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12/10/2020

Who’s who in pharmacy automation and technology

Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
Sandra Levy profile picture

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists have been called upon to serve their patients in ways they may never have imagined. From filling an avalanche of prescriptions and administering COVID-19 tests to providing curbside pickup and home deliveries of prescriptions and OTCs, while also being responsible for clinical services. 

With only so many hours in the day, pharmacies are turning to automation and technological solutions to improve efficiency and keep up with patient needs. And the companies in this area have continued to churn out innovative solutions to help pharmacies successfully multitask. 

Here is a look at the shining stars in the pharmacy technology and automation industry that are helping pharmacists juggle their responsibilities and the products and services they are offering.

Bavis Drive-Thru
Based in Maineville, Ohio, Bavis Drive-Thru initially offered drive-thru products and other applications to banks, savings and loans, and credit unions when it was founded in 1957.

“Bavis Drive-Thru is known for ultra-tough, U.S.-made drive-thru equipment, using the latest technology that marries convenience, reliability and throughput with a positive customer experience,” said company president William Sieber. “Our unique pharmacy-specific range of drive-thru equipment brings a targeted evolution, encompassing thoughtful features, honed by years of experience providing solutions for our nation’s top pharmacies and their patients’ needs.”  

Bavis Drive-Thru’s audio system offers the ability to remove background environmental noise in the drive-thru. “It allows for that audio signal to be present in a conventional console unit, but more commonly, that signal is provided to the store’s phone system,” Sieber said. “In this, every phone in the pharmacy is a potential portal to a drive-thru customer, which adds incredible convenience and flexibility when dealing with drive-thru customers.” 

Bavis remote delivery systems use advanced electronic drive systems that minimize the required parts, which yields low maintenance and power consumption. “Our pharmacy delivery systems offer greater carrying capacity than other systems, resulting in fewer delivery trips to the drive-thru and less time for both customers and staff,” Sieber said.

The company’s newest entry is the Falcon Drive, a state-of-the-art drive system meant to use less energy and offer a smooth conveyor experience.

CoverMyMeds
CoverMyMeds was founded in 2008 with the common patient question of why health plans would not cover certain medications. 

“This question was the catalyst of an idea to create a website that enables providers, pharmacists and their staff to manage prior authorization requests electronically,” said Caitlin Graham, vice president of core network at CoverMyMeds. “Today, we’re still streamlining care teams’ prior authorization workloads, while addressing additional medication access barriers for patients, such as affordability and complex processes for specialty medications.

“CoverMyMeds’ electronic prior authorization solution allows for the requests to be fully managed online or through provider and pharmacy system software. 

“Our IntelligentPA solution expedites the prior authorization process within pharmacy systems and is designed to help decrease prescription abandonment,” Graham said. “We are able to auto-populate the electronic prior authorization request with the patient’s demographic information, and then the provider is notified of resolution options to fill the patient’s prescription. This helps free up time for pharmacists to focus on patient care and consultation.”

CoverMyMeds’ specialty dashboard enables end-to-end visibility into the patient journey, while accelerating time to therapy by as much as 27%. CoverMyMeds also has developed a solution that Graham said arms patients with data that enables more informed therapy decisions based on cost, quality and convenience.  

Finally, when a provider initiates a prior authorization request electronically at the point of prescribing through CoverMyMeds, 43% of those determinations are made within minutes, addressing the barrier before the patient steps foot in the pharmacy, Graham said. 

Digital Pharmacist
Digital Pharmacist, based in Austin, Texas, with offices in Newark, N.J., was created to help pharmacies transform their businesses.

“Since 2012, we’ve been known for providing pharmacies with everything they need to succeed in the digital age,” said Dustin Humphreys, CEO of Digital Pharmacist. “We’ve built our technology to help pharmacies attract new customers, increase efficiencies and grow their business, all while improving patient care.”

Digital Pharmacist’s latest product is Rx Confer, a secure, HIPAA-compliant, two-way text messaging solution. It enables pharmacies to send targeted, secure text messages to hundreds of patients at once with a single keystroke to improve adherence and drive demand for incremental pharmacy services.

The company also offers a customizable, HIPAA-compliant website and mobile app, which integrate with more than 70 pharmacy management systems to simplify secure prescription refills, transfers and patient communication. 

The company’s digital marketing offerings include a range of expert marketing services and support — from ad and reputation management to curated health resources — that are designed to help pharmacists attract more customers.

Finally, Digital Pharmacist’s Interactive Voice Response offers a cloud-based, HIPAA-compliant solution that supports pharmacy operations by managing incoming calls. Pharmacies can automate and simplify greetings, call forwarding, multiple language translations and voicemail capture through a configurable and secure system.

