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Hospital pharmacies on cutting edge

Northwest Colorado pharmacies

  • Bonfiglio Drug & Soda Fountain (736-2377), Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.- noon
  • Lyon's Corner Drug and Soda Fountain (879-1114), Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • City Market Steamboat Springs (879-3290), MondayFriday, 9 a.m.8 p.m. , Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. , Sunday, closed
  • City Market Craig (824-4449), Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Safeway Steamboat Springs (879-2500), Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-7p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Safeway Craig (824-8118), Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Kmart, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

The Pneumatic tubes, Pyxis dispensing and the Meditech computer systems make the pharmacy at the Yampa Valley Medical Center a marvel of modern medicine.

But despite all the science and technology, department director Wes Hunter said the pharmacy remains focused on a simple goal – meeting the needs of the patients who walk through the Yampa Valley Medical Center’s doors each day.

It’s much the same story in Craig where Kyle Miller keeps The Memorial Hospital on the cutting edge of technology while staying in touch with the reason he became a pharmacist in the first place. “This is a great job and I really enjoy what I do,” Miller said.



What Miller and Hunter do is monitor and dispense medications that are used to help treat patients. The hospitals are different in size and volume, but are guided by the same national standards and overriding principals.

In Steamboat Springs, it takes six pharmacists and two technicians to monitor all the medication, which is given to the hospital’s patients. In Craig, Miller works alongside two technicians to accomplish the hospital’s goals.



Both departments play a critical role by filling in-patient prescriptions, tracking patients’ drug therapy and offering advice when needed.

But don’t mistake them for your neighborhood pharmacy.

“There’s a big difference,” Hunter said. “We work with the doctors and nurses to make sure we have optimal drug therapy outcomes.”

Hunter said his department reviews each patient’s drug therapy on a daily basis to make sure patients are receiving the proper dosage in a safe and very controlled manner.

Hunter said most outpatients deal with retail pharmacists who fill doctors’ prescriptions and offer basic information on the best way to take the medication. They also warn patients about negative side effects and the warning signs that a medication may not be working properly.

But unlike the neighborhood pharmacy, hospital pharmacies review patients’ charts on a daily or even hourly basis to make sure the medications they dispense are working properly and not interacting with other drugs or foods.

Hunter said both hospital and retail pharmacies are important to the community, but that they fill very different roles.

Although most of the patients at Yampa Valley Medical Center and the Doak Walker Care Center will have little contact with Hunter and his staff during their stay the pharmacy is a vital part of most modern hospitals.

“We are here to meet the needs of our patients and the doctors and nurses who are caring for them,” Hunter said.

Although most of that work is done behind the scenes, Hunter is hoping that educational programs will increase the department’s visibility among patients in the future.

Yampa Valley Medical Center’s pharmacy is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday the pharmacy closes at 5 p.m.

In those hours, the pharmacy fills orders, stocks the hospital’s state-of-the-art Pyxis dispensing system and reviews patients’ drug-therapy histories to make sure that dosages and treatments are working effectively.

When the pharmacy is not open, Hunter or one of his fellow pharmacists is on call to answer doctor’s questions or to come in to fill a prescription in a pinch.

Hunter said the Meditech computer and the Pyxis dispensing system has made his life easier the past few years.

The Pyxis system is a lot like a vending machine, in which doctors and nurses can call up the patient’s medical history on a computer screen and withdraw the proper treatments.

Doctors and nurses can make a note of the time, date and type of medication that the patient was given on the computer system. The system also allows more efficient billing and allows the hospital to keep a better check on its inventory.

The pharmacy also uses the Meditech computer system, which alerts nurses and doctors to allergies, dose alerts and possible interactions.

The Memorial Hospital in Craig has taken its system one step further and has instituted a barcode system in which doctors and nurses scan a code on the patient’s wrist and another on the medication’s container to make sure that the two match.

Hunter said, by this time next year, a similar system will be in place at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

The system will reduce the chances of giving the wrong medication to a patient and will further streamline the process of updating the patient’s medical history.

Hunter said the system also will send an alert to doctors and nurses if prescribed treatment does not match the patient’s medical condition.

Miller said the pharmacy at The Memorial Hospital is currently phasing in the Pyxis system. He said it is a slow and time-consuming process that requires patience and money.

“The systems are expensive, and there are always a lot of kinks to be worked out along the way,” Miller said. “By moving slowly, we can uncover those problems and get them worked out before it impacts the patients.”

His pharmacy is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. He is on call when the department is not open.

The pharmacy at YVMC also is working on a cooperative program with the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center to meet the mandates of the National Patient Safety Grant.

Students at the school are working with patients for a list of medications each patient is taking. Hunter hopes those lists can be incorporated into a computer system that will allow doctors and nurses to evaluate each patient’s drug therapy and move the hospital in Steamboat closer to a paperless system.

Miller said such systems are a growing trend aimed at reducing human error.

“A paperless system would improve communication in the continuum of care,” Miller said.

He said that when orders are handwritten, there is always a chance for error. The person taking the order could read it incorrectly and process it without knowing.

But in a paperless system, the chances of making a mistake are reduced and the process is more streamlined.


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