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Pharmacies Move Forward
For employees, Hopkins' three retail pharmacies are fast becoming the drugstores of choice

Pharmacy manager Valentine Ocloo in close quarters at the Weinberg pharmacy before last month's expansion.

Pharmaquip's Ray Lake and Deeley Middleton

The first floor atrium in the Weinberg Building may soar to the heavens, but space in the pint-sized pharmacy at its edge, until recently at least, was at a premium. Here, in a mere 350 square feet, five pharmacists and technicians filled more than 100 prescriptions a day, dispensing specialty drugs like injectables and high-cost cancer meds, compounding complex pediatric oncology drugs, and mixing special eye ointments for Wilmer. "Whoever designed this space didn't realize how busy we would be," says pharmacy manager Valentine Ocloo.

Last month, Weinberg started a much-needed renovation that adds another 200 square feet and expanded counter, shelf and storage areas. These improvements, like those under way at Hopkins' two other retail pharmacies-one at the Outpatient Center, the other at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center-are designed not only to better the work environment but also to entice employees to have prescriptions filled here, says Deeley Middleton, a vice president of Pharmaquip, the Johns Hopkins Home Care organization that manages the three pharmacies.

Middleton reels off some recent enhancements: Drop-off boxes that allow employees to leave prescriptions in the morning and pick them up after work. Expanded hours. Computerized call-in systems that permit customers to leave automated refill requests any time day or night. An automated fill station destined for the recently renovated JHOC pharmacy. The fill station will be stocked with the 100 fastest-moving drugs and enable busy JHOC pharmacists, who fill 450 "scripts" a day, to work quickly and accurately.

Late last fall, Pharmaquip transferred ownership of its three pharmacies to their respective hospitals. That is because pharmacies owned by hospitals like Hopkins, which provide a disproportionate amount of uncompensated care, are eligible for a federal, discounted drug program. Under the 340 B Discounted Drug Purchasing Program, the pharmacies now can buy drugs for prescriptions written by hospital providers at a lower cost. As a result, since the transfer, costs have dropped by 30 percent.

Newly realized profits are returned to Hopkins Hospital and Bayview each month. And, they are making it possible for Middleton and Ray Lake, director of ambulatory pharmacy services at Pharmaquip, to offer the benefits of a community pharmacy, and then some. So in addition to top-notch service, convenience and all the standard drugs, customers at the Weinberg pharmacy, for example, will find a specially trained tech who works with insurance companies to figure out drug benefits even before patients undergo complex procedures like bone marrow transplantation. Most importantly, all three drugstores make it possible for patrons to get the hard-to-find specialty drugs available only in a pharmacy connected to a hospital.




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