Pharmacy software, tech focus on outcomes, clinical interventions

With pharmacies continuing to focus on outcomes that are tied to reimbursement, they are feeling more pressure than ever to boost pharmacists’ interaction and engagement with patients.

Yet, it’s a daunting task. Faced with ever-growing prescription volume, pharmacists must juggle their time dispensing a higher volume of prescriptions, while also ensuring they are taken as prescribed. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found nonadherence contributes to nearly 125,000 deaths and 10% of hospitalizations — and it costs the healthcare system between $100 billion and $289 billion a year.

Many technology companies have taken notice of the myriad challenges that pharmacies are facing. They are cranking out innovative technologies and improving functionalities to streamline workflow and increase efficiency, thereby freeing pharmacists from having to perform mundane tasks so they can focus on counseling patients.

The innovative technologies also are allowing pharmacies to provide more convenience to patients, thereby helping pharmacies to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Efficiency and engagement
With increased patient care offering an opportunity for better patient outcomes and additional revenue streams, one of the main tools pharmacies deploy to do more during the same operating hours is their software choice. Companies offering pharmacy software are variously focused on workflow improvements, and making it easier for pharmacists to check the work of pharmacy technicians, whose responsibilities behind the counter also are increasing.

“A lot of pharmacies are moving toward having a pharmacy technician enter a prescription and fill it, leaving the pharmacist to conduct the final check, which frees them to focus more on clinical outcomes and counseling,” said John Bell, assistant product manager at Spartanburg, S.C.-based QS/1. The company’s software features a customizable workflow feature that includes multiple workflow queues, allowing pharmacists to verify multiple prescriptions, and a dashboard that allows them to monitor the queues. “Our workflow model allows pharmacists more time counseling patients rather than spending the majority of their day entering data into the system, printing labels and getting prescriptions out the door,” he said.

Alongside efficiency, pharmacies increasingly require patient engagement tools from their software, as more touchpoints offer an opportunity to impact adherence or provide reimbursable services. New York-based Amplicare also offers a workflow platform aimed at improving both patient outcomes and opportunities for further intervention.

Amplicare Connect helps pharmacies set up automated phone call campaigns — freeing up pharmacy staff — and Amplicare Restore helps identify patients whose prescription regimens might result in a nutrient deficiency, which can drive nonadherence. Amplicare CEO Matt Johnson said that Restore also could help increase OTC supplement sales. The important part is knowing when to reach out, he said.

“Patient care intervention notifications show up in-workflow as pharmacy staff is working within the pharmacy system,” Johnson said. “This process ensures that pharmacies have the information they need, exactly when they need it.”

QS/1’s refill reminder program, dubbed Health-minder, enables pharmacists to run a list of prescriptions that are due in the next 2-to-3 days, so they can be filled and ready for pickup when patients come into the pharmacy. The company’s software also can highlight which patients would benefit from medication synchronization.

“We have features built into the software that allow pharmacists to pull up a patient’s medication profile, and if they are taking five medications every day, the pharmacist can look at the last date it was filled and determine a possible synchronization date,” Bell said.

As important as knowing when to reach out is knowing which patients require additional attention from the pharmacist. Rebecca Chater, director of clinical healthcare strategy at Mountain View, Calif.-based Omnicell, said that a good portion of the patients — some pharmacies serve as many as 5,000 patients — require an intervention of some sort. Chater said that in the past, pharmacy software has been solely focused on making dispensing more efficient, rather than identifying patient care opportunities.

“Today’s direction of value-based health care signals a change, and will require pharmacists to practice to the full extent of their clinical knowledge and training,” she said. Omnicell recently unveiled the Omnicell Patient Engagement platform and analytics offering, which can track and guide patient interactions. A cornerstone service of pharmacies’ enhanced services, medication therapy management, is a key area where software providers are focused on making it easier to identify patients who might benefit from it. For example, QS/1 has an interface with two companies whose Medicare data informs pharmacists where MTM opportunities exist.

With clinical interventions, software providers are building out the analytics capabilities of their offerings to make suggestions that will be valuable for patients — both with regard to MTM and beyond, including such services as vaccinations.

San Francisco-based McKesson’s clinical solutions include the ability to identify possible opportunities for clinical intervention.

“We analyze patient history to understand how adherent they are, and help the pharmacist create a plan to make sure they are taking the medication as prescribed. We’re also looking at whether they are due for different vaccinations, so they can be administered when they pick up their medications,” said Heather Cusick, McKesson’s director of product management for clinical services. She noted that the company’s tools alert pharmacists about engagement opportunities when they’re working on a patient prescription.

In the case of immunizations, technology also can assist in potentially time-consuming reporting requirements in various states.

QS/1 offers pharmacies that provide immunizations the ability to enter data for transmitting to state registries when required, reducing pharmacists’ effort, Bell said. “It’s a time-consuming process for a pharmacist to go back into the system and manually put the information in.”

Like administering vaccines, filling specialty prescriptions also comes with such nonclinical tasks as prior authorizations and documenting a patient’s drug regimen. QS/1 can interface with other vendors to get these done quickly, Bell said. “Within our system, they can scan documents in the patient record, and we have interfaces that focus on that to help them with the workflow,” he said.

Improving the patient experience
Pharmacy technology companies also are helping pharmacies enhance the way they communicate with patients when they call the pharmacy.

Chater said Omnicell recently enhanced its Interactive Voice Recognition software solution to add functionality at a reduced cost to improve patients’ experiences. “It’s a lot easier for pharmacies to implement because, instead of having IVR hardware in each pharmacy, it is hosted,” she said. “They no longer have to make the investment in that equipment. It allows them to streamline their workflow and improve patient engagement.”

Bavis captive carrier

For patients looking for the convenience of a drive-through, Maineville, Ohio-based Bavis Drive-Thru offers a host of technologies that enable its customers — some of whom see between 60% and 80% of their volum