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Improving adherence: Q&A with Synergy Medical's Mark Rinker


For almost 10 years, Synergy Medical has been providing proven and reliable technology for blister card automation, which now is used daily for 145,000 lives. Since the first installation in January 2008, there have been hundreds of SynMed installations in retail drug stores, long-term care institutions and in pharmacy chains that have centralized their blister card production service (central fill operations). SynMed clients are found throughout Canada, the United States and in Europe. Drug Store News recently caught up with Mark Rinker, senior director of sales, North America, to discuss the changing retail pharmacy environment, and Synergy Medical’s place within it.

DSN: What are some of the changes you are seeing in the U.S. retail pharmacy environment?

MARK RINKER: From Synergy Medical’s perspective, we see a gradual and steady shift toward multi-dose blister packaging for patients with complicated medication regimens. This trend has been in place for several years now, and I wouldn’t say it’s a paradigm shift, but it is how a paradigm shift develops — gradually, then suddenly.

Looking more broadly, I think everyone is aware that the cost of medication nonadherence is astronomical. Certainly, the most recent trends in U.S. retail pharmacy are responses to quality of care measures that affect their revenue, namely reimbursement and plan inclusions.

DSN: How does adherence packaging fit in to this picture?

RINKER: Adherence packaging is a logical way to organize a patient’s medication. The packaging allows the patient to access all of their medication by day and dose-administration time. One time pass will have all of their medication, as opposed to manipulating a series of vials. It is simply much easier for the patient.

We see adherence packaging as a natural extension to medication synchronization; it is the final step to closing the patient adherence loop. It is one step to organize their medication so renewals are all at once; it’s another step to help ensure the patient takes their medication as prescribed once they are home.

DSN: Why are blister packs the preferred choice for medication adherence?

RINKER: Blister packaging is a low-tech, low-cost and highly effective method to drive medication adherence. There have been a number of clinical trials that have drawn the same conclusion. Widely cited is the FAME study, which showed patients were 97% adherent with multi-dose blister packaging versus 61% with vials. It’s important to note that the patients with multi-dose packaging had their underlying condition statistically under better control. This is a clear link that packaging drives outcomes.

DSN: What sets Synergy Medical apart, as far as automating blister card production?

RINKER: If you look at our company, we are 52 people who are laser focused on blister card automation; it’s all we do. We are vertically oriented, meaning we design, engineer, manufacture, service and support the SynMed System. Now in our ninth year, we have developed and refined our software to enhance the blister card service — from drug and patient pictures on the label to other customized attributes that make it easier for the pharmacist to complete verification, make it easier for patients to take their medication or make it safer for facility staff to administer.

DSN: Are there options for a pharmacy that is not ready to invest in automation?

RINKER: Sure, Synergy Medical offers a manual blister card workflow solution called SynMed Assist. SynMed Assist is a safe and efficient way for pharmacies to grow their manual card production. When they reach the stage where they need to fully automate, SA is integrated into the full SynMed automation solution.

DSN: Can we expect anything new from Synergy Medical in the coming months?

RINKER: As a matter of fact, yes! For three years now, Synergy Medical engineers have been developing and perfecting a blister card automation solution for high-volume pharmacies and central fill operations. They have essentially combined three robots into one, and the end result is a very fast and highly accurate application. SynMed Ultra is complete, well-tested and will be commercially available in February 2017.

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