WO2009137863A1 - Automated dispensery management method, apparatus and system - Google Patents

Automated dispensery management method, apparatus and system Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2009137863A1
WO2009137863A1 PCT/AU2009/000516 AU2009000516W WO2009137863A1 WO 2009137863 A1 WO2009137863 A1 WO 2009137863A1 AU 2009000516 W AU2009000516 W AU 2009000516W WO 2009137863 A1 WO2009137863 A1 WO 2009137863A1
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products
orders
server
order
customer
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PCT/AU2009/000516
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French (fr)
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Christopher Thomas Clarke
George Theodore Castrisos
Robert Malcolm Allen
Alexander James Harcourt Potter
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Think Pharmacy Pty Ltd
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/02Marketing, e.g. market research and analysis, surveying, promotions, advertising, buyer profiling, customer management or rewards; Price estimation or determination
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06FELECTRIC DIGITAL DATA PROCESSING
    • G06F19/00Digital computing or data processing equipment or methods, specially adapted for specific applications
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06FELECTRIC DIGITAL DATA PROCESSING
    • G06F19/00Digital computing or data processing equipment or methods, specially adapted for specific applications
    • G06F19/30Medical informatics, i.e. computer-based analysis or dissemination of patient or disease data
    • G06F19/34Computer-assisted medical diagnosis or treatment, e.g. computerised prescription or delivery of medication or diets, computerised local control of medical devices, medical expert systems or telemedicine
    • G06F19/3456Computer-assisted prescription or delivery of medication, e.g. prescription filling or compliance checking
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q10/00Administration; Management
    • G06Q10/10Office automation, e.g. computer aided management of electronic mail or groupware; Time management, e.g. calendars, reminders, meetings or time accounting
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q50/00Systems or methods specially adapted for specific business sectors, e.g. utilities or tourism
    • G06Q50/10Services
    • G06Q50/22Social work

Abstract

A computer implemented method (40) and associated apparatus (20) for satisfying orders for products wherein at least some of the products are subject to regulatory controls, said method including the steps of: receiving orders (42, 43) for a plurality of prescribed products from customers; processing (44) the orders into batches, wherein the orders within said batches are uniquely identified and associated with prescription details; collecting (45) the prescribed products according to the details of the respective batches; assembling (49) the products required by said orders, utilizing said unique identifiers, from the products collected in batches; presenting (54) the assembled products with the order identifiers for approval (45) by an authorised person; dispensing the products in accordance with the identified orders upon approval (55) by the authorised person against the respective prescription details in light of the regulatory controls; and dispatching (56) the dispensed products to respective customers.

Description

AUTOMATED DISPENSERY MANAGEMENT METHOD, APPARATUS AND SYSTEM

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is related to Australian Provisional Application No. 2008902359, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to the management of customer orders for prescribed or otherwise controlled goods by semi-automated processes. In particular, although not exclusively, the invention relates to managing the automation of the prescription filling process for a patient or group of patients by a dispensary or pharmacy, whether remotely or in response to a patient presenting at a shop-front, to facilitate efficient high-volume handling and distribution of medicines and pharmaceuticals.

Discussion of the Background Art

There are a number of pharmacy automation systems available in the marketplace including the "Consis" automated storage/stocking, dispensing and labelling system produced by Gebr. Willach GmbH of Ruppichteroth, Germany; the "ProLog" and "TopSpeed" storage and dispensing system produced by Rowa Automatisierungs- systeme GmbH of Kelberg, Germany; the "IPAS" medicine storage and vending system supplied by Tosho Co., Inc. of Japan; and the "SP Central" pharmacy automation workflow system produced by ScriptPro LLC of Mission KS, United States of America.

Similarly, a number of dispensing systems required to meet the regulatory requirements for the administration of orders for controlled goods, such as prescriptions in the environment of the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), are available. These dispensing systems include, for example, the fast reliable easy dispensing ("FRED") system produced by PCA Nu Systems Pty Ltd of Abbotsford, Victoria, Australia, which maintains patient records, drug information and facilitates on-line claiming of pharmaceutical benefits payments for patients from government agencies.

However, the deployment of these systems in a pharmacy environment suffers from a number of problems and drawbacks, including the lack of integration between existing paper-based business systems for handling prescriptions and patient clinical information, together with emerging requirements for on-line ordering and prescription filling. The lack of convenient connectivity between dispensary administration systems (such as FRED) and automated product storage, stocking and dispensing equipment creates the need for duplicate data entry and attendant errors. Present dispensary administration systems are not suited to direct customer access, in view of the sensitive or confidential nature of the medical records stored therein.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION Object of the Invention

The present invention aims to provide a significant improvement to the coordination and management of existing semi-automated arrangements for satisfying orders for controlled goods, such as medicines and pharmaceutical preparations, and meeting regulatory requirements for documentation of same.

