It's an assembly line the likes of which Henry Ford may never have imagined -- but no cars are being made. The focus is on dispensing pharmaceuticals -- a lot of them. It’s CVS Caremark's brand new state-of-the-art mail order facility in Mount Prospect.
“Today, we have almost 50 percent of all Americans that suffer from one or more chronic diseases. And oftentimes, those chronic diseases are accompanied with some type of maintenance medication, and that's what you're seeing here on the floor,” said CVS CEO Larry Merlo. “The mail pharmacy is delivering, is fulfilling those maintenance type prescriptions for members.”
Today was the official grand opening for the $67 million facility and Gov. Pat Quinn was the guest of honor. He was given the grand tour of the 150,000 square foot pharmacy, which has more than 400 employees, including 30 licensed pharmacists. But a great deal of the work is being done by automation.
“It really combines the latest in automation and technology with human expertise in an effort to improve the pharmacy fulfillment process,” said Merlo.
CVS says the facility will be filling 10,000 prescriptions per hour, 1 million per week, all with a guaranteed 24-hour turnaround time for customers. The company adds that there are plenty of safeguards to prevent any potentially dangerous errors.
“The technology takes you so far in terms of automating the dispensing and the packaging process. But we also have pharmacists on-site that ensure that exact fact,” said Merlo. “They actually conduct a visual inspection of the prescription itself, and again it's aided by technology. In this particular case, photography technology that ensures that what is in that container is just what the doctor prescribed.
The new CVS facility arrives four months before the Affordable Care Act hits a major milestone. Next January, both insurance exchanges and Medicare expansion are scheduled to take effect. And that could translate into a lot more business, and revenue, for drug stores big and small. But CVS's CEO won't say if his company stands to earn big profits from Obamacare.
“Over the years, as we've seen more people be afforded some type of coverage, we've seen the utilization of prescriptions increase. Today, the adherence, or the lack of adherence to prescription medicine is costing our health care system between $200 and $300 billion a year in unnecessary costs,” said Merlo. “And at CVS CareMark we are laser-focused on bringing solutions to that. Obviously that will go a long way in improving quality and at the same time taking unnecessary costs out of the health care delivery chain.”
CVS says the new facility stocks 7,000 kinds of medications and medical supplies. The company also says it has room to expand with a workforce of up to 500. And with health care access expanding nationwide next year, the massive pharmacy just might need all the help it can get.
CVS has three other mail order facilities around the country but the Mount Prospect operation is now the company's largest in the U.S. and the only one in the Midwest.