Mark Long, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital pharmacist, takes a prescription in the hospital’s Rivers Garage, Friday. The hospital’s latest action further protects patients and staff by minimizing traffic in the main pharmacy. 

After a month of planning, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital has opened curbside pharmacy service in the now-unused Rivers Garage, according to Lt. Cdr. Jesse Schmidt, the hospital’s pharmacy chief. Schmidt said the hospital’s design presented challenges, since its pharmacy is in the center of the building, next to the main entrance.

“We tried to do a drive-through pharmacy, but there’s no way. The uniqueness of Fort Belvoir Community Hospital’s physical structure makes it really difficult for us to do curbside, because of the distance,” he said. From the pharmacy, Rivers Garage is more than 200 yards away. “It’s taken us a while to figure out how to bridge that logistics gap.”

Schmidt said a key implementation was to provide laptops connected to the pharmacy’s software.

“What makes our curbside unique to a lot of the others in the National Capital Region or the DHA is that we were able to take our pharmacy windows and bring them outside,” he said. We’ve been able to extend our electronic network out here and be able to use laptops on wheels and intake them the same we would do at the pharmacy window. We can put them in the system, do the queuing correctly, and no other place does that.”

After some trial runs, it was decided to have customers drop off prescriptions on the garage’s first floor, wait at the Community Center parking lot until they receive a text, then pickup filled prescriptions on the second floor.

The additional distance required adding 20 government service volunteers to help deliver, as teams of runners constantly shuttle new prescriptions from the pharmacy to the garage.

Navy Capt. Cynthia Judy, hospital director, said the new procedure is for patients’ and staff safety. “The entire pharmacy team has been working really hard, over the last few weeks, to make this experience as seamless as possible. It’s all about promoting social distance and your convenience,” she said, adding that beneficiaries are asked to still wear a face covering when they drive up.

Judy suggested activating the prescription before coming in, and go directly to the pick-up location. Prescriptions can be activated by calling the main hospital number, 571-231-3224; Option 2 for pharmacy; then Option 2 again to activate your prescription.

The curbside pharmacy is available from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., weekdays. Saturday pickups are offered in the main pharmacy.

Schmidt said this process will have continuing patient benefits in the future. “After this is over, we’re going to try to keep the phone activation line, if we can,” he said. “We created an internet form patients can access from home, fill out and submit. Then, all they have to do is come to the pickup line. Not the intake line. We’re trying to give them convenience, as best we can,” Schmidt said. “We are also working on long-term solutions with DHA using automated will-call systems, and automated will-call machines in the lobby. We are taking what we’ve learned from this crisis, to figure out better ways to do things.”