Just over 20 years ago, Carmenza Meza had a vision of how health care should be. She had worked at a health clinic, and knew she wanted more for patients, especially senior citizens. So she founded Comfort Health, and turned her vision into a reality. In the greater Miami area, Comfort Health now has four locations, providing full service medical care to 6,000 people, most of whom are senior citizens. When Mrs. Meza became ill, she entrusted her dream to her daughter, Gina Portilla. Today, Gina and her husband Alejandro take the responsibility for patients very seriously.
“Doing the right things for our patients means even more because it is my mother’s legacy,” Gina explains. “I’ve worked here since I was 18. Some of our patients still remember me from then. They know I am going to honor that legacy. We believe in patient centered care, doing everything we can to help people stay well – ‘No’ does not exist in our vocabulary. We want everyone to be 100% satisfied.”
The growth of Comfort Health over the years is even more impressive when it is combined with the 5-star ratings the clinics consistently achieve.
“We want the clinic to be a true medical home,” says Alejandro. “Patients can see primary care physicians as well as specialists including urology, neurology, cardiology and psychiatry, all right here.” Because Comfort Health believes taking care of the whole patient is the key to good care, ancillary services such as optometry, chiropractic, dental and physical therapy are also located within the clinics.
“We are a one-stop shop,” says Gina. “We also offer social activities so that our patients can schedule a couple of appointments if they need to with different providers and then they have something to enjoy during the time they wait. We have exercises classes, and some of our patients come to those even if they don’t have an appointment that day. One of our patients told me that it was what she needed to lose some weight and feel better – otherwise she wouldn’t exercise.”
About four years ago, the Portillas decided that there was an important service missing from Comfort Health: a pharmacy. “Of course, patients can go where they would like to get prescriptions filled,” says Gina. “But for many of our patients, transportation and even knowing what programs they may be eligible for make getting prescriptions filled more difficult. And that affects their adherence, which impacts their health.”
Like the clinics, the pharmacy is having a great clinical impact on patient care. Great customer service, including a robust delivery program has helped to keep adherence rates very strong. “A lot of our patients utilize delivery service, or mail order. We call our patients to let them know a delivery is coming, to confirm that they will be there to receive it, or to make other arrangements,” explains Gina. This added touch is not only good customer service, it also gives patients an additional opportunity to ask questions about their medications, increasing their understanding of the importance of taking their prescriptions properly. The pharmacist also works with physicians on filling 90-day prescriptions where appropriate. “That way, patients have only four ‘miss opportunities’ – when they might forget to get a prescription refill – a year instead of twelve,” says Gina.
Comfort Health Pharmacy is currently in one location, but there are plans to open a second pharmacy soon. The pharmacy fills 700 – 800 prescriptions a day, several hundred of which are delivery prescriptions. The large volume of prescriptions was putting a lot of stress on pharmacy operations, so the Portillas started thinking about automation. “We had a lot of overtime” says Alejandro. “A lot of overtime – sometimes two – three hours a day just to keep up. And the volume just kept growing.”
“And the atmosphere in the pharmacy was getting stressful as the volume continued to increase” adds Gina. “We didn’t have space to add more people, so there were times when emotions came to the top.” Since great customer care happens best when staff are happy and enjoy their work, Gina and Alejandro wanted to make life better in the pharmacy.
“We went to pharmacy conventions and looked at every single piece of automation available on the market,” says Alejandro. “It was a long decision process to get the right fit for our pharmacy.” Comfort Health is already utilizing QS/1 pharmacy management software, and they liked the bi-directional communication offered with RxMedic technology. Ultimately, they chose two of the RxMedic RM200 – one for the existing location and one for the pharmacy that will open soon.
RM200 builds on existing technology found in RM64 and ADS, but offers new features for pharmacies. RM200 can fill two prescriptions a minute, utilizes auto-calibrating cell technology for fast and easy stock changes, and allows users to replenish vials by pouring them directly from the box into the hopper. RxMedic’s unique photo verification of vial contents and the fact it dispenses directly into the vail, eliminating cross-contamination risk and air quality concerns also ensure both patient, and staff, safety.
Comfort Health Pharmacy has customized their cell configuration to include 24 super cells and 172 standard cells, which has allowed them to automate about 60% of their daily oral solid prescription volume. Combining this level of automation with an Eyecon Visual Counting System for those drugs not in the pharmacy robot has greatly increased efficiency in the pharmacy. Like all RxMedic products, RM200 boasts some of the best accuracy rates in the industry. “Our pharmacy is a happier place now, “says Gina. “Our staff can go home on time now, they are much more efficient, and much less stressed now that the risk for errors has been so greatly reduced. Training was fast – our staff were quick learners! The cells were fully utilized within about a week.”
Based on previous experience, Comfort Health Pharmacy wanted to be prepared for the inevitable increase in volume at the new location, so ordering a second RM200 was a logical step when planning the second pharmacy. As for additional growth, the Portillas want to make sure that growth only comes when it is what is best for patient care. “We don’t want to grow too much too fast and get out of touch with our patients,” explains Alejandro. “Our growth comes from word of mouth – our patients have a good experience, so they tell others. Now when a new patient comes to us, they can meet with us, and we spend time getting to know them, finding out what they are looking for and making them feel comfortable here. We aren’t going to do anything to change that.”
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