us, our discussion has come to an end, but now is the time for you to ask your questions of our panelists. So, each of our panelists will be joining us in a few weeks for a vlog session in the coming weeks, and we're going to take time to answer your questions. So if you have a question specifically for one of these panelists, maybe what they spoke about resonated because your pharmacy is more of the size, or you're a new startup, or you've got needs for several products, and the RxSafe part from Lisa really kind of caught your attention, ask those specific questions of the panelists.

For more information about the LIVE vlog (video blog) sessions and to ask your questions, visit the registration pages for Lisa Kocian, Terry Perkins, and Rusty Adams or join the Pharmacy Network by visiting


RxSafe improves patient health by partnering with the nation’s 21,000 independent retail pharmacies, using our technology solutions to transform the way you do business. We collaborate with pharmacies and other industry innovators to enable patient adherence, attract new customers, create additional revenue streams, and boost profitability. Learn more: