Rashid uses automation to keep customers safe, costs down

These are just two of the automated machines that Rashid Pharmacy staff utilize in preparing prescriptions to help customers stick to their regimine better. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC


FORT MADISON – An investment in technology has set Rashid Pharmacy in Fort Madison apart from other retail pharmacies in this part of the state.

Joe Rashid, owner of Rashid Pharmacy in Fort Madison, said he made the investment in the technology, which has surpassed $1 million, to help keep customers safe and keep costs down.

“It’s just amazing and shocking when you look at the amount of money that is spent by re-admissions to hospitals because people aren’t taking their medications appropriately,” Rashid said. “That’s called non-adherence when patients don’t take medicines as directed.”

Rashid referred to some eye-popping statistics about the cost and consequences of patients not taking medications as prescribed.

A 2013 Express Scripts Drug Trend Report, which indicated in the United States avoidable healthcare costs have added up to $213 billion, of which $105 billion is due to medication non-adherence, and even more shocking is a 1989 report in American Pharmacy that indicated non-adherence causes 30-50 percent of treatment failures and 125,000 deaths annually.

Rashid has been working with automated dispensing systems for close to 16 years and say it’s pretty optimal now.

This SVM machine, the only one in this part of the state, helps make blister packages that make it simpler for patients to take medications according to doctor’s instructions. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“We are the only one’s in the area that have this equipment,” Rashid said. “Some have tried but they can’t make it go. It’s a lot of work starting from ground zero. But we’ve been doing it for the past 16 years and we’re still learning. We’re the strongest we’ve ever been and I have the best staff I’ve ever had.”

Repetitive jobs leave room for human error and Rashid said he invests in the automated equipment because an error in pharmaceuticals is way different than an error you might see in repetitive industry jobs.

“Humans aren’t meant to do repetitive jobs and not make mistakes,” he said. “You can do that in a manufacturing environment and it’s an error, but you make that mistake here and it’s over. You could kill somebody.”

But the equipment, which new can now cost up to $350,000 for each machine, has not had an impact on jobs at the pharmacy. Rashid said he’s up to more than 60 staff.

“That’s just customer service and getting a person in and out of the door. We don’t want them to have to wait.”

He said the insurance company is now focusing on pharmacies as a way to help reduce the costs associated with non-adherence.

“We get paid more if the patient is taking their meds correctly because we get a higher rating,” he said. “Right now we’re 5-star which is the highest you can get, but we can get docked if the person gets re-admitted. Re-admission is staggering, the statistics would amaze you and the hospitals also lose money on re-admissions so all this boils down to the pharmacy. Insurance companies are coming at us saying you’ve got to put this together for the patients.”

Rashid, a graduate of Drake University, took over the pharmacy when his father George retired in 1994. The pharmacy, located at 2404 Avenue L, has been operating in Fort Madison for the past 60 years.

In addition to traditional pill bottles, Rashid’s offers different options in personalized pharmaceuticals from blister packages which are the plastic bubbles that the medicine is in and can be seen from the top and dispensed in the back. They also have individually-marked strip packs that are sealed together with perforated individual packets in sequence, pre-packaged for retail customers.

A standard personalized blister pack is shown. Rashid Pharmacy is the only retail pharmacy in the area to employ such technology. Courtesy photo.

He said this helps take the brain drain from having to sort out your pills yourself and potentially make a mistake, or just having pills in a bottle in the medicine cabinet where you could miss a dose or potentially double dose. Rashid said the company has gone from filling about 70 scripts a day when his father opened the business to more than 2,000 per day, incorporating the new machines and staff of 60, including eight registered pharmacists.

The pharmacy is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday – Friday, 8:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

In addition to the retail operations, Rashid also provides pharmaceuticals to care facilities in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri delivering prescriptions regularly to each contracted facility.

About Chuck Vandenberg 5476 Articles
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