EnlivenHealth
Based in Raleigh, N.C., EnlivenHealth, a division of Omnicell, provides advanced technology solutions for intelligent patient engagement and communications. 

Currently used in more than 30,000 retail pharmacies nationwide, the EnlivenHealth Patient Engagement Platform empowers pharmacies and health plans to measurably improve medication management, adherence and safety for their patient and member populations. 

EnlivenHealth’s solutions include Med Sync, a system designed to align prescription refills to a single date each month to coincide with appointment visits; CareScheduler, which automates scheduling, managing, reporting vaccinations and point-of-care testing; Opioid Mitigation Solution, which reduces the risk of accidental overdose from opioid use by applying evidence-based criteria to identify high-risk patients and activate naloxone co-dispensing; and Personalized Communications Solution, a digitized, omnichannel communications solution that uses EnlivenHealth’s clinical intelligence and pharmacy data to tailor communications to patients, creating a personalized experience for patients and health plan members.

iA
Johnson City, N.Y.-based iA, which was founded as Innovation Associates in 1974, develops pharmacy automation and software solutions that enable pharmacists to focus on patient care. In November 2019, iA was acquired by a consortium of investors, including former Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Greg Wasson, which brought in new pharmacist-led leadership. The company recently refreshed its brand, including its name, iA, which is supported by the tagline: Unleash the Full Potential of Pharmacy.

“Since our founding, we have employed innovative engineering design and highly effective manufacturing techniques to produce a wide range of customized technologies for a variety of industries,” said CEO Marvin Richardson. “Our goal is to help customers transform their pharmacy through our suite of leading-edge pharmacy automation and software solutions.”

iA’s line of hardware and Symphony Software optimize fulfillment throughout retail, hospital/health systems, federal health care and mail-order pharmacies.

Richardson said that iA’s pharmacy solutions automate prescription filling and allow the pharmacist to spend more time with patients providing services. 

“From retail to mail order to central fill, iA works with our customers to tailor our software and hardware solutions to meet their needs and support the growth of their pharmacy,” he said. “We empower pharmacy providers and pharmacists to unleash the full potential of pharmacy.”

Inmar Intelligence
Inmar Intelligence is based in Winston-Salem, N.C., where it was founded more than 40 years ago.

Lari Harding, Inmar Intelligence’s vice president of client development, said the company’s first solution revolutionized the consumer coupon processing industry. 

“Previous practice had brands reimbursing coupon costs to retailers based on the weight of the coupons and/or sampling,” Harding said. “Our platform provided a complete count of all coupons, bringing critically needed automation, transparency, accuracy and security to the process of coupon settlement.”

Harding said that promotion processing and settlement now are a part of Inmar’s Fintech Solution suite, which includes trade promotion optimization and EBT services. 

Inmar’s service to retailers and brands features returns management, including returns from trading partners and consumers, as well as Rx product returns for more than 80% of the nation’s pharmacies, wholesalers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and hospitals. The company recently opened a new processing facility in the Dallas area. 

The Inmar Intelligence Healthcare suite of services also includes recall management, Drug Supply Chain Security Act product-tracing solutions, consumer drug take-back programs and pharmacy financial management services. The financial management offering enables pharmacies to maximize profitability through better contract management, audit mitigation, and improved reconciliation and collections. 

Inmar also recently launched its Innovator Ecosystem, which seeks to integrate leading tech, analytics and media solutions into its platforms. Most recently, Inmar Intelligence debuted InmarPay in October, offering a unified omnichannel payment platform connecting consumer engagement and payments for retailers, pharmacies and CPG manufacturers. The platform will soon link to Inmar’s Retail Cloud, as well as patient billing and payment solutions. 

InfoWerks
InfoWerks, based in Las Vegas and founded in 1997, had its origin in data conversions.

“We’ve expanded offerings over the years to meet the needs of pharmacy and the entire healthcare ecosystem,” said company co-founder and CEO Jeff Deitch. “InfoWerks positioned the brand to be the ‘pipes’ that healthcare data flow through to support software systems and other data-driven services throughout the industry. The company had a passion for interoperability long before it became a vital need in health care. InfoWerks is excited about the opportunities to continue to express that passion while advancing patient care.”

Deitch said that data, accessibility, portability and interoperability are the most valuable assets of any organization. “We make those things happen, whether that be a data conversion from one system to another, secure archiving, gaining insights through analytics or sharing data between health information systems,” he said. “We address all these needs and more in the continuum of healthcare data management.”

InfoWerks recently launched the latest generation of its iWerks platform and, in mid-2021, the company will debut a platform that allows for more efficient data processing and interconnectedness across its services.  

