Technology can help manage every aspect of the pharmacy.
Technology is reshaping the way that health care is delivered. From the physician’s office to the pharmacy, a slew of innovative ideas and solutions are poised to change the way pharmacies interact with their customers and patients.
Drug Topics® sat down with Eric Lindsay, MBA, vice president of product management at OmniSYS, to discuss some of these solutions.
Drug Topics®: Can you provide an overview of technologies available that can help pharmacies and pharmacists manage compliance? What are the challenges with these technologies, if any?
Eric Lindsay: The area of compliance is both complex and multifaceted, so I will focus on of the most pressing aspects to your readers.
Pharmacist credentialing: The growing movement related to pharmacists as a care provider increases the need for pharmacists to be credentialed for certain clinical services and—as a result— increases the demand for related information technology services. This is challenging for both pharmacies and pharmacists, because of the relative newness of this need, and hastens the need for pharmacists to partner with a knowledgeable technology vendor.
Some pharmacies may want to outsource the credentialing process to third parties based on resource constraints and areas of expertise. If this is the path taken, a system is needed to facilitate items such as information gathering, status tracking, and error correction.
Taken one step further, consider the following patient experience scenario: A patient searches to find which pharmacy locations provide a service they need, and arrives at the pharmacy only to find that a credentialed pharmacist is unavailable at the time of the patient visit. Pharmacies need a solution to ensure that when patients look up locations for specific services, the location presented has the right credentialed pharmacist available. Although this seems somewhat straightforward, practically, there is added complexity. Think about a pharmacy that offers various services by different credentialed pharmacists; those pharmacists and services may only be delivered during specific hours. That information is critical to present to patients during their service and location search. Purpose-built technology that addresses these nuances is vital to delivering on the promise of an exceptional patient experience.
Medication adherence: Medication adherence can be viewed as a patient need based on implications to clinical outcomes as well as financial repercussions to the pharmacy. Pharmacists are well positioned to impact behaviors in this area, based on their status as trusted care providers and the breadth of available information technology solutions.
Some of the types of information technology solutions that pharmacists can use to impact medication adherence include:
- Patient communication solutions that drive medication adherence through patient refill reminders, notifications when it is time to pick medications up, and related educational materials
- Solutions that group prescriptions so that they can be picked up on the same day to greatly improve patient convenience
- Analytical tools that can be used to identify nonadherent or at-risk patients whom pharmacists may want to personally call, or otherwise engage that patient’s physician
- Data visualization capabilities that provide actionable trended patient risk reporting for prescribers, clients, and payors
- Interoperable or integrated pharmacy and laboratory solutions that support the exchange of laboratory testing results to monitor medication adherence, help guide patient care, and modify treatment plans or confirm clinical impressions
Solutions of this nature can be found from a variety of vendors, ranging from those who provide just some of these specialized services, to larger enterprise solution vendors. There are a few services purpose-built for pharmacy solution providers who are better positioned to address the nuances of pharmacy and their rapidly evolving business models that are underway.
Pharmacies across all markets should strategically be thinking about how their technology stack and partners are aligned with their future state so that they can determine the plat- form and partner that are the best fit for their business now and in the future.
What are the top considerations that a pharmacist/pharmacy should make when deciding what technology to implement into their practice?
The process of selecting an appropriate technology vendor for pharmacists and their staff will vary based on their unique needs. There are, however, some common considerations across pharmacies, including:
- Strategic direction: Is there alignment between the pharmacist/ pharmacy and vendor regarding industry direction and, therefore, how the solution needs to progress?
- Proven solution: Does the technology vendor have a proven track record of success?
- Expertise and advocacy: Beyond the technology provider, are they experts in your business and advocating for your industry with government, payers, associations, and other key stakeholders?
- Operational fit: Does the solution fit with how your pharmacy provides care and have the necessary integration into your existing workflow?
- Return on investment: Which vendor provides maximum return either through driving growth or reducing costs, and how long will it take to achieve this return?
- Partnership considerations: Can the vendor address your partnership needs, such as: support hours, service level agreements, system integration, data encryption, and more?
What are some of the most common workflow issues pharmacists face, and how can technology help address these? How does bringing technology into the pharmacy workflow address pharmacist burnout?
Pharmacists and pharmacy staff, across practice settings, are feeling tired or burned-out because of staff shortages, professional demands, and the realities surrounding COVID-19. Although many may feel that adding new technology into the system simply means that there’s more to learn, we’ve seen the opposite of this when the technology is the right fit. Technology can, and should, meaningfully improve the pharmacy team’s workflow efficiency and enable the pharmacist and their teams to spend more time serving patients. Technology solutions can also result in additional benefits, such as improving medication adherence, reducing risk, driving revenue, and improving customer convenience or experience.
Some typical solutions that follow the flow of a prescription and improve workflow efficiencies, separate from of the pharmacy management system, include:
- Inventory management solutions that automate the prescription filling process and reduce administrative tasks.
- U&C price setting solutions that run automatically on a set schedule, addressing staffing constraints while maximizing third-party reimbursement by lowering paid at U&C events
- Patient communication solutions that automate inbound and outbound communications (eg, refill reminders, will-call alerts, store hours, and more)
- Clinical documentation solutions that support the expanding role of pharmacies as providers.
- Immunization registry reporting solutions that automate the process of submitting immunization claims to state registries and facilitate a means to easily correct errors