Top Tools of the Pharmacy Trade

The number of sales calls I get for pharmacy-related products is overwhelming, and every sales person, of course, talks a good game about their product revolutionizing pharmacy and making my life way easier, bringing me tons of extra revenue, and flying me around in a white unicorn.

However, in all that noise and competition for my (and your) attention, there are actually good, practical products that can make your life in the pharmacy easier or improve revenue. I'm realistic about these products, so you won't see anything in this post about doubling revenue or saving you 10 hours a week, but they actually do help.

Before getting to these products, though, remember that there are a ton of forms, both in the Free Products section and in the Store, that can save you time by keeping you from having to make them. If you're just starting out, or really looking to streamline certain aspects of your operations, take a look. There's likely something there to fit your needs.

Temperature Monitoring Devices (TMD)

See this post for more information on selecting a TMD.

TOP CHOICE: The FridgeTag

The Healthcare Logistics TMD (see #2) had been my favorite, until I actually had to pull data off it and realized I needed a flash drive to do it. I had no flash drive in the pharmacy and was stuck calling our IT department, which delayed everything by about an hour. In the meantime, I had patients wanting refrigerated medications and was also stuck telling them I needed to investigate our refrigerator temps before I could release their medication.

Not so with the FridgeTag: this one has a built-in cable, which is a simple but lifesaving feature when you need it.

Another great feature is that the top of the TMD displays a mark at the top of the screen to let you know quickly if you've had an excursion in the past 30 days.

The primary disadvantage, in my opinion, is that is only lists an "X," or a checkmark, to quickly tell you whether the refrigerator has been out of range. It's true you can still pull that data and find out mins and maxes, but it's much better to have a min and max displayed (along with the current temp, which it does display readily) because even if the temp is in range, you want to know if there has been significant changes in temperature fluctuation.

I've had a refrigerator, for example, that was normally within 39 and 42 everyday, and all of a sudden it was fluctuating between 37 and 45.

Is it still in range? YES

Is it cause for concern? YES

I ended up pulling the meds and moving them to the inpatient pharmacy, and the next day the fridge had gotten up to 55. Turns out the thermostat in the refrigerator was going bad, and just completely failed overnight. The trend data in the min/max (combined with my own anxiety from dealing with so many excursions in the past) saved thousands in medications.

Runner-up: Healthcare Logistics TMD or Similar Model

The Healthcare Logistics TMD (Item 19195) is a great choice, and like I said my first choice until I had to actually pull data off of it. The pictured TMD is one from Thomas Scientific that honestly looks so similar it's making me wonder if they don't make the TMDs for Healthcare Logistics. Either one will work really well.

While both the FridgeTag and this one meet CDC requirements for a TMD this one, as you can tell from the pictures, more clearly displays the current, min, and max of the refrigerator.

In addition to the problem pulling data off of it, it doesn't display 30 days worth of data on-screen like the FridgeTag does. Those are the primary disadvantages. The 30 days of data, however, should be less of a concern if you're tracking your temps twice daily.

The bottom line on these TMD's: My recommendation is to always have two TMD's in the refrigerator at any given time anyway (the CDC only recommends one extra one on-hand for the facility), so next time I need to replace mine I'm planning on buying one FrigeTag and one Healthcare Logistics TMD so I've got the benefits of both, while still having my backup.

USP 800 Compliance

For more tips on USP 800 in the community pharmacy check out this post.

ASTM D6978 Gloves (i.e. 'chemo gloves')

One of the quickest and easiest ways to drastically reduce the risk of exposure to HD's while dispensing is to wear 'chemo gloves,' or gloves that conform to ASTM standards for impermeability to chemotherapy agents. These from Medline do the trick and they're widely available as well as cheap, which is nice. Your wholesaler might even have them or something similar.

Of note, if you haven't already, you should still be putting your policies and procedures in place, getting your staff trained, etc., but in the meantime at least get them some basic supplies, including gloves, to wear.

Deactivating Chemo Wipes

TOP CHOICE: Pharma-Surface Guard

You also need a way to deactivate and decontaminate your work area. Isopropyl alcohol does not do that and actually just spreads the drug all over the tray (you won't see it - but it's there!)

I used to buy Surface Safe 2-Step, but at least for me they're pretty pricey compared with Pharma-Surface Guard. Plus McKesson carries Pharma-Surface Guard under their pharmaceutical division, which makes it even easier to order.

Chemo Bags

Protect the pharmacist checking the final drug product and put the vial inside one of these chemo bags, especially if you're going to have the hazardous drug re-enter the workflow for the final product check. It also gives an extra layer of protection against trace contamination in other areas of the pharmacy.

Your distributor probably has them, or you can order these on Amazon.

Hazardous Drug Sign

No, it's not technically a "product," but label your hazardous drug area! For those of you who haven't read my post, I have one in the Free Products section that looks like this:

Dedicated Counting Tray

Not much to say here. You know what to do - get a separate tray only for chemo.

Label it as 'chemo' so it's not accidentally used for other things. We ended up writing it in Sharpie on the bottom of the tray so our deactivating wipes wouldn't wipe it off. For that reason, it's best to use a clear tray for chemo so you can see the writing on the bottom. While some pharmacies may use a specific color (i.e. the red tray is chemo), new staff won't necessarily know that right away.

Medication Take back Products

Post: Medicine Collection Program Options

The ultimate best option for medication take back is to actually get a built-in receptacle, but to get up and running quickly with a program you can always purchase one of these, allow patients to hand you the medications, and place in this bin to mail back. As I mentioned in the post, these are a great option to 'bridge' you until you get a more permanent solution.

The biggest advantage is that with this you can be up and running tomorrow with a medication take back program.

Best Apps for Your Business

GetUpside (if you own a car for deliveries)

OK, so this one isn't specific to pharmacy, but I recently discovered this app and got hooked so wanted to share it with you. GetUpside allows you to save 10-12 cents (from my experience) on average per gallon at the gas station.

Basically you download the app, link your credit card, and then 'check-in' with the app right before pumping gas. It will validate your purchase and then put the credit in your account, where you can cash it out for a variety of gift cards. Amazon is probably the most useful to a pharmacy, but there are others as well. You can get some credit towards you morning Starbucks fix, if you prefer.

Obviously, this one is great for personal use too, but if you do a lot of deliveries and really rack up the miles it can add up over time.

Just an idea, too: if you live in one of these cities, the company might be willing to set you up with a business account and offer discounts on front-end merchandise to customers through the app. They're a startup and I'm sure willing to talk to new businesses.

Turo (again, if you own a car for deliveries)

Along the same lines, Turo allows you to rent your car out to other people. While you really need to read the fine lines on this one, especially before renting your delivery car out, it could significantly offset the expense of the car by renting it on the days you are closed. If that brings free pharmacy delivery within reach for you, it might be worth it.

Your Pharmacy Refill App

Just putting this one on the list to say - you should have a refill app! It's an easy way to provide the same level of convenience that the chains do.

I have QS1, so if you have that system their app is called MobileRx, and it's dirt cheap and easy to set up. Call them and ask for it, and they'll send you a one-page form to sign off on the charge and then get you set up.

Best Stuff Not in These Categories

Here's all the stuff that doesn't fit into one of these categories but is worth a mention: