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How pharmacies can leverage technology to manage pandemic workload

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to considerable expansion in the roles of pharmacists. A year ago, pharmacists scrambled to establish social distancing parameters, cleaning protocols and new customer workflows, while today, they’re managing an influx of patients requiring viral tests and vaccinations. All the while, they continue to counsel patients about medication regimens and support pandemic-fueled concerns on top of meeting various prescribing responsibilities.

Each patient encounter and every prescription verification remain important as our pharmacy front liners negotiate increased pharmacy workload. To continue to thrive, pharmacy staff require robust technology solutions to lead the community COVID-19 response effectively and meet safe prescribing requirements and regulatory demands. They also must leverage data in performing the vital role of guiding highest-need patients toward better health outcomes.

Serving Patients Safely
Safety is the primary concern of pharmacists. To start, they must have an accurate, complete picture of each patient who approaches the counter, including medical history, demographics, medication summary, health condition and other factors that impact patient health. This data must be current, secure and digitally documented.

If presenting for COVID-19 vaccination or testing, pharmacists are managing patients’ scheduling, consent, instructions and reporting. When patients submit prescriptions, these need to be verified and processed using a multistep process to meet various regulations. Pharmacists using manual, piecemeal systems often struggle with the effects of manual errors and less-than-optimal productivity. This also has the unintended effect of decreased time with patients.

Pharmacists effectively serve patients by approaching interactions personally. Social determinants of health, or SDOH, can tell pharmacists a lot about needs, particularly as they relate to patient likelihood of achieving medication adherence, and likely — although not yet researched — vaccination adherence. Pharmacists in the post-COVID-19 world will benefit from a better understanding of their patients with the intent to guide specific interventions to improve outcomes.

Leveraging Technology
With additional demands on pharmacies, retail staff are investing in technology solutions to enable safe and efficient operations. This includes the most pressing need for appointment-based software models for vaccination scheduling and additional strategies for managing the surge in patient data.

Pharmacists are also evaluating prescriber verification workflows, automating the process to free up staff for growing responsibilities and value-add activities. Using a compliance-driven prescriber verification solution integrated directly into workflow — including filing, billing and claims/audit processes — pharmacists can reduce regulatory risk and achieve compliance. The solution not only enables safer prescribing, it also significantly reduces the time spent on separate compliance checks, enabling more time for face-to-
face consultations. During these conversations, pharmacists are using SDOH in tandem with clinical information to guide stronger medication adherence. By operationalizing SDOH insights into point-of-care workflow, they’re gaining a deeper understanding of their patients’ barriers to optimal health. After identifying nonclinical challenges, such as lack of transportation or social support, or financial struggles, pharmacists can intervene to help connect patients with community resources.

These solutions not only streamline pharmacy workflow, they enable holistic care provision. During the pandemic — and beyond — pharmacists must demonstrate that the “big picture” of patient health matters, that safety will always come first and that patients requiring support will receive it. Effective use of technology will reinforce these key tenets, leading to better care provision and fewer pharmacy errors. dsn

"With additional demands on pharmacies, retail staff are investing in technology solutions to enable safe and efficient operations."
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Craig Ford is vice president of pharmacy and enterprise strategic markets at LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

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