Technology can help manage every aspect of the pharmacy.
Technology is changing the way healthcare is delivered. From the doctor’s office to the pharmacy, a whole host of innovative ideas and solutions are ready 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 available technologies that can help pharmacies and pharmacists manage compliance? What are the possible challenges with these technologies?
Eric Lindsay: The field of compliance is both complex and multifaceted, so I’ll focus on the most pressing aspects for your readers.
Pharmacist ID: The growing movement regarding pharmacists as healthcare providers increases the need for pharmacists to be certified for certain clinical services and as a result, the demand for related information technology services is increasing. This is a challenge for both pharmacies and pharmacists, due to the relative novelty of this need, and accelerates the need for pharmacists to partner with a knowledgeable technology provider.
Some pharmacies may want to outsource the certification process to third parties based on limited resources and areas of expertise. If this is the way it is, then a system is needed to enable things like collecting information, tracking status and correcting errors.
Take it one step further and consider the following patient experience scenario: a patient searches for which pharmacy locations offer a service they need, and arrives at the pharmacy only to find that a licensed 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 presented location has the right licensed pharmacist available. While this may seem somewhat simple, in practice there is an additional complexity. Think of a pharmacy that offers different services by different licensed pharmacists; those pharmacists and services may only be delivered during certain 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: Adherence can be seen as a patient need based on implications for clinical outcomes and financial implications for the pharmacy. Pharmacists are well positioned to influence behavior in this area, based on their status as trusted healthcare providers and the wide range of information technology solutions available.
Some of the types of information technology solutions that pharmacists can use to influence adherence include:
- Patient Communication Solutions that encourage adherence through patient refill reminders, drug pickup time notifications, and related educational materials
- Solutions that group regulations so they can be picked up the same day to greatly improve patient convenience
- Analytical Tools that can be used to identify non-clinical or at-risk patients who wish to call pharmacists in person or otherwise engage that patient’s physician
- Data visualization capabilities that provide actionable trend reporting of patient risk for prescribers, customers and payers
- Interoperable or integrated pharmacy and laboratory solutions that support the exchange of laboratory test results to monitor adherence, guide patient care and adjust treatment plans or confirm clinical impressions
Solutions of this nature can be found from a variety of vendors, ranging from those that provide just a few of these specialized services to providers of larger business solutions. There are a number of services developed specifically for pharmacy solution providers who are better positioned to address the nuances of the pharmacy and their rapidly evolving business models.
Pharmacies in all markets should think strategically about how their technology stack and partners are aligned with their future state so that they can determine the platform and partner that best suits their business now and in the future.
What are the main considerations a pharmacist/pharmacy should make when deciding which technology to implement in their practice?
The process of selecting a suitable technology provider for pharmacists and their staff will vary based on their unique needs. However, there are some common pharmacy considerations, including:
- Strategic direction: Is there alignment between the pharmacist/pharmacy and the salesperson regarding the direction of the industry and thus how the solution should proceed?
- Proven solution: Does the technology provider have a proven track record of success?
- Expertise and advocacy: In addition to the technology vendor, are they experts in your business and advocate for your industry to government, payers, associations, and other key stakeholders?
- Operating fit: Does the solution fit the way your pharmacy provides care and has the necessary integration into your existing workflow?
- Return on investment: Which supplier delivers maximum returns by driving growth or cutting costs, and how long does it take to achieve this return?
- Partnership Considerations: Can the vendor meet 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 them? How does introducing technology into the pharmacy workflow solve pharmacist burnout?
Pharmacists and pharmacy workers are feeling tired or burned out due to staff shortages, professional demands and the realities surrounding COVID-19. While many may think that adding new technology to the system simply means there is more to learn, we have seen the opposite when the technology is the right choice. Technology can and should significantly improve the workflow efficiency of the pharmacy team and enable the pharmacist and their teams to spend more time serving patients. Technology solutions can also lead to additional benefits, such as improving adherence, reducing risk, increasing revenue, and improving the customer’s convenience or experience.
Some typical solutions that follow the flow of a prescription and improve workflow efficiency apart from the pharmacy management system include:
- Inventory Management Solutions that automate the prescription filling process and reduce administrative tasks.
- U&C Pricing Solutions that run automatically on a set schedule, addressing staffing constraints and maximizing third-party compensation by reducing payment at U&C events
- Patient Communication Solutions that automate inbound and outbound communications (e.g. refill reminders, alarms, hours of operation, and more)
- Clinical Documentation Solutions that support the growing role of pharmacies as providers.
- Immunization Registry Reporting Solutions that automate the process of filing immunization claims with the state registries and facilitate a way to easily correct errors