Disclosure of the Invention

In one broad aspect, the invention resides in a computer implemented method for satisfying orders for products wherein at least some of the products are subject to regulatory controls, said method including the steps of: receiving orders for a plurality of prescribed products from customers; processing the orders into batches, wherein the orders within said batches are uniquely identified and associated with prescription details; collecting the prescribed products according to the details of the respective batches; assembling the products required by said orders, utilizing said unique identifiers, from the products collected in batches; presenting the assembled products with the order identifiers for approval by an authorised person; dispensing the products in accordance with the identified orders upon approval by the authorised person against the respective prescription details in light of the regulatory controls; and dispatching the dispensed products to respective customers.

The batches may include one or more orders for prescribed goods. An order may include one or more prescriptions. A prescription may include authorisation for one or more repeats of the prescribed goods. The prescriptions may be paper documents or electronic records which uniquely identify a patient and, if required, a collection agent.

Preferably the receiving step includes receiving an order locally from a customer in- store or alternatively receiving an order remotely from an external customer. The local customers may present their order to a customer service officer in-store for entry or may check-in to a terminal in-store for self entry. The external customers, including patients or their agents, may check-in remotely and forward orders via a public e-commerce web interface or via a private network, such as "heath stream" utilised by heath carers in aged or special care facilities.

Suitably, the check-in step for customers (patients or agents) involves the further steps of entering a customer ID and password to the in-store terminal or web interface. If required, the customer is prompted to add clinical information about the patient for use during the dispensing step. In the case of electronic records, the customer is linked to any prescriptions transmitted from a prescribing authority, such as the patient's doctor or specialist practitioner.

Preferably the processing step includes recording details of each order received, including customer ID, details of prescribed products, the destination of the products, and ordering receptacles, such as trays, for the collection step. Suitably the step of configuring receptacles in response to orders in the processing step may be conducted by automated product storage and dispensing equipment, irrespective of whether the ordered products are available from the associated product store or from a separate manually accessible store.

Preferably the collecting step includes manual collection of the prescribed products using the uniquely identified receptacle and/or automatic filling of said receptacle by product dispensing equipment.

Suitably the manual collection of product is facilitated by a hand-held communications device, such as a PDA, equipped with a bar-code scanner to facilitate direction of an operator to product location and subsequent scanning and verification of manually collected product. The collecting step may also include automatic delivery of products for at least a portion of the order directly for the assembly step.

Preferably the assembled orders are presented to an authorised person designated for approval of products, depending on the destination of the products ordered.

Preferably the assembling step includes generation of labels for each product, which labels identify the patient, active compounds in the product and the administration regime.

Preferably the dispensing step includes checking the assembled products against the unique identifiers, the prescription details and considering any warnings prior to approval.

Preferably the dispatching step includes referring the order to customer service for presentation to the customer in-store, delivering the order to the customer via postal, courier or freight services.

The method may further include the steps of monitoring the volume of orders, elapsed time of each preceding step and error rate, processing and presenting the results of said processing on a dashboard type user screen display for review by management. The results may be presented on the basis of monitoring on a periodic basis, including any of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, half-year or annual reporting.

In another aspect, there is provided an automated dispensary management apparatus, for satisfying orders for products wherein at least some of the products are subject to regulatory controls, said management apparatus including: a central computer server coupled to a plurality of input terminals and a plurality of dispensary terminals; a first network interface for connecting the central server to a prescription management server having a patient database; a second network interface for connecting the central server to a pharmacy automation system controlling stocking equipment for products; and a third network interface for connecting the central server to a point-of-sale server for billing, accounts management and inventory management functions; wherein the central server executes computer readable instructions stored therein in order to: receive, at one or more of said plurality of input terminals, orders for a plurality of prescribed products from customers; facilitate processing, by a dispensary technician utilising a dispensary terminal, of orders into batches; wherein the orders within said batches are uniquely identified, suitably attached to respective collection receptacles, and associated with prescription details recorded in a patient database on the prescription management server; identify the prescribed products for automated collection via the pharmacy automation server according to the details of the respective batches and direct collection of the products in receptacles associated with respective unique identifiers; facilitate assembly, by a dispensary technician utilising a dispensary terminal, of products required by said orders together with labels for the prescriptions produced by the prescription management server, from the products collected in batches; effect dispensing of the products, by an authorised person, in accordance with the identified orders upon approval against the respective prescription details associated with the receptacle and recorded in the patient database, and in light of the regulatory controls; and coordinate billing and dispatch of the dispensed products to respective customers.

If required, the point-of-sale server may also deal with loyalty club management functions, or this may be effected by a loyalty community server connected to the central server.

