How do I automate my pharmacy?

This is for you DIY men who can solve any problem with a little macgyvering. My pharmacy is closing down our doors to protect patients during this covid crisis. Might last a month at least. In the meantime, we’ve set up a curbside pickup system for meds to take care of our community.

The problem is that all of our medications and work is done in the back of the building while we have to bring it to the front of the building for patients now. We do as many as 700 prescriptions a day and I can’t have my staff only running back in forth the entire time. Is there any way to at least partially automate or make it easier to move prescriptions to the front of the store without spending a ton of money? As a reminder, the store is closed to customers so it doesn’t have to be a pretty solution.

Thanks I’m advance!

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  1. Hackish, but you can modify to suit your needs…

    Similar to “orders in a diner”. Stretch a wire from the pharmacy to a far wall. Before tying off the end in an eye bolt, put 3 or 4 of those black paper clips on it. Tie it off. Have someone at front register find out patient details and write them (or walkie talkie them) to the pharmacy. The pharmacy puts Rx in bag, clips to clip and slides them out to front register.

    Wire needs to be taught. It may also help to have clips on pully wheels depending on distance traveled.

    Clips come back with customer “orders” or a paper Rx and goes out with filled Rx or note as to why it cannot be filled.

  2. If you could give more details on the configuration it would be useful.

    If I had to rig something up right quick I’d get a cheap laptop with a webcam, a basic microphone and set it up outside. Have the laptop streaming to you guys inside the store so you can see/talk to whoever is out there.

    Then maybe a simple slide type of thing so that the prescription can be put on one end and slide to the curbside. If it’s a long ways away then what might be better is a simple car robot powered by an arduino or something. I have one, it’d be fairly simple to program it to drive some distance at the push of a button, then when you push another it turns around and comes back. Just put a little basket on it or something. You would need a couple of them as they’d need charging every now and then.

    Just some thoughts…I’m a software developer, if I can help in anyway let me know. Wouldn’t mind programming it for you.

  3. Stores in the mall I worked in had these large portable conveyors or rollers. Like what you have before the xray machine in airports.

    The one I remember was old navy and it was long. It went from the parking lot where a semi was through the mall and curved into old navy. You had a guy loading them and pushing a guy checking off what was being pushed and then multiple employees in the store grabbing the boxes and doing whatever with the product.

    You may be able to rent a portable system of some sort and then use plastic bins on it and one or two employees boosting them down the path.

  4. Do you know in advance the meds that are scheduled to be picked up today? Could you in the morning load the ones scheduled for today in alphabetized shopping carts so that you can have them close at hands when the patient comes in to pick their item up?

  5. Pics via Whatsapp and a slide? If your containers are standardized, PVC pipes?

    If you could post pictures maybe we can think of something else. Perfect question for r/AskEngineers btw

  6. [Clothesline with pulley.](
    You didn’t mention distance. Attach a small simple motor to it that constantly turns if it is a long distance. Do not have it constantly start/stop or things will fall off. Have something simple at the ends that automatically knocks what is attached to the line into a tote below. I’d probably use the type of clothesline with small hooks embedded into it and paper bags for the actual transporting. So that the bags get automatically removed at the far end without human involvement. That’s only if this is a distance that needs a motor though.

    If you need communication, use a mic and speaker or cam that is always on. Don’t use something like a walkie talkie. Use something that the only thing you need to do is raise your voice.

  7. Can you post a pic of the current layout? Or a drawing?

    So you’re trying to find a way to move scripts being picked up currently to the front quickly, if I understand correctly? Is there a way you could move the whole filing system to the front of the store? Then the verification pharmacist could just fill up a shopping cart or whatever with finished prescriptions and someone can wheel it up to be filed once it’s full. Just have a few shopping carts so you can immediately replace full ones. I’m not sure how you have the pickup process set up, but I would say no curbside waiters. Patients can drop off scripts but have to come back in whatever is a reasonable time to have the scripts done and up to the front and filed. Whoever is bringing the full carts up to the front can bring back dropped off scripts along with the empty carts and get them started. Maybe walkie talkies for quick communication between the front and back of the store.

  8. I have a simple and the one I would do.

    Simple: get a rc car and just tie the medication bags to the bumper and send them to the front.

    my way: I would make a temporary automated pulley system, would cost only 20$-30$.

    it would be pretty easy to set up a rigged motor pulley system. You can run it with an Arduino, but a basic start stop pulley system would be good. If you want more detailed explanation just comment because I have physics in 4 mins I’ll keep it short.

    I would just cheat though and use this.

    Science STEM Kit For Girls And Boys, Great Car Toy Project For Kids, Building Science Kit For Boys and Girls 8 9 10 11 12 Years Old. Build And Play, 4WD Climber Vehicle DIY Assembly Circuit Toy

    I would take this kids toy and make a pulley system from it.

    Make some pulleys from cardboard, or even the wheels themselves. If the car does not have a switch in it, just use some electrical tape to attach the motor and the battery together with a switch.

    Gardner Bender GSW-18 Heavy-Duty Electrical Toggle Switch, SPST, ON-OFF, 8 A/125 V, 6 inch Wire Terminal

    Take some yarn, or fishing wire and stretch it across the store from where you will be delivering, to the delivery point, back to the beginning, and tie it off.

    The solar panel is just a plus I guess if you use it next to a window. I don’t know if the solar panel can over charge the battery, so I would just do it for about an hour or two, and cover the panel with something, and uncover it again when you notice the car is running slow.

    I’ll be more detailed about it why I get back from physics if you comment.

  9. A Lego train system or similar could actually do the work, it’s runs easily on a long distance. There are off brand lego tracks you can buy, as the lego ones are crazily expensive… a few carriages for meds of different sizes and a few replacements batteries and this could work for hours.

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