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Pharmacy reopens inside clinic

Patrons wait for their number to be called at the new pharmacy located in LAHC shortly after the facility reopened July 21. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Patrons wait for their number to be called at the new pharmacy located in LAHC shortly after the facility reopened July 21. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: July 24, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (July 24, 2014) -- It’s been more than a year since the pharmacy at Lyster Army Health Clinic relocated to its temporary location, but it has finally made the move back into the clinic to better serve patients with its new, state-of-the-art facility.

The new location inside LAHC is twice the size of the former pharmacy, and, despite having fewer windows than its prior location, promises higher patient output through its new automated system, said Lt. Col. Taiwo Bolaji, LAHC chief of pharmacy.

Through the new system, patients are now cataloged in an automated computer system, which only requires the patient’s card to be scanned to access their prescriptions, said Bolaji.

“Customers can now come to the refill window and they will present to us their card, and whatever their medication is, it will light up in the new system,” he said.

Depending on whether the patient needs a refill or a pickup, the medications are either dispensed automatically through a machine, eliminating human error, or have already been packaged and ready for pickup.

When picking up prepackaged medications, a system is used that allows a pharmacy technician to scan a patient’s card, letting them know what prescription needs to be picked up. From there the technician will visit the RFID storage units, which are numbered and will light up blue, alerting the technician as to which storage unit to access.

The technician then scans his or her badge to unlock the unit, and inside the proper prescription will again be illuminated, letting the technician know which space to pull from.

“We use RFID tags to track prescriptions to the system and we track them in real time,” said Jason Collins, project manager and sales for GSL Solutions, Inc. “We eliminate errors because we don’t allow more than one patient to be coupled per basket, so we eliminate bundling errors and dispensing errors.”

If the technician grabs the wrong prescription, an alarm will sound alerting the technician that the wrong prescription has been removed, he added.

“With this system, you can’t misfile a prescription anywhere because the system will track where it is,” continued Collins. “There’s no more guessing whether a prescription is ready or if it’s been misplaced, you automatically know exactly where it’s at, or, if it’s not filled, you’re not wasting your time looking for it.”

Before the automated system, each patient’s prescriptions were filled by hand and placed in bags that would be hung on a wall until they were picked up, said Bolaji. An added benefit of the automated system is that training is made easier, only taking two days to train a technician on the system.

Bolaji said the biggest challenge of the move was being able to get all of the medications and prescriptions cataloged and prepped for business.

“Once we get everything cataloged into the system and put on the shelves, we will be running at maximum efficiency,” he said.

The pharmacy had to close for four days to make the transition, so patients weren’t able to get their prescriptions and, in the first few days, the new facility was playing catch up.

“We knew that today (Monday) was going to be very critical and it was going to be very chaotic, but we planned for how everything was going to go and how it was going to impact our ability to take care of our patients, and so far we’ve been doing really well,” said the head of pharmacy. “Once we normalize that, the rest is going to be easy.”

That smooth transition has helped patients like Jamie Stallworth, military Family member, pick up her medications without hassle.

“I really like the new facility they have here. It’s nice to see that they’ve upgraded everything to try and make it work better for the customer,” she said. “I knew it was going to be busy today, but I needed my medications. I was hesitant to come out, but they were able to get to me much faster than I anticipated and I’m grateful for that.”

Bolaji said the goal is to be able to have all 19,000 monthly patients in and out within 15 minutes, safely, and the new pharmacy has that capability.

Another add-on to the pharmacy was the addition of a private counseling room that Bolaji said patients can receive one-on-one consultations with their pharmacist.

“There are patients in our footprint that are what we consider high-risk patients,” he said. “Some of those patients can’t take their medications on their own, or sometimes they forget to take their medications, so in the counseling rooms we can do one-on-one sessions with them to provide counseling and educate them on how to take their medications or set up their medications for them.”

That privacy doesn’t only extend to the counseling room, but also to each individual window, which is now separated from other windows using partitions.

This allows more privacy between pharmacy technicians or pharmacists and the patients when discussing medications and prescriptions, which is very important when it comes to patient care, said Bolaji.

Although the first few days running will be rough, Bolaji said that the pharmacy should be running at maximum efficiency in no time.

The pharmacy will hold its grand opening celebration July 28.

This article was originally published at

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