For the vast majority of pharmacy leaders, there is a lot to be said about optimizing traffic patterns, monitoring trends in drug spending and other benchmarks when it comes to comparing organizations. In truth, perhaps the boldest and brightest insight comes not from determining how to stand out from others, but rather how to stand with them — joined together through a common approach to data integration.
That concept clicked with me.
In terms of analyzing costs alone, Hillary Blackburn, PharmD, director of pharmaceutical services for Dispensary of Hope, suggested there are many analytic tools available to monitor drug spend on the basis of data source, purchase data and volume adjustment, to name just a few trends that should be “tracked continuously.”
But how does that help identify and manage strategies for optimizing outcomes? And how can we, as health tech leaders, work to build a chain of data that holds strong and benefits customers in the long run?
Mark Eastham, senior vice president of McKesson RxO, explains that “data is the cornerstone of treating patients.” In his mind, data “now comes from many different providers in many different areas of the healthcare system. The challenge, however, is that there is so much of it out there. Health systems are using disparate systems, and so they’re trying to make sure they can communicate with each other.”
I’d submit the same thing holds true for independents facing the same kind of pressures.
Eastham also spoke about patients, in general, wanting more healthcare options available closer to them. Therefore, it stands to reason that the business of pharmacy is uniquely positioned as a next-door neighbor to the delivery of healthcare services before, during and after a hospital stay. In turn, attending pharmacists capture additional information on patients and are in a more advantageous position for follow-up on medication adherence, among other considerations.
In the past, individual pharmacy businesses were largely isolated from one another. But now, as companies continue to consolidate, prescribing data generated by multiple physicians within an entire system can now be accessed specifically at the point of sale.
That’s just one application of data analytics technology at work. Others are just as illuminating.
Perhaps the most attractive, according to the article from Chain Drug Review linked above, is the opportunity for chain drug stores to reach financially incentivized risk- and reward-sharing agreements with others to share data and insights that subsequently lower costs and improve outcomes. It also stands to reason, the author argues, that the process helps locals maintain a more stable financial position in a highly volatile marketplace.
Striving for efficiency is one thing, but it can never come at the expense of accuracy. If your business is like most, your prescriptions should be reviewed at least twice, if you’re following standard procedures, before a patient receives them. Unfortunately, many pharmacists skip over pharmacist verification or tech checks.
To avoid the problems that could arise from missed checks, consider implementing electronic verification systems. Patients can rest assured, knowing their medications have been properly authenticated at every stage — from input and fill to tech checks, pharmacist verifications and clerk checks.
Often, the weakest link in the chain of data in pharmaceutical systems is the physical process of counting doses. Pouring out pills on a tray has never been a high-tech endeavor, but robot integration with pharmacy software is changing that perception for the better. New counting machines supply solutions that expedite counting and automate dispensing in ways that keep the workflow in high-volume pharmacies flowing smoothly with scant room for error.
If an error is caused by a broken pill or something unexpected, an alert immediately pops up to bring the issue to attention.
Customer-First Digital Management Systems
Right now, several inventive digital frameworks for integrating product management with pharmacy workflow platforms are currently making the rounds. One such example, created by AmerisourceBergen, promises to streamline business operations in ways that open up greater bandwidth on the patient care side of the equation. In large part, the system enables users to access and share information effortlessly, and in real time, turning brief exchanges at the service counter into meaningful dialogues based on actionable insights rather than well-meaning pleasantries.
Ramping Up Improvements In Inventory Management
The upside is that this also turns the traditional inventory management system on its head. Unburdened by typical manual inventory control methods, pharmacists using the new platform can receive automatic inventory updates, as well as manage out-of-stock items — all from an integrated app on their smartphone or another digital device. In practice, the technology also reduces errors by sending instant alerts of potential medication interaction warnings, while shortening delivery times to patients.
Hands-On Training With A Touch of Technology
For the time- and resource-starved independent community pharmacist, onboarding new employees is a double-edged proposition: On one hand, it brings the opportunity to reinforce generally thin reserves in human capital, while on the other, it stretches the limits of how much one person can really do in a day. Thankfully, technology of this description lends a much-needed hand to the process, simplifying what it takes to get up to speed without taking away from the effort to build personal connections in the workplace.
Your Business, Only Better
As patients travel their own paths into the digital data chain, there’s every reason in the world to meet them in the online space as surely as you’d greet them at the service counter. The links between patients and providers across the broad expanse of the healthcare industry may still be in the formative stages, yet they represent a remarkable evolution in the expansion and application of critical information — as the point of sale increasingly becomes the point of care.
That said, it only holds together by virtue of the one stakeholder best positioned to identify and resolve the weakest link: The pharmacist is in.