Over the past 40 years, information technology has had a major impact on the working lives of millions of people. Many industries have embraced computer technology because of the benefits of automated information processing. These include enabling routine, repetitive and monotonous tasks to be conducted with consistent accuracy; standardization and consistent use of terminology and nomenclature; and mass customization (the capacity of information technology to provide services to a large population, yet in a way that can be customized to the individual).
For prescribers and pharmacists, Information Technology (IT) can enable the storage of structured patient records, facilitate the electronic prescribing, dispensing and administration of medicines, automate the handling of medicines in the supply chain and provide tools for monitoring the efficacy and safety of medicines in use. IT can therefore improve patient safety, enable professionals to provide high quality care and help patients make the most of their medicines.
Pharmacists are already using IT systems to support their daily work and, when considering the IT requirements for emerging working practices, pharmacists should consider what functions could be provided by systems that they already use.
One of the biggest challenges consumers face is incorporating complex and multiple medication regimens into their daily lives. It’s important to design behavioral and therapeutic interventions that engage patients throughout their journey from their first prescription fill through refill. Today, various platforms assist with dosing, how to take specific medications such as injections, and how to mitigate adverse effects.
Another technology gaining popularity is the central fill automation machine, which can fill medicines in high volumes in lieu of a technician or pharmacist. Central fill automation machines are especially beneficial for medication refills: Based on the first fill of a medication, subsequent fills are automatically filled for verification and dispensing. In addition to lowering operating costs and reducing dispensation errors, this can save significant time for pharmacists, allowing them to work on more clinical aspects of medication dispensing, such as patient counseling or medication therapy review.
Pharmacies are also using the large amount of data they generate in a variety of ways. The current pharmacy management systems used through pharmacy benefit managers have information about each patient’s prescriptions and prescription pick-up habits. Several health insurance companies use this data to flag patients who haven’t picked up their medicine in recent months – an indication of medication non-adherence. This provides an opportunity for the pharmacist to either call or speak with the patient about the necessity of taking their medicine as prescribed.
Additionally, some pharmacies and health insurance companies are using big data to predict the risk of medication non-adherence. This medication adherence prediction model is based on several variables, such as patient demographics, the number of medications a patient takes, out-of-pocket costs for medications, and past refill habits. When a patient is identified as high-risk for medication non-adherence, a pharmacist provides them with additional counseling to reduce the possibility of non-adherence. They focus on educating the patient about the importance of adherence, the need for the medicine, what to expect for treatment outcomes and side effects, cost concerns, and so forth.
Companies like Grane Rx are stepping up to fill pharmacy’s needs in this time of change. “Grane Rx is a high-touch senior care pharmacy and medication management provider. The organization’s end-to-end services include clinical consulting, staff training, on-going staff support, pharmacy transition facilitation, precision medication prescribing, and state-of-the-art pharmacy automation. All solutions are designed to streamline senior care operations, optimize care and manage costs. Grane Rx works closely with our clients to build a collaborative relationship and ensure a smooth pharmacy transition,” says Scott Sosso, Chief Marketing Officer of the company.
Grane Rx mostly works with organizations in Medicare’s and Medicaid’s Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). But changes are being seen in that arena just as with other pharmacies. Sosso goes on to say, “We are looking to deploy new technology through mobile applications and at home dispensing technologies that will provide critical feedback to the PACE operations teams to know which participants are in need of adherence training. These tools will provide operational improvements for the PACE clinical staff.”
Making use of new tech innovations is helping pharmacies compete in the commercial marketplace, but also allows them to improve the services they offer. The use of modern technology and information systems help pharmacists service customers faster and significantly reduce the likelihood of errors in prescription refills. By customizing each individual’s service, the pharmacy boosts its overall efficiency, thus creating best practices designed to keep our patients healthier longer.