New technology at the Yale Pharmacy is causing customers to spend hours waiting in line for their prescriptions.
Today marks the two-month anniversary of the opening of 55 Lock St. — the new Yale Health building that is also home to the Yale Pharmacy. But since the Pharmacy relocated from its old location on Hillhouse Avenue, staff have been struggling to meet customer demands while simultaneously adjusting to their overhauled workflow systems. During this transition phase, some customers have faced waits of more than two hours — up from an average of 20 to 30 minutes at the old location — but Pete Steere, assistant director of pharmacy and medication, said that efficiency will increase as staff become more familiar with the new systems.
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“We are certainly very sorry that we have, at times, failed to meet our members’ service expectations immediately after the move,” Steere said. “But I am optimistic that [in the near future] the improvements [will pay] off in terms of shorter wait times.”
Director of Yale Health Paul Genecin said the biggest problem with the Pharmacy lies in the timing of the move. Although health administrators wanted to relocate during the summer, construction delays prevented them from doing so, Genecin said.
When they finally did move in late August, the pharmacy staff had little time left to adjust to the new filing, computer and phone systems before autumn allergies and flu season kicked in.
Genecin said that the Pharmacy staff have felt this demand more than other departments in Yale Health.
“Despite all the training we did, it was still very difficult to move everything,” Steere said.
The transition to the new building has caused not only longer wait times for some customers, but also systemic challenges for staff.
Gale Iannone, administrative assistant to the Chaplain’s Office, went to the Pharmacy to pick up her prescriptions Wednesday. But she was told that one of her orders had yet to be put in the system, and she had to come back another day.
But the feeling of frustration goes both ways.
“Everything, including the phones, are new to us,” Steere said. “It’s definitely an adjustment.”
One of the measures the department has made to increase efficiency is the installation of two robots in the pharmacy, which work alongside staff. Similar to vending machines, these pieces of technology count and dispense over 200 of the most commonly prescribed medications. Counting and filling pills by hand takes about two to three minutes, Steere said, but these robots can accomplish the same task in half the time.
But staff efficiency is not the only complaint customers have made; the unadorned white interior has also made some uneasy.
“It’s a very cold area,” said Avril Winks, one of the first members of the Yale Health Plan. “It’s like going to the hospital. It’s not like going to the Yale Health Center anymore.”
While the previous location was cramped due to a lack of space, Winks said close quarters made customers interact with each other more frequently.
“The cozy feeling they had in the old Hillhouse place is gone,” she said.
But other customers have noticed the pharmacy’s new and more efficient use of space.
Carolyn Westerfield ARC ’59 said the new separate windows for different prescription services should allow customers to be served faster than before.
The Yale Pharmacy receives more than 1,000 orders per day, Genecin and Steere said.