In a further aspect, there is provided an automated dispensary management system, for satisfying orders for products wherein at least some of the products are subject to regulatory controls, said management system including: a central computer server coupled to a plurality of input terminals and a plurality of dispensary terminals; a prescription management server having a patient database, the management server connected to the central server by a first network interface; a pharmacy automation system server controlling stocking equipment for products, the pharmacy automation server connected to the central server via second network interface; and a point-of-sale server for billing, accounts management and inventory management, connected to the central server by a third network interface; wherein the central server executes computer readable sequences of instructions stored therein in order to perform the above described method.

BRIEF DETAILS OF THE DRAWINGS

In order that this invention may be more readily understood and put into practical effect, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings which illustrate preferred embodiments of the invention, wherein:

FIG. 1 is an overview flow diagram of the main steps of an automated dispensing method in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of an automated dispensary management apparatus for implementing the method of the first embodiment;

FIG. 3 is a detailed flow diagram of the automated dispensing method of an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 4 is a detailed schematic and flow diagram of the work flow and related apparatus of an embodiment of the system of the invention, illustrating the automated dispensing method for orders that are electronicaiiy received from an in-store customer;

FIG. 5 is a detailed schematic and flow diagram of the work flow and related apparatus of an embodiment of the system of the invention, illustrating the automated dispensing method for orders that are electronically received from a remote customer;

FIG. 6 is a detailed schematic and flow diagram of the work flow and related apparatus of an embodiment of the system of the invention, illustrating the automated dispensing method for orders received on paper; FIG. 7 is a schematic diagram of the arrangement of apparatus in an embodiment of the invention for creating and managing a customer or patient loyalty scheme;

FIG. 8 is a detailed schematic and flow diagram of the work flow and related apparatus of an embodiment of the system of the invention, illustrating the automated dispensing for orders obtained from a remote prescription server; and

FIG. 9 is a schematic diagram of the arrangement of apparatus in an alternative embodiment of the invention illustrating interactions with external servers, including for ordering, banking and delivery.

DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

In a first embodiment, the invention resides in a method and apparatus for managing automated high-volume order fulfilment and dispatch of controlled products, particularly for use in a pharmacy environment for dispensing of pharmaceutical preparations and medicines. The embodiment seeks to provide an end-to-end solution, wherein the automated apparatus may be interconnected with existing pharmacy automation equipment including the fast, easy, reliable dispensing ("FRED") system, remote internet-based ordering and user interfaces such as Online Pharmacy eCommerce" supplied by Think Pharmacy Pty Ltd (the present applicant/assignee), online aged care ordering or "Health Stream" supplied by Medication Packaging Systems Australia Pty Ltd of Mount Gravatt, Queensland, Australia, local point-of-sale personal ordering and payment interface devices, and other pharmacy automation systems, such as those exemplified in the background section above. An overview flow diagram of the first embodiment of an automated dispensing management method 10 is illustrated in FIG. 1. Embodiments of the apparatus associated with carrying out the method are described further below.

In a first step 11, customer orders may be taken locally 11A via an in-store terminal or, in the alternative, sent remotely 11B via a communications network server. An order is typically for a plurality of prescribed products, although in some instances it may be a single such product. The communications network server may be linked to either the Internet (and thus selectively by the public to private computer terminals) or to private communications networks such as for the administration of nursing homes, hospitals, palliative care units and the like.

In a second step, the orders are subject to initial processing 12 wherein they are converted into batches of a plurality of orders. This effectively changes the nature of the workflow from handling prescriptions or orders for single prescribed products serially to a production-type system, where several orders may be handled in parallel. For example, an order may be for one or more patients, each with one or more prescribed medications, which the method will convert into batch information. Each order with the batch is also tracked by data uniquely identifying the order and respective patient or customer.

Then, in a third step, the batch information is sent to requisite stores for collection 13 in a container, such as a tray, associated with the batch information. For example, the tray may include an RFID tag containing the batch information which is written by an automated dispensing unit of a pharmacy automation system (e.g. IPAS) upon delivery of the products or medications in the desired quantities into the tray. In other examples, wherein medicaments are secured in a safe or kept cool in a refrigerator, order information may be transmitted to a wireless hand-held communications device assigned to a collection staff member. The communications device will include a bar code reader and includes directions to the location of the product to facilitate manual collection of the prescribed products by staff.

Once all products have been collected, whether by automatic equipment or by staff, the tray is delivered to a pharmacy technician for assembly at step 14. At the pharmacy technician's location, the batch information - such as contained on the RFID tag on the tray - is read and a file is generated which is sent to a pharmacy dispense system for "batch dispensing" at which time the dispense system (e.g. FRED), which administrates regulatory requirements for prescriptions, generates labels for the products, including identification of the patient and related prescription details such as the active compounds therein and the administration regime for the patient. The pharmacy operator then checks and applies labels to the respective products to complete the assembly step 14.

The assembled tray then goes to a staff member authorised to check the assembled products against the order or prescription(s) for release to the customer or patient, typically a qualified pharmacist, in dispensing step 15. Once the tray is placed on the pharmacist's bench, the batch information is read - such as from the RFID tag or barcode - and the pharmacist undertakes the dispensing step.