“This new platform helps address the latest regulations going into effect now and throughout the next few years,” Deitch said. “It will enable our customers and team to improve existing and launch additional products and services faster and easier.”

KNAPP
Kennesaw, Ga.-based KNAPP Healthcare Solutions provides state-of-the-art automation for the global pharmacy supply chain, with a particular focus on blending secure supply chain regulatory compliance, including track, trace and serialization, with efficient operations. The company’s customers include pharmaceutical manufacturers; wholesalers; pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs; retail chains; governmental organizations; health systems; and independent retail pharmacies. 

KNAPP delivers technology forward systems that automate central fill, mail, long-term care, specialty and retail pharmacies.

“Leveraging award-winning approaches to the digital supply chain, including big data, predictive modeling and analytics and AI, KNAPP’s industry-leading prescription fulfillment automation allows our customers to meet their objectives sooner with superior results that provide a strategic advantage,” said Brian Sullivan, senior systems sales manager at KNAPP Healthcare Solutions, USA and Canada. “These often include improvements in accuracy and reduction in cost per script, improved service levels, and unique technology-driven solutions that improve the lives of the patient.” 

The company’s core products include: ATD and KMeD automated tablet and capsule dispensers for centralized pharmacies; Apostore automated storage and retrieval systems, both refrigerated and ambient, for the retail and specialty pharmacy; Pick it Easy Robots with AI from Covariant for medication put away and dispensing; and KiSoft One Pharmacy Execution Software systems with more than 1,100 installations supported worldwide.

LexisNexis Risk Solutions Health Care
LexisNexis Risk Solutions Health Care, based in Atlanta, serves the pharmacy, payer, provider and life science industries by using identity, claims and provider data to deliver meaningful insights that can improve outcomes and operational efficiency.

“Our provider validation tool enables real-time checks against all prescriptions — right within the pharmacy workflow — to ensure prescriber and licensure data are accurate and in compliance with federal, state and industry regulations,” said Craig Ford, senior vice president of pharmacy sales. “We also are known for our delivery of identity-based solutions and patient-level data to aid in patient identity management and personalized approaches to care.”

Among the company’s offerings is LexisNexis Risk Solutions VerifyRx, which provides real-time compliance verification on prescription transactions at the point of care before transmission to payers, which helps pharmacies reduce risk and optimize reimbursement.

The company’s Provider Data Masterfile serves as a centralized database that improves and evolves daily by ingesting, verifying and integrating incoming data, including proprietary data collection and outreach findings.

LexisNexis Risk Solutions’ Socioeconomic Health Attributes enable pharmacists and other healthcare providers to better understand each patient for optimal engagement and, ultimately, better outcomes.

VerifyRx, a tool that processes millions of transactions a day, is highly configurable and responsive, enabling real-time sub-second response on multiple compliance checks for all prescription transactions.

Finally, a COVID-19 Data Resource Center identifies information, care needs, resources and other factors that healthcare organizations and professionals need to make informed decisions about the infectious disease. The company also enhanced the VerifyRx Prescriptive Authority Edit feature in response to dispensing of COVID-19-related prescriptions. 

Magstar
Magstar, based in Canada, was founded in 1986 by Steven Greenwood and Ronald Ross. In 2012, the company was acquired by Constellation Software.  

“Our mission has always been to deliver an enterprise-wide software solution to the midsized multi-location retailer,” said president Greenwood. “For over 36 years, Magstar has been helping retailers integrate operations and synchronize workflows with omnichannel ERP and POS solutions made explicitly for specialized retailers. With an end-to-end solution that addresses your unique retail needs, you can automate processes, gain inventory visibility and outshine competitors.”

For the pharmacy industry, Magstar Total Retail offers direct integrations with Rx dispensing applications, as well as Appriss. The company also offers 2-D scanning of drivers’ licenses for ID and age verification, in addition to supporting EBT and flexible spending account cards. Magstar’s system also provides an internal gift card program and interfaces with third-party gift card programs.  

“Magstar has stayed ahead of the curve with our in store operational technology,” Greenwood said. “We support tablets for assisted shopper and curbside pickup payments, including BOPIS, or buy online pick up in store. We also offer mobile support, including receiving, ordering, transfers and inventory count, giving users access to real-time store and in-depth supply chain information.”

Magstar Total Retail allows retailers to offer an optimized customer experience, while also increasing efficiencies on the back end. “Our direct integrations with a variety of pharmacy systems help to reduce complexities. On the front end, things like internal gift card programs greatly benefit retailers by fostering loyalty from customers,” Greenwood said.

