Regional grocer Coborn’s has made its pharmacy operation more productive and efficient by shifting to a central-fill model.
Deploying McKesson High Volume Solutions’ ExpressRx Track automated prescription processing system, St. Cloud, Minn.-based Coborn’s moved much of its prescription fulfillment from its in-store pharmacies to a separate central-fill facility. The solution, integrated with Coborn’s ExpressRx pharmacy management system, can dispense up to 2,000 scripts per eight-hour shift with 99.99% robotic accuracy, according to McKesson.
The transition has since enabled Coborn’s to cut script fulfillment queues in each pharmacy by up to 60% at the start of the day — lightening the load for pharmacy staff and freeing up more time for pharmacists to counsel patients on medications and provide clinical services. Coborn’s has 38 retail pharmacy locations in Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
“Investing in central services was on our five-year business plan. Knowing the ongoing margin — DIR [direct and indirect remuneration fees] — pressures facing retail pharmacy and after much research, we decided central-fill capabilities would be the best place to start,” Jim Cox, senior director of pharmacy at Coborn’s, told Supermarket News.
“A central-fill capability supports our goal to further create a quality-based practice model, while reducing the cost-to-serve — a partial offset to margin degradation,” he explained. “Moreover, this infrastructure creates an opportunity for us to transition into other central services opportunities. For instance, direct-to-pharma buy opportunities, load balancing, mail-order fulfillment, and so on.”
Cox said Coborn’s launched the McKesson HVS-driven central-fill system over the summer. Initially, the chain expected the integration to take six months to a year, but the technology was fully implemented in 90 days and reached its one-year throughput goal of 30% of eligible prescriptions. Also, McKesson noted, nearly all of the pharmacies were integrated within the first month.
“We were able to bring all of our pharmacy locations online a lot quicker than originally planned,” according to Cox.
Plans call for Coborn’s to expand ExpressRx Track this year to further increase its central-fill throughput.
“We will be adding a third Parata Max+ robot with an associated manual-packing station, essentially increasing our capacity from 2,000 prescriptions per eight-hour shift to 3,000 prescriptions per eight-hour shift,” Cox said.
Overall, Coborn’s has more than 60 supermarkets stores across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois and Wisconsin under the Coborn’s, Cash Wise Foods, Marketplace Foods and Hornbacher’s banners. The company’s retail network also includes stand-alone convenience stores, liquor stores and pharmacies, for a total of over 120 outlets.
“Coborn's and McKesson HVS partnered to develop and execute a central-fill strategy that meets Coborn's current business needs, but is also flexible enough to support future expansion,” stated Brian Doyle, vice president and general manager at Malvern, Pa.-based McKesson High Volume Solutions.