Another new EnlivenHealth technology, Personalized Interactive Voice Response, helps to address staffing shortages by decreasing administrative tasks and allowing pharmacists to focus on “patient-centric care,” Sanchez said. The cloud-based voice technology authenticates callers and then offers automated assistance. A community pharmacy in the Midwest slashed its phone transfer rates by almost 20% after adopting the new technology.
For its part, Surescripts introduced Clinical Direct Messaging to improve the communication between providers, said Lawrence King, director of product safety and performance for the Arlington, Va.-based company. The tool offers secure, EHR-integrated delivery of clinical communications and health information exchange, for improved care coordination and workflow efficiency.
And the Surescripts Network Alliance — technically not new, but always innovating — can help on the data management side, he noted. It currently links 2 million healthcare professionals and organizations across the United States.
“Practitioners are being hit from every direction with data, trying to organize and coordinate it all,” King said. “In an age of rampant burnout, SureScripts Network Alliance is working to improve interoperability — delivering the right information providers need at the right time to work with patients to make the right decision — ensuring the entire patient encounter is not spent clicking through different screens to find the insights needed.”
Speaking of data management, King noted that his company’s Real-Time Prescription Benefit and Specialty Medications Gateway now enable critical-information transfer to pharmacies. The prescription benefit helps pharmacies “solve for affordability and adherence upfront” via delivery of patient benefit information such as prior authorization flags and therapeutic alternatives. The gateway, meanwhile, simplifies the complex manual specialty enrollment process, slashing administrative burdens and streamlining provider-to-provider communications.
Consider automation advances
Automation advances outside of central-fill operations also spell opportunity for retail pharmacies. Automation is no longer limited to the pill-counting systems and the like, points out Brian Sullivan, principal – pharmacy solutions, North America for Knapp, Kennesaw, Ga.
“In recent years, we have seen more use of automated storage and retrieval systems like the KNAPP-Store,” he said. “If we can automatically induct, store and dispense medications [and] OTC and will-call orders in a very dense storage space, we can now reimagine the retail space, focusing on and expanding patient care. With DSCSA requirements fast approaching, the automated induction of medications reduces technician time, as these next-gen retail systems can automatically read individual serial numbers and accompanying data via 2D bar codes — meeting the latest DSCSA validation and tracking requirements.”
Yet another automation advance expands will-call “lockers” for off-hour pickup by patients, Sullivan noted. The KNAPP-Store 24/7 solution relies on a smartphone barcode reader to pull orders and nonprescription items on demand. The solution includes meth check, tele-pharmacy and payment capabilities.
Webster agrees that automated will-call/Rx self-retrieval lockers represent a major innovation — and believes they should have a wider role. They speed up fulfillment, eliminate line-ups and enhance convenience, so clients actually want to go to the retail pharmacy.
“Plus, and this is a key benefit, it frees up more time at the dispensary counter for counseling, focusing on the ‘health’ part of the customer interaction as opposed to the logistics/payment part,” he said.
New automation solutions can advance retail pharmacy efforts to help patients navigate affordability challenges, too, Crockett said. More than half of pharmacists — 54% — say they lack time to complete their job effectively, according to CoverMyMeds’ latest Medical Access Report.
“We’re beginning to see emerging technology that can help patients and pharmacists alike by automating the repetitive manual process of searching for and comparing various affordability options, including discount cards, to help patients find the best price,” she said. “Instead of pharmacists running and reversing a chain of claims using various discount cards to find the best option for patients, technology can do the heavy lifting and quickly present clear options to pharmacists and patients. As a result, more patients can leave the pharmacy with their medication at a price they can afford.”
Don’t wait to execute
Despite the potential benefits of new technology, implementation can be challenging. It requires a concerted effort on the part of the entire pharmacy team, noted Jason Ausili, head of pharmacy transformation for EnlivenHealth.“Getting the team’s buy-in early in the process will prepare pharmacists and technicians alike to be ready for the changes and get the most out of them,” he said.
And implementation worries should not be an excuse to put off new technology investments.
“Don’t wait to execute, and don’t wait to implement a tech stack that supports your efforts,” Pope said. “Payers are buying into pharmacists as providers, into retail pharmacy as the front door of health care. The time to get your technology platforms in place is now.”