Finally in dispatch step 16, the order is provided to in-store patient A or delivered, such as by post or courier, to remote customer B, depending on the mode by which the order was taken or otherwise in accordance with delivery instructions accompanying the order.

An automated dispensary management apparatus 20 of a first embodiment is depicted in FIG. 2, which apparatus comprises a central computer server 21 which is coupled to several subsidiary servers, including the pharmacy's dispense prescription management system (FRED) server 22, an online server 23 suitably connected to the Internet (not shown) for online input from a remote terminal 32, an integrated pharmacy automation system (IPAS) server 24 by suitable local area network (LAN) interfaces (not shown). A point-of-sale (POS) server 25, which is typically in selective communications with a financial transactions clearing house, is also connected to the central server 21 via a further interface, and facilitates local purchasing and inventory control - particularly for those products that are not automatically dispensed directly from a store such as controlled by the IPAS server. The central computer server 21 also includes internal storage for maintaining executable procedures comprising sequences of instructions for coordinated operation of the servers. Further, there are several terminals coupled to the central server 21 for input of data, either directly or via one of the subsidiary servers described above. Dispense tech terminal 30 is coupled to the central server 21 via the FRED dispense server 22, thereby facilitating direct entry by pharmacy staff or technicians of "dispense tech" input data. This dispense tech terminal 30 can be utilised in the case of orders arriving urgently via telephone or fax from a hospital or doctor's surgery. The FRED server maintains a patient database which contains patient details, including address, ID and allergies; account management information; records of earlier prescriptions, including recall numbers for repeat prescriptions; claims made to the PBS and payments made directly by private health insurers; and drug information, such as consumer medication information (CMI). A printer 38 is also coupled to the FRED dispense server 22 to facilitate printing of labels, prescription repeats, medication warnings and related information from the patient database.

As also mentioned above, one or more remote terminals - such as online terminal 32 - may be coupled via the online server 23, to facilitate remote placement of orders via the Internet or other communications medium. Another type of remote terminal 33, which may be operated by medical staff of a nursing home, is directly connected by a private communications channel or "health stream" to conveniently effect bulk ordering on behalf of in-patients and/or to re-stock the nursing home's supply of medicaments.

One or more "think scripts" customer input terminals 31 (which will be described further below), are provided locally in the pharmacy shop-front, and facilitate self check-in and prescription entry for registered patients. The local input terminals can also facilitate patient registration for future self check-in provided suitable identification is carried by the patient. A further terminal for customer or patient management by pharmacy staff is a loyalty member terminal 34 and associated loyalty card printer 37 are also coupled to central server 21. The functioning of a customer loyalty scheme and related peripherals will be described further below in relation to FIG. 7.

A more detailed embodiment of the management method 40 of the invention will now be described in relation to FIG. 3. In-store orders, which can be handled manually by customer service staff or via telephone or facsimile transmission from aged care facilities, are processed in step 41 by the dispense system (FRED) which facilitates the authorisation process for medicaments. This involves scanning original order prescriptions (or "original scripts") received by hand or via fax and associating those with a script date and customer identifiers in step 42. In some instances, the order may comprise repeat prescriptions from a different pharmacy. The scanned documents saved on the central server 21 , and associated with in the customer file on the FRED server 22, for later verification during dispensing in step 55 (described below). In step 43, the electronic orders are received from the "think-scripts" customer self check-in systems 31 , the on-line Internet sources 32, and the dedicated aged care "Health Stream" interface 33 for processing.

The orders, including those sourced from customer service and aged care, are then grouped together into respective batches in processing step 44, prior to collection by the IPAS automated stocking system 24 in step 45. The collection step involves delivery of stock, where available, from IPAS and writing the order details onto RFIDs associated with respective receptacles, such as trays. A database of stock-at-hand held by IPAS is adjusted in subsidiary step 46. Items of stock not held in IPAS, for example in separate refrigerators or in a safe, may be handled manually wherein a portable terminal or PDA with a bar-code scanner may be utilised by staff to record and verify collection of each item. This verification is reflected on a display screen presented on the PDA in step 48. Similarly, stock normally held in the IPAS system - but available in-store elsewhere - can also be manually collected

In the present embodiment, IPAS is utilised for generating trays for all pharmacy products, including those not stocked by the associated IPAS automatic stocking equipment. In an alternative embodiment, trays for orders not including any IPAS stock will be generated separately, so as to avoid the potential for a processing bottleneck at the IPAS system.

In assembly step 49, a batch dispense file or "DOT" dispense file is created for the electronically received orders through the dispense system (FRED) in step 50, and a stock adjustment made in the point-of-sale (POS) system records in step 51. It should be noted that the manually entered orders have earlier been dispensed in step 42. In step 52, any warnings generated by FRED server, for example in relation to patient/customer allergies and/or contraindications of medications, are collected by the central server 21 for consideration by dispensing step 55. The FRED system prints labels and any repeat prescriptions in step 53, prior to final order assembly and checking in step 54.

