Army Pharmacy Finds Shorter Hours Reduces Wait Times

By Annette M. Boyle

A soldier selects the appropriate option on the queuing system in the McDonald Army Health Center Pharmacy at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA, earlier this year. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, VA — The pharmacy team at McDonald Army Health Center (MCAHC) on Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia had a common problem—longer than desired wait times for patients to pick up prescriptions. Their solution was anything but typical: They reduced operating hours by an hour in the afternoon and cut wait times by more than 50%.

While counterintuitive, the resolution relied on solid analysis. The team used a queuing system recently installed in the pharmacy to study prescription demand and wait times.

“One of the things we learned from the new system was we were having large amounts of patients come in at lunchtime and we wouldn’t be able to take care of that patient flow until one or two hours down the line,” according to Adam Resnick, MCAHC pharmacy chief.

The lunch back up became much easier to understand once the team looked at the data. “On average, 22% of our patients were being serviced between 1200 and 1400,” said Heather D. Guntherberg, PharmD, MCAHC supervisory clinical pharmacist. They also found that mornings were much busier than afternoons.

To shift resources to earlier in the day, the pharmacy now shuts its windows at 5 p.m. rather than 6 p.m.. “By closing an hour earlier, we’re able to rearrange our shifts so we’ve got all of our windows open at the same time and we’re able to help patients by decreasing their wait time,” Resnick said.

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