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This article is by Featured Blogger Meghan Chilcott from her Blog Page . Republished with the author’s permission.
Successful pharmacy businesses have always been built on a foundation of personal integrity. Leaders faced with big decisions have been quick to listen to what their patients and employees tell them but slower to make judgments based on their gut instincts. It’s pretty easy to see how concern over making the wrong call could turn many of these decision makers into light sleepers.
The data simply wasn’t always available.
Over the course of the last two decades, from my position of leadership in the development of pharmaceutical technology, I’ve seen the applications of EHR systems and other analytic tools trend consistently upward in hospitals -- only now becoming mainstream in pharmacies around the country.
The ability to track patient histories to get a clearer picture of their current state of health is groundbreaking territory, particularly for pharmacies that intend to use that information in an attempt to improve patient outcomes. This approach flips the script, suggesting that responsibility for medication adherence begins at the service counter.
New Patterns In Real-World Outcomes
Experts predict that as physicians and pharmacists continue to infuse EHR systems with new clinical data, the true picture of the way drugs are performing in the real world will begin to take shape. On one hand, clinical trials are much like a snapshot in time, but on the other hand, true-to-life outcomes always play out over time. The difference, when studied over time, often brings to light valuable findings that might not have been apparent.
From there, it stands to reason that data from EHR systems has an important role to play in helping companies take more proactive actions on behalf of their patients.“The ultimate goal,” according to Douglas Taylor of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, is simply to support a broader approach “designed to [get] the right treatments to the right patients at the right time.”
The Brickwork Of Brand Awareness
Suggesting opportunities for marketers have arrived in a big way, Angelo Campano of Ogilvy CommonHealth believes that “EHRs represent an opportunity for marketers to communicate to physicians throughout a product lifecycle -- from clinical trial recruitment to workflow interventions.”
In that regard, as providers increasingly draw on patient data to trigger decision-making, they are really only steps away from applying the same information to spread the word about best practices in medicine to target audiences.
Pushing Pharmacy Services To The Forefront
In the face of increasing drug costs, hospitals are asking their pharmacy partners to do more. Naturally, controlling spending comes first, but increasingly, that task is tied to helping patients manage their health care through smartphone apps.
Tracking when prescriptions run low and automatically sending adherence messages are just a couple of advantages on the customer side, but the subsequent data-collection aspects on the pharmacist side are already leading to improvements in quality metrics while keeping pace with confidentiality and regulatory concerns. As a result, pharmacists, in general, are empowered by a more comprehensive view of data in their EHRs, better positioning them to offer more efficient and personalized service to each customer.
Community Pharmacies At The Point Of Care
There is a big advantage in targeting interventions around population health parameters. That insight, from Bhavesh Shah, director of specialty and hematology/oncology pharmacy at Boston Medical Center, is contingent on the theory that analytics will reveal the most common factors driving medication non-adherence, as well as prompt caregivers to take action on behalf of patients at a high risk of readmission to the hospital.
By and large, that approach is becoming standard practice for pharmacy partners who make those calculations, based on EHR technology and analytics in the broadest sense. As I look at the analytical landscape, I’m inclined to agree with Adam McMullin, CEO of FDS, who believes that the transformation currently underway in healthcare is positioning “community pharmacies at the core of the health care team.”
Like McMullin, I share his commitment to “go even deeper this year with more pharmacies to help them strengthen the health” of their businesses and the community at large.
The difference will be driven by, according to a press release from FDS, “best-in-class, purpose-built population health, finance and analytical solutions.”
Implementing EHR Systems In Your Organization
The starting point for any independent pharmacy interesting in adopting EHR technology is creating an implementation team -- one that features a lead physician, project manager and lead superuser. Together, those staff members will partner with IT to configure the software, identify hardware needs and transfer data from legacy systems. From there, it’s important to take an unflinching look at workflow processes, as well as the abilities of support staff. Shortcomings in either won’t be fixed; they’ll likely be made more apparent by the shift.
Just as importantly, what new adopters do with their EHR systems is as critical as where they do it. In other words, one common rule of thumb is to consider the room layout for placement. If the positioning requires users to look over their shoulder to gain eye contact with the patient, the quality of the interaction is likely to suffer. Generally, a triangular configuration is preferable. It’s also important to develop plans for the pace of the rollout, in addition to strategies to address downtime and continuing training initiatives on the system.
I’m encouraged by news that pharmacies of every stripe will become true centers of care once again. From preclinical to post-marketing, it’s no small task to bring all stakeholders on board with a new EHR system. Yet, when data not only includes basic prescription information -- but also lab and vital sign measurements, in tandem with clinical observations -- there’s every indication the future of health care will remain in the good hands of independents.
Just like it always has been.