The pharmacist or other suitably qualified person then attends to verification of the orders in step 55, by checking the scripts as recorded (such as the original scripts scanned in step 42 above) against the assembled products. This involves consideration of FRED warnings regarding allergies and contraindications, patient data held in the FRED database and in light of applicable regulatory controls for said products. Once satisfied the orders are then approved for despatch: in-store via the customer service team in step 56, via courier to a nursing home in step 57, or via post in step 58. The POS system is involved in undertaking the necessary financial transactions in each of steps 56 and 58, including billing customer accounts or undertaking authorised direct debits from a remote banking server. It should be noted that in this drawing, the central server is for convenience referred to as "Quantum Dispense" being the identifier which, for the time being at least, the applicant has applied to the present embodiment of the system of the invention.

Turning to FIG. 4 there is depicted, in a system schematic diagram, an embodiment of the invention showing the steps and associated apparatus coordinated by the system 100 of a particular order received electronically from an in-store customer 60. The customer checks into a local terminal 71 , typically presenting the "think scripts" screen referenced above, for verification of customer identification data and capture of prescription data for the order, which order is sent in step 101 to central server 70. Customers may also select, via the display screen, one of the available dispensing pharmacists and indicate whether they urgently require the medication or elect delivery. The "Quantum Dispense" central server forwards the order to a dispensary technician 61 where it appears on an "orders screen" display screen. Here the order can be selected for convenient batching with other orders and the batch submitted to the central server 70 in step 103. The central server 70 in this example then forwards the batch containing the self check-in order to the IPAS server controlling automated dispensing store 72 in step 104. The collected order, which consists of products contained in a tray is provided to the dispensary technician 61 by IPAS in step 105. The tray (not shown) is associated with an RFID, written by the IPAS or other receptacle production equipment, which RFID containing order data and identifiers for the order. The order data and identifiers are then scanned from the RFID and an "assembly screen" display utilised in step 106 to create a "dispense file" in the prescriptions management (FRED) server 73.

The FRED server 73 then in step 107 effects printing of labels for the products in the order in preparation for the assembly of the order by dispensary technician 62 in step 108. After assembly, the self check-in order is forwarded to a 'customer service' pharmacist 63 in step 109. The pharmacist 63 employs a "dispense screen" display screen to verify the products assembled in the order against the information and data in the dispense file furnished by the FRED server, including any warnings 112. Upon verification, the self-check-in order may then be provided to the in-store customer 60' in step 110 and purchased from a customer service assistant 64, using a terminal coupled to the POS server (not shown) in step 111 to effect dispatch. The in-store customer can conveniently be prompted by a visual display or an announcement to approach the customer service area.

FIG 4 can also be utilised to explain the differences in work flow pertaining to an order 120 received remotely from a "heath stream" terminal 75 at a nursing home. The health stream order 120 is sent to the central server 70 via a communications link in step 121. As above, the order appears on the "dispensary orders" screen in step 102 and may be selected by dispensary technician in step 103 for collection. It could, depending on the products and medicines required, be batched together with the order for self check-in customer 60 described above, and sent to the IPAS server 72 in step 104. Steps 105 and 106 proceed as before, however in this case FRED issues any necessary warnings 122 in relation to patient allergies or contra-indicated medications in prescriptions in the present (or an earlier active) customer order, which warnings are forwarded to the 'aged care' pharmacist 65, suitably as part of the "dispense file" which includes patient history. Labels and any repeat prescriptions are again printed in step 107 and forwarded to dispensary technician 62 for assembly in step 108. The technician then forwards the assembled orders to the 'aged care' pharmacist 65 for verification and consideration of warnings in step 104, before dispensing in step 125. In step 126 the dispensed order is packaged and dispatched, here via courier van 76, to nursing home customer 66.

FIG. 5 depicts, in a system schematic diagram, an embodiment of the invention showing the steps and associated apparatus coordinated by the system 130 of a particular order received electronically from a remote customer 67. To aid understanding and to economise description, similar method steps and items of apparatus are labelled as per FIG. 4 above. In step 131 the on-line order is sent to the central server 70 via on-line server 77. The processing/selection, collection and order assembly steps 103, 104, 105 and 106 proceed as before. It will be appreciated that a remote customer may elect either postal delivery 78 or collection in-store, which will determine work flow routed within the pharmacy. In the present case, scanned original prescriptions and warnings generated by the FRED server 73 are forwarded to an on-line pharmacist 68 in step 132. The assembled on-line orders are also sent by the dispensary technician 62 to the 'on-line' pharmacist 68 in step

133.

