The Pharmaceutical Trifecta: Using Technology to Improve Healthcare

Mar 15, 2018CMS Star Rating, Independent Pharmacy Insights, Pharmacy Growth, Pharmacy Insights, Value Based Payments

In our previous blog, we touched on the rapidly evolving landscape of the U.S. healthcare market by looking at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently passed value-based payment models (1) and how pharmacies could find opportunity in these changes. It will come as no surprise to pharmacists that the way in which medication is prescribed, distributed, and even administered in this country has kept pace with this evolution.

Some of the catalysts attributed to changes in the how pharmaceuticals are dispensed include the following advancements in medications:

  • Research
  • Safety and Quality
  • Adherence and
  • Delivery

Health information technology (HIT) plays a leading role in each of these advancements, and pharmacists who wield a diverse set of technological tools will increase their chances of having a positive impact on patient care, cost of care, improved outcomes and, ultimately, their bottom line.

The Pharmaceutical Trifecta

The value that HIT can extend a pharmacy’s reach can go well beyond the boundaries of simplified claims processing. Utilizing technology can sharpen a pharmacist’s professional skills and introduce innovative approaches into a system that now relies (heavily) on value-based care. Technology also will help local independent pharmacies keep pace with healthcare changes, provide more positive customer experiences, improve outcomes, and see a healthier bottom line. When it comes to technology, the pharmaceutical trifecta focuses on:

  1. Patients – providing positive patient outcomes and experiences
  2. Communities – creating healthier communities
  3. Cost – reducing cost of care

Technology and the Patient

There are many technologies available that can support a more positive patient experience and result in better outcomes – a requirement for providers in the value-based payment models. Some of these technologies include:

  • Computerized order entry and decision support
  • Computerized medication records, and
  • Automated dispensing (2)

These technologies can lower the frequency of medication errors and drug interactions, while also playing double duty by freeing up the pharmacist’s time so they can focus more on the patient in a one-on-one setting.

When a customer is given the time and attention of their provider, free from distractions, this fosters a positive customer experience, which can increase customer loyalty and the possibility of medication adherence.

Technology and the Community

Here’s where things can get interesting: technology benefits can stack and/or cascade. For example, when it comes to a pharmacy’s ability to foster healthier communities, it can expect positive word-of-mouth recommendations from the happy customers who had positive experiences via the technology put in place above.

Another big player in a pharmacy’s ability to connect with its community is social media. Pharmacies’ social media pages can help remind their customers of community events and programs such as:

  • 5K races to benefit a particular health concern (diabetes, heart health, cancer awareness)- getting them active
  • Calendars outlining health observances such as:
    • Thyroid Awareness Month
    • American Heart Month
    • The Great American Smokeout (3)
  • Bulletins for local services such as:
    • Diabetes support groups
    • Grief counseling
    • Drug addiction services

Technology and Reduced Cost

Again, the stacking/cascade effect comes into play. The advantages included in the Technology and Patient section also help reduce costs.

  • Computerized order entry – speeds up the ordering process and can contain modules that track inventory and submit claim information
  • Computerized medication support – lowers the frequency of medication errors and potential drug interactions
  • Automated Dispensing — frees up staff resources

These technologies pack quite a punch by improving customer experiences and outcomes, helping to lower the chance of recurring injury and/or health related treatments, lowering hospital readmissions, and increasing customer adherence — all of which can help reduce the rising cost of medications in the United States.

Other Technologies

The previous sections represent only a small sample of the technologies available to independent pharmacies. Below is a more comprehensive list of potential technology options that may benefit your organization:

  • Mobile Health
  • Mobile Applications (Drag and Drop Technology)
  • Portal Technology
  • Self Service Kiosks
  • Remote Monitoring Tools
  • Sensors and Wearable Technology
  • Wireless Communication

Closing Thoughts

Independent pharmacies have several obligations:

To their staff: to supply the most up-to-date resources and working conditions

To their patients: to supply positive experiences and outcomes, and lower costs

To their communities: to contribute to their community in a positive manner, and

To themselves: to remain relevant and profitable

Independent and local community pharmacies do not take these obligations lightly. But, in an industry that has been slow to embrace technology, it’s now time to take the wheel and audit your strengths in order to put technologies in place that will benefit every aspect of your organization.

Growing pains can be hard, but the benefits on the other end are well worth the small adjustments and minimal discomfort we may encounter during growth.

Has your independent pharmacy implemented any of these technologies? How do you think they’re affecting your pharmacy’s performance (positive or negative)? We’d love to know and may even share those experiences in future blog posts, white papers, and e-books. If you’d like to add your experience, please contact BB Drake.

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