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First in DoD, Prescription ATM eases Patients' Wait Time

Col. Anita Latin, 61st Air base Wing commander, tries out the new automated prescription center at the ribbon cutting ceremony, June 13.  State Assemblyman Ted Lieu, pictured in the background attended the ceremony and presented a certificate of recognition to the base.    The Script Center Express Prescription Refill and Pickup Center is the first of its kind in the Air Force and DOD. (Photo by Atiba S. Copeland)

Col. Anita Latin, 61st Air base Wing commander, tries out the new automated prescription center at the ribbon cutting ceremony, June 13. State Assemblyman Ted Lieu, pictured in the background attended the ceremony and presented a certificate of recognition to the base. The Script Center Express Prescription Refill and Pickup Center is the first of its kind in the Air Force and DOD. (Photo by Atiba S. Copeland)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE -- The 61st Medical Group recently introduced a prescription dispensing machine during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Base Exchange, June 13. The ScriptCenter Express Prescription Refill and Pickup Center is the first of its kind in Los Angeles County, the Air Force, and the Department of Defense. 

Officials attending included Col. Anita Latin, 61st Air Base Wing commander; Col. Brian Deckert, 61st Medical Group commander; and leaders from neighboring communities. Chief executive officer from the Asteres Corp., provider of the ScriptCenter machine, Mark Debruin, was also present during the ceremony. 

Located in the lobby of the Base Exchange building, the machine in a remote location is also a first in the nation. 

"Legally, most state laws require this [type of] machine to be attached to the pharmacy," said Maj. Agnes Lee, 61 MDG pharmacy flight commander. "They wouldn't allow this machine to be located outside the pharmacy. Fortunately, we are in a military facility so we can go out of the norm." 

The idea of having the ScriptCenter on base was a result of brainstorming the possibility of setting up a satellite pharmacy at the Base Exchange. A member from the base suggested it after seeing one at another base. However, due to funding and staffing shortages, another idea was developed through a technology which was already available. 

The machine is like an Automatic Teller Machine; but instead of cash, the machine dispenses medication. The ScriptCenter is available to Active Duty, Retired, family members and others with valid military ID cards. Patients and family members can enroll online or at the ScriptCenter. Medication is ordered by calling the 24-hour automated refill line and requesting the Base Exchange as the pick-up site. Prescriptions can be picked up after 2 p.m. on the second day after ordering. 

The machine is easy to use with no complicated steps and is available in both English and Spanish. Using the ScriptCenter is also free. 

"It was very easy and simple to follow ... I tried it myself," said Major Lee. 

One unique feature about this machine is its biometric technology option. However, patients can still use their PIN numbers when using biometrics. 

"You simply put your finger on the scanner and it will scan the thumb print," said Major Lee. 

The machine also takes a picture of the person picking up the prescription so the pharmacist can track who picked up the prescription. Currently, refrigerated medication and bulky items cannot be picked up but may be available in the future. Controlled substances will still need to be picked up at the pharmacy. 

The ScriptCenter will benefit patients by cutting down on the long waiting period experienced at the pharmacy and can also get their prescriptions filled without worrying about the pharmacy hours. In the past, it could take as long as two hours during peak hours. According to Major Lee, on bad days, picking up a prescription could take three hours. Weekends, holidays, MDG training days, and even the recent exercises could lengthen the wait hours imposed on the patients. 

"So we had quite a few closures and that had a negative impact on our patients," said Major Lee, "... and more hardship to our pharmacists because they had to catch up with all our volume." 

Patients can also take advantage of not looking for parking while relocating between the pharmacy and the Base Exchange. They can also enjoy the increased pick-up hours at the Base Exchange which is from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends. 

"The ScriptCenter will increase patient access by over 106 percent," said Major Lee. "That's 2,300 hours per year. That's pretty significant." 

The base pharmacy supports 75 units from various geographic locations in Los Angeles and serves more than 204,000 retirees from various branches.

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