The pharmacist 68 employs a "dispense screen" display to verify the products assembled in the order against the information and data in the dispense file furnished by the FRED server 73. Upon verification, the on-line order may then be provided to the in-store customer 60' in step 110 and purchased from a customer service assistant 64, using a terminal coupled to the POS server (not shown) in step 111 to effect dispatch where in-store collection has been specified by the customer 67'. In the event the order is to be posted, the dispensed products are dispatched in that manner in step 135 to the remote on-line customer 67"

FIG. 6 depicts, in a system schematic diagram, an embodiment of the invention showing the steps and associated apparatus coordinated by the system 140 of two particular orders received. The first is a paper script taken in-store by a customer 69, and the second is a remote order from a nursing home customer 66 including prescriptions sent by fax, and thus also arriving on paper. Again to aid understanding and to economise description, similar method steps and items of apparatus are labelled as per FIG. 4 and FIG. 5 above.

The in-store customer 69 hands the paper script to a customer service officer 64 who passes the script, in step 141 , to a dispensary technician for direct entry into the prescription management (FRED) server 73, in step 143. In a parallel work-flow, any order received from a fax machine on paper, such as from nursing home customer 66, is similarly passed to the dispensary technician in step 142. In some embodiments a fax server may be employed to convert incoming faxes to electronic form and routed to the dispensary technician.

In contrast to earlier embodiments, the FRED server 73 sends the data from the incoming prescriptions and sends orders to the central server 70 in step 144 and also prints product labels and any repeat prescriptions in step 145 which documents are kept for later assembly. A dispensary technician 61 , in communication with the central server, reviews the collected orders on a display screen and in step 146 collects the orders into batches. Subsequently the central server sends the batched orders to the IPAS server 72 in step 147.

The automated dispensing store then selects products for the tray and writes the associated RFID with order data and identifiers for the order in step 105, as above. However, a dispensary technician 62 uses an assembly screen and the RFID to assemble the products collected for the orders in step 149. Then in step 150, a further dispensary technician (to whom the printed labels have been forwarded in step 145) physically assembles the products with the labels. Subsequently, the further technician directs nursing home orders to the 'aged care' pharmacist 65 in step 151 and in-store paper script orders to the 'customer service' pharmacist 63 in step 152. The remaining steps relating to dispensing medication and dispatch are similar to those described above.

FIG. 7 is a schematic diagram of apparatus of the embodiment which facilitates creation and management of a customer or patient loyalty system 160. A terminal 34 coupled to central server 21 , and typically operated by a customer service officer (not shown), is provided for input of loyalty member details via a patient management display screen in step 161. The central server 21 allocates a unique ID or member number to the customer in step 162, which is reported to the on-line server 23 in step 163 and becomes the on-line login script for remote ordering via the Internet.

Similarly the customer number is reported to the FRED server and, in step 164, creates a related FredlD and, in step 165, is the unique customer number is reported to the POS server 25 for the billing of purchases and other transactions, suitably being recorded or flagged against the customer's account. The central server allows, upon log-in by a customer to the "think scripts" display at an in-store terminal, the customer to retrieve information from the database relating to him or her, or persons in the customer's care, such as children, or other elderly or infirm relations, who have authorised such access.

Then, in step 166, the loyalty card printer 37 produces a record of the unique customer number and a printed card is forwarded to the customer in step 169 for future use. The loyalty card 59 typically comprises a plastic substrate upon which is printed the customers name, address, ID number and bar code (or similar machine readable indicia) or memory chip in a 'smart card' implementation. The names of children or other dependents may also be listed.

An automated dispensary management system 180 of a second embodiment is depicted in FIG. 8. The apparatus of the second embodiment is arranged for the automated dispensing for orders obtained from a remote prescription server 26. To aid understanding and to economise description, similar items of apparatus of the second embodiment are labelled as per FIG. 2 above. Rather than forwarding prescriptions comprising orders received by foot (personally), telephone, mail or fax, the "e-Scripts" server 26 allows doctors and other medical practitioners to send script information in electronic form directly to such a server. The e-Scripts server 26 is shown as a remote server coupled to the Quantum Dispense central server 21 , suitably via a secure external wide area communications network (not shown). A dispensing pharmacy operating the automated management system of the second embodiment can, when a patient (whose practitioner utilises e-Scripts) presents at the shop-front or enters an on-line order via server 23, down-load the appropriate script information from the e-Scripts server 26. The downstream processes operate in a similar fashion to the Think Scripts input via terminal 31 and, for example, can be conveniently integrated with the self check-in process by prompting the customer for the e-Scripts option.

In the second embodiment, the system 180 includes an automated dispensing system controlled by a dispensing system server 22', whereby medicaments are automatically delivered 181 directly to a dispensary technician.62 (see FIGs 4 and 5) for assembly rather than to a collection tray as described in relation to FIG. 2, above.

