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March 29, 2013

Airmen, robot work side by side to fill prescriptions at Luke

Senior Airman Boniface Kinuthia, 56th Medical Support Squadron pharmacy technician, places an empty tray back on the automated conveyor belt March 20 after removing the prescriptions at the Arizona Refill Center on Luke Air Force Base. The ARC uses a robotic delivery system which is unique to Luke. The automated system fills prescriptions, labels bottles and places tape over the top. Over the past year, the ARC has refilled more than 172,000 prescriptions.

Over the past year, the three 56th Medical Support Squadron pharmacies have filled more than 396,000 prescriptions, relying heavily on the Arizona Refill Center, which uses a robotic delivery system to handle 35 percent of the overall daily workload.

Using the robotic delivery system, the ARC is both quick, safe and cost efficient. The system is completely automated, using a robotic arm that fills the prescriptions, labels the bottles and places tape over the top. All prescriptions for an individual patient are grouped together and then a staff member double checks the accuracy.

The ARC is unique to Luke Air Force Base. It was originally designed to be a regional refill facility supporting all MTFs in Arizona in the early 2000s.

“Our distance from Davis-Monthan AFB and the Army’s Fort Huachuca did not make this a reality but the capability was left at Luke AFB due to the beneficiary population in the Valley of 96,000 and the volume of prescriptions filled annually,” said Maj. Kevin McCaughin, 56th MDSS pharmacy flight commander.

Over the past year, the ARC has refilled more than 172,000 prescriptions and every prescription filled on base is a savings of 40 to 60 percent over using downtown network pharmacies.

“The ARC fills 100 percent of the medication refills for medications filled at the 56th Medical Group pharmacies,” said Staff Sgt. Johnny Amaya, 56th MDSS ARC NCO-in-charge. “The robotic delivery system fills 60 percent of our workload and the staff handles the other 40 percent, with a 99.9998-percent accuracy rate, which is five times greater than comparable civilian sector rates.”

The ARC further supports the mobility mission of pharmacy technicians assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing, as any pharmacy technician must be prepared to work in a stand-alone capacity downrange.

“Having a refill facility where technicians and pharmacists can work side by side in an uninterrupted fashion to complete this vital training is something that sets Luke apart from other bases,” McCaughin said.

While Amaya feels rewarded by the knowledge that he has a direct role in maintaining the health and wellness of the customers, McCaughin highlights the increase in customers over the past three years.

“The Luke pharmacy team is proud that over the past three years we have seen a growth in prescription service of ten percent recapture from patients enrolled to the 56th MDG and 27 percent from TRICARE beneficiaries living within the Phoenix area,” McCaughin said. “It is our goal to be the pharmacy of choice for the Luke community, and we welcome any suggestions to help better our service.”




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