OmniSys  
OmniSys, based in Dallas, has a mission to help improve the health of health care by empowering retail pharmacists as a provider of care. 

The company offers medical billing, electronic health record, automated pricing and patient communication solutions for pharmacies, as well as consumer engagement programs for pharmaceutical manufacturers that drive value and deliver real results. OmniSys currently serves more than 25,000 pharmacies and connects to hundreds of payers. 

“We know that shrinking margins and changing market dynamics are putting pressure on pharmacies,” said John King, the company’s CEO. “But at the same time, provider status is expanding, and an increasing number of patients are choosing the pharmacy as their preferred destination for clinical care. OmniSyS helps pharmacies protect their bottom line and successfully leverage the expanding role of pharmacists to grow their business.”

Founded in 1988, OmniSys began as a medical claims processing company to help pharmacies bill and get reimbursed for goods and services covered under Medicare Part B. Over the years, those capabilities expanded to include virtually all medical payers, as well as Medicaid and most commercial plans.

In the past five years, the company has expanded its portfolio, adding solutions that are targeted towards enabling the pharmacist to be a provider of clinical services. In 2016, the company launched an immunization service that leveraged its adult immunization data and intelligent, real-time alerts to improve companion immunization rates from 2.5% to 24%. 

Last year, it made two acquisitions. The company’s acquisition of Rx-Net was focused on optimizing pharmacies’ cash business, while maintaining profitable margins, adding Rx-Net’s automated usual and customary pricing solution. OmniSys’ subsequent acquisition of Strand Clinical Technologies integrated the industry’s first electronic pharmacy-specific health record with OmniSys’ medical billing and reimbursement platform.

Surescripts
Arlington, Va.-based Surescripts’ vice president of key accounts, Bobby Davis, said that in 2001, pharmacy associations formed SureScript Systems to enable e-prescribing, and the three largest PBMs formed RxHub to connect payers and prescribers.

In 2008, these competing organizations formed Surescripts as an alliance meant to build a national network to deliver comprehensive patient information to the point of care, turning data into actionable intelligence. Now, Davis said, it is the company’s leading health information network built to transform how patients, pharmacists and patients interact. 

“The Surescripts Network Alliance unites virtually all electronic health records vendors, pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacies and clinicians, plus an increasing number of health plans, long-term and post-acute care organizations, specialty hubs, and specialty pharmacy organizations,” Davis said, noting that last year the company processed nearly 20 billion secure transactions that generated actionable patient data for more than 95% of the country’s population.

To empower healthcare professionals, especially amid the pandemic, Surescripts offers e-prescribing; its Real-Time Prescription Benefit tool, which delivers real-time, patient-specific benefit and cost information within the electronic workflow; and  Medication History for Reconciliation, which aggregates and delivers accurate dispensed medication history data from pharmacy benefit managers and pharmacies directly within the electronic health record, or EHR, workflow.

This year, Surescripts has announced a number of tools that provide specialty pharmacists with clinical information, better prior authorization capabilities and a prescription benefit tool that enables pharmacies to access information on out-of-pocket prescription costs and therapeutic alternatives at the point of dispensing.

Synergy Medical
For over a decade, Synergy Medical, based in Canada, has been focusing on the pharmacy automation sector, helping pharmacists streamline operations with robotic technology. Founded to automate the manual process of creating prescription blister cards, SynMed continues to lead the way with innovations that enhance adherence, accuracy and efficiency, while reducing errors and saving money in the process.

After five years of development led by founder and president Jean Boutin, the SynMed system made its 2008 debut in a high-turnover Montreal pharmacy, followed by three additional launches over the next few months. In 2009, more than 15 pharmacies in Canada joined the SynMed family and by 2010, that number included the first U.S.-based pharmacies. 

In contrast to manual production, a SynMed robot does not tire, make mistakes in concentration or run up labor costs. The company’s automated dispensing systems support medication therapy management efforts by easily adapting and interchanging among single-dose and multidose blister pack configurations, organizing medications by day and administration time, Boutin said. 

A typical card has 28 individual blisters — seven rows by four columns — with each row and column color coded to represent a day of the week and specific dosing time, respectively. That makes it easy for patients to see, at a glance, whether or not they took their medications as directed, eliminating doubled up or missed doses.  

Boutin said that statistics show that a single customer, who signs up for a med sync program like those supported by SynMed pharmacy automation technology, can bring in as many as 20 additional prescription refill orders per year on average. That represents exponential growth in annual revenue of $90,000 for every 100 enrollees. Additionally, 83% of end users said that med sync programs are very or even extremely helpful for their medication management. What’s more, enrolled customers are 10% more likely to be highly satisfied with their chosen pharmacy, Boutin said. 

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