FIG. 9 shows the arrangement of apparatus in an embodiment of the invention illustrating interactions with external servers, including for ordering, banking, customer loyalty and delivery. We focus here on the hardware added in the present embodiment to earlier described systems or servers. The central management server 21 is coupled to each of an online server 23', a remote e-Scripts server 26 and a Health Stream server 27. The on-line server 23' communicates, usually via a public wide area communications network, with online input terminals 32. The remote e-Scripts server 26 communicates with terminals (not shown) in the offices of doctors and other medical practitioners; whilst the Health Stream server 27 communicates with terminals in aged care homes and other health care facilities.

The central management server 21 is coupled to further local administrative servers, including a payroll system server 202 which monitors pharmacy employee attendance, an accounting server 203 which runs accounting software such as "QuickBooks", a human resource (HR) server 205 which maintains and disseminates HR policies and procedures to employees, and a Think Loyalty community server 207 for administering a customer loyalty program and coupled to the loyalty card printer 37 and customer service terminal 74.

The central management server 21 is also coupled to several remote servers of cooperating service providers, including for courier services 206 and banking 204. The management server includes software to gather delivery information for orders and batch these up in accordance with the courier service provider requirements. This can conveniently obviate the need for manual re-keying of delivery information. Similarly the central management server can facilitate interaction between the local accounting server 203 and remote business banking systems to streamline billing and settlement type accounting activities.

In one particularly preferred embodiment, the invention seeks to standardise and improve the workflow tracking and fulfilment of customer orders (for one or more prescriptions) throughout a disparate array of automated dispensing devices and manual procedures currently utilized for dispensing medicaments, that are typically geared to handling prescriptions serially rather than "customer-centric" orders.

Other optional enhancements to present embodiments of the invention include, at least in relation to the "think scripts" in store self check-in procedures, a user screen displaying the pharmacists available to consult with the customer. After input of the prescription or order details in-store, the customer will be provided with an estimate of the time likely to be required to dispense and deliver the order, based on current workloads within the pharmacy. Clearly this functionality can also be made available to a customer service officer assisting less computer literate patients or agents, or even remote customers requiring assistance or support via telephone or chat services. The customer can then decide whether it is conveniently return in a few minutes or whether they should perhaps opt for a delivery service in the case of long delays.

A further optional suite of enhancements can assist with performance assessment of pharmacy staff, including for example customer service officers, dispensary technicians and qualified staff pharmacists. It is envisaged that key performance indicators (KPIs) of staff will be specified by management and monitored electronically, including a comprehensive display or "dashboard" showing individual, department and store wide KPI summary information. The KPI summary information can be suitably recorded and collated for display in periods of day, week, month, quarter, half-year and annually as required. The KPl information can be conveniently organised depending on category of staff member, for example: dispensary technicians, customer service operators, product collection and order assembly staff and pharmacists. Performance indicators for technicians might include the orders in hand, number of prescriptions processed and average period for processing orders, together with accuracy and timeliness. For collection staff, the indicators may include the number of products collected, accuracy and time taken; for customer service staff: the results of customer satisfaction surveys and registrations to the customer loyalty scheme; and for pharmacists: the number of prescriptions dispensed, time to process each, and errors as assessed from customer feedback or returns.

It is to be understood that the above embodiments have been provided only by way of exemplification of this invention, and that further modifications and improvements thereto, as would be apparent to persons skilled in the relevant art, are deemed to fall within the broad scope and ambit of the present invention as defined in the claims which follow.

