Friday, October 20, 2023

How Centralized Prescription Fulfillment Allows Pharmacists to Better Help Patients

Today’s guest post comes from Melanie Christie, VP of Product Management at CoverMyMeds.

Melanie discusses how the nationwide shortage of pharmacy technicians affects pharmacists. She argues that centralized prescription fulfillment can provide pharmacists with more time to care for patients while also reducing medication errors and accelerating time-to-treatment. Melanie explains how such fulfillment tools also increase a pharmacy’s revenues and lowers its costs.

Click here to learn about CoverMyMeds’ automated central fill solutions.

Read on for Melanie’s insights.

How Centralized Prescription Fulfillment Allows Pharmacists to Better Help Patients
By Melanie Christie, VP, Product Management, CoverMyMeds

Pharmacists’ days are hectic. That’s something Gregory, a retail pharmacy manager across multiple sites in Washington state, likes about his job—no two days are the same. In addition to spending 20 hours a week in the pharmacy, he supports his district manager with inventory, budgeting and labor management.

During a typical day in the pharmacy, Gregory said it’s a challenge to find enough staff to fulfill requests from patients, prescribers’ offices, payers and other stakeholders. “There's only one pharmacist on duty usually, so while we’re on hold [usually trying to reach a provider’s office to talk about prior authorization requirements], we also have to manage all the other six phone lines and patients picking up medications, patients getting vaccinations, counseling questions and whatever else arises,” he shared with CoverMyMeds.

He said a lack of labor was his greatest daily barrier to helping patients get the medications they need. “Right now in the profession, there’s a very big shortage of pharmacy technicians. A good day is just being fully staffed,” he said.

More than 70% of pharmacies are facing similar staffing pressures, particularly for technician roles, according to a 2022 National Community Pharmacists Association survey. And 51% of pharmacists say they don’t have time to complete their jobs effectively most days (2023 CoverMyMeds Pharmacy Survey).

In this article, I’ll share how advances in centralized prescription fulfillment are making the benefits of technology accessible to many independent pharmacies and retail chains. This technology may assist pharmacies to alleviate staff shortages, realize cost savings, reduce inventory and give staff more time to deliver patient care.

For patients, centralized prescription fulfillment may reduce medication errors and contribute to fewer delays in getting treatment.


In any business that deals with inventory, tracking and controls are critical components of operating at peak efficiency.

With centralized prescription fulfillment, pharmacies can keep a close handle on how much medication they’re stocking, keeping only what’s necessary on the shelf. Under a model recently gaining wider use, they can connect to central fill facilities where medicines are dispensed using advanced automation technology and intelligent pharmacy control software. Prescriptions are shipped to patients’ homes or local pharmacies, reducing the need to stock expensive inventory without knowing how fast it will sell.

Robotics, barcode, vision and RFID technology are designed to enable fast turnaround times and exacting quality standards. The access to these benefits comes without the need for pharmacies to invest capital in central fill facilities of their own.

If billed on a per-prescription basis, the use of centralized prescription fulfillment can result in significantly lower costs compared with the national average of $7.22 (CoverMyMeds internal data, 2021, and Cost of Dispensing Study, Abt Associates, 2020).

With these savings, the pain of skyrocketing administrative fees charged to pharmacies may be alleviated. Many pharmacies participating in the Medicare Part D program struggle to manage the profitability of medications because of direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees, low reimbursement rates and frequent changes in formularies. Between 2010 and 2020, DIR fees doubled, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.


Automated solutions can reduce medication errors, helping reduce delays in patients receiving their medications.

Rita, a patient who suffers with ulcerative colitis and major depressive disorder, has had trouble filling her prescriptions because of mistakes and insurance issues.

“I cannot afford to have any mistakes on my medication,” she shared with CoverMyMeds (2023 CoverMyMeds Patient Survey). “I got the wrong medications once or twice—oh gosh, insurance problems, no stock of medication. I just felt frustrated.”

Centralized prescription fulfillment also greatly reduces the risk of a pharmacy not having a medication in stock since the pharmacy no longer needs to hold the inventory.

Amid an environment of reduced hours of operation at major pharmacy chains, technology solutions can make the difference between a good day and a bad day for pharmacists like Gregory. Because many routine tasks are automated, they can find themselves with more time for patient care.

“A good day is getting these medications for patients in a timely manner,” he said. “Someone comes by with a tooth extraction and in pain, and it feels good to get him out in five minutes. [Or], we have some diabetics who aren't performing well, and we'd like to offer recommendations to improve it. Because in the end, our goal and where we find the most passion is making these improvements [for patients].”


As part of McKesson, CoverMyMeds provides forward-thinking solutions to pharmacies that leverage our scale and expertise. Learn how CoverMyMeds can help pharmacies improve operational efficiency, save costs and better serve patients, potentially reducing medication errors and treatment delays.

Sponsored guest posts are bylined articles that are screened by Drug Channels to ensure a topical relevance to our exclusive audience. These posts do not necessarily reflect our opinions and should not be considered endorsements. To find out how you can publish a guest post on Drug Channels, please contact Paula Fein (

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