Patient Waiting in Pharmacy: Process Improvement

Waiting in pharmacy lines is a problem that increases patient dissatisfaction and decreases convenience when purchasing prescribed medication. Thus, the goals of the current DMAIC project are to reduce wait times and to educate patients on the effective and time-efficient procedures of getting a prescription. At the moment, the process is lengthy and thus increases the likelihood of mistakes and confusion.

In the first phase, the improvement step, a decision will be made as to what can be done to address the situation. The SOP approach (Standard Operating Procedure) was chosen as the focus of the current phase as it allows developing a step-by-step guide that can be followed when issuing a prescription to a patient. The scheme below represents a model that will guide practitioners from start to finish. Such a model can be trialed in an off-line setting at a pharmacy with several customers that have different prescription needs as well as diverse methods of covering the expenses.

Figure 1. SOP (self-generated).

The specific improvement in the proposed model refers to the differentiation between self-payment and insurance methods to allow for a more sufficient process of verification. The improvement is implemented because of the need to reduce wait times at pharmacies, which is where the program will be completed. Pharmacists represent the key task force behind the project as they are the ones to verify prescriptions, differentiate between payment methods, prepare medication, and counsel patients. The improvement is needed until patients’ rates of satisfaction with pharmacy services increase by at least 40%. After the implementation of the pilot, the results will be measured (ASQ, 2019). First, the effectiveness of primary prescription verification will be measured. Second, the triage step of the model will be assessed by identifying whether such a differentiation reduces wait times. A control group with the non-triage approach will be used for comparison. Third, the need for patient counseling will be identified as it may take more time than needed. In cases, if any of the measurements fail, the model will return at the stage of planning.

The second DMAIC step is the control phase, which is necessary for standardizing the previous improvement. The triage approach to fulfilling prescriptions is the main SOP to be used in the plan. It is expected to help practitioners to reduce the time they spend on determining financing methods and verifying their validity. The financial gains from the developed model are linked to the increased revenue for pharmacies as the number of patients served there would increase also. A tracking system implemented in the proposed model will be linked to key performance indicators (KPIs) for pharmacists. These KPIs will include the number of patients served at a pharmacy, the number of prescriptions filled, the number of problems with prescriptions, as well as customer satisfaction rates. In regards to the OCAP (out of control action plan), it is recommended to return to the previous way in which patients’ prescriptions were fulfilled.

In summary, the proposed ‘improve and control’ plan using the DMAIC model is expected to bring significant results in terms of reducing the times during which patients are served at pharmacies. The proposed triage approach will provide a basis for the differentiation between patients’ prescriptions and an efficient way in which they are filled. In the case, if the proposed model fails, it is recommended to research other quality improvement methods that target line wait times.


ASQ. (2019). The define measure analyze improve control (DMAIC) process. Web.