Claims

1. A computer implemented method for satisfying orders for products wherein at least some of the products are subject to regulatory controls, said method including the steps of: receiving orders for a plurality of prescribed products from customers; processing the orders into batches, wherein the orders within said batches are uniquely identified and associated with prescription details; collecting the prescribed products according to the details of the respective batches; assembling the products required by said orders, utilizing said unique identifiers, from the products collected in batches; presenting the assembled products with the order identifiers for approval by an authorised person; dispensing the products in accordance with the identified orders upon approval by the authorised person against the respective prescription details in light of the regulatory controls; and dispatching the dispensed products to respective customers.
2. The product order satisfaction method of claim 1 wherein the receiving step includes receiving an order locally from a customer in-store or alternatively receiving an order remotely from an external customer.
3. The product order satisfaction method of claim 2 wherein local customers present their order to a customer service officer in-store for entry or may check-in to a terminal in-store for self entry.
4. The product order satisfaction method of claim 2 wherein external customers, including patients or their agents, check-in remotely and forward orders via a public e-commerce web interface or via a private network.
5. The product order satisfaction method of claim 1 wherein the batches include one or more orders for prescribed goods and an order may include one or more prescriptions.
6. The product order satisfaction method of claim 1 wherein the processing step includes recording details of each order received, including customer ID, details of prescribed products, the destination of the products, and ordering receptacles for the collection step.
7. The product order satisfaction method of claim 6 wherein the collecting step includes manual collection of the prescribed products using a uniquely identified receptacle and/or automatic filling of said uniquely identified receptacle by product dispensing equipment.
8. The product order satisfaction method of either claim 6 or claim 7 wherein the collecting step includes automatically delivering products for at least a portion of the order directly for the assembly step.
9. The product order satisfaction method of claim 1 wherein the assembling step includes generation of labels for each product, which labels identify the patient, active compounds in the product and a recommended administration regime.
10. The product order satisfaction method of claim 1 wherein the dispensing step includes checking the assembled products against the unique identifiers, the prescription details and considering any warnings prior to approval.
11. The product order satisfaction method of claim 1 wherein the dispatching step includes referring the order to customer service for presentation to the customer in-store or delivering the order to the customer.
12. An automated dispensary management apparatus, for satisfying orders for products wherein at least some of the products are subject to regulatory controls, said apparatus including: a central computer server coupled to a plurality of input terminals and a plurality of dispensary terminals; a first interface for connecting the central server to a prescription management server having a patient database; a second interface for connecting the central server to pharmacy automation system server controlling stocking equipment for products; a third interface for connecting the central server to a point-of-sale server for billing, accounts management, and inventory management functions; and wherein the central server executes one or more computer readable sequences of instructions stored therein in order to: receive, at one or more of said plurality of input terminals, orders for a plurality of prescribed products from customers; facilitate processing, by a dispensary technician utilising a dispensary terminal, of orders into batches, wherein the orders within said batches are uniquely identified and associated with prescription details recorded in a patient database on the prescription management server; identify the prescribed products for automated collection utilising the pharmacy management system stocking equipment according to the details of the respective batches and direct collection of the products associated with respective unique identifiers; facilitate assembly, by a dispensary technician utilising a dispensary terminal, of products required by said orders together with labels for the prescriptions produced by the prescription management server, from the products collected in batches; effect dispensing of the products, by an authorised person, in accordance with the identified orders upon approval against the respective prescription details associated with the receptacle and recorded in the patient database, and in light of the regulatory controls; and coordinate billing and dispatch of the dispensed products to respective customers.
13. A computer readable medium containing one or more sequences of instructions that, when executed by one or more processors, performs a method according to the steps of any one of claims 1 to 11.
14. An automated dispensary management system, for satisfying orders for products wherein at least some of the products are subject to regulatory controls, said management system including: a central computer server coupled to a plurality of input terminals and a plurality of dispensary terminals; a prescription management server having a patient database, the management server connected to the central server by a first network interface; a pharmacy automation system server controlling stocking equipment for products, the pharmacy automation server connected to the central server via second network interface; and a point-of-sale server connected to the central server by a third network interface, the point-of-sale server effecting billing, accounts management, and inventory management functions; wherein the central server executes computer readable sequences of instructions stored therein in order to perform the method of any one of claims 1 to 11.
15. The automated dispensary management system of claim 14, further including a fourth network interface for connection to a remote prescription server, whereby prescriptions can be received directly from prescribing authorities in electronic form.
16. The automated dispensary management system of either claim 14 or claim 15 further including a loyalty community server connected to the central server, the loyalty server providing loyalty club management functions.
PCT/AU2009/000516 2008-05-14 2009-04-24 Automated dispensery management method, apparatus and system WO2009137863A1 (en)

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Citations (5)

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WO1997017671A1 (en) * 1995-11-08 1997-05-15 Automated Prescription Systems, Inc. An automated medical prescription fulfillment system including bar code scanner
WO2002023459A2 (en) * 2000-09-14 2002-03-21 Medvantx, Inc. System for medication dispensing and integrated data management
WO2003046789A1 (en) * 2001-11-26 2003-06-05 Pdx, Inc. Automated system and method for processing prescriptions
WO2004021289A2 (en) * 2002-08-27 2004-03-11 Mendota Healthcare, Inc. Automatic prescription drug dispenser
WO2005096209A2 (en) * 2004-03-23 2005-10-13 Board Of Regents, The University Of Texas System Computer based system and methods for pharmaceutical inventory and dispensation

Patent Citations (5)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
WO1997017671A1 (en) * 1995-11-08 1997-05-15 Automated Prescription Systems, Inc. An automated medical prescription fulfillment system including bar code scanner
WO2002023459A2 (en) * 2000-09-14 2002-03-21 Medvantx, Inc. System for medication dispensing and integrated data management
WO2003046789A1 (en) * 2001-11-26 2003-06-05 Pdx, Inc. Automated system and method for processing prescriptions
WO2004021289A2 (en) * 2002-08-27 2004-03-11 Mendota Healthcare, Inc. Automatic prescription drug dispenser
WO2005096209A2 (en) * 2004-03-23 2005-10-13 Board Of Regents, The University Of Texas System Computer based system and methods for pharmaceutical inventory and dispensation

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