Software Advances the Pharmacy Industry

Eileen Koutnik, Assistant Editor, Pharmacy Times
Published Online: Saturday, November 1, 2003

    How well a pharmacy operates depends on many factors, including size, number of staff members, daily prescription volume, and the technology implemented. Many independent, chain, and hospital- based pharmacies are integrating pharmacy management systems (ie, pharmacy and work-flow software) into their existing systems to meet the challenges of the industry. These challenges include the increasing role of pharmacists in improving drug therapy and patient care and the new Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act guidelines.

    In hospital pharmacies, Siemens Medical Solutions and LifeCare Technologies are meeting their clients? needs with their software systems. The Siemens Medication Management Solution comprises Siemens Pharmacy, Siemens Med Administration Check, and Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE). Together they automate, track, and ensure the quality of the medication-use process by helping to optimize patient safety, streamline work flow, and reduce operational costs.

    Siemens Medication Management Solution is easily integrated with its already existing health care solutions?Unity, Invision, and its most recent, Soarian?which make up its 3 customer bases. ?We sell Siemens Pharmacy and Siemens Med Administration Check into our existing customer bases and as a stand-alone into other hospitals,? said Rob Christiansen, marketing manager of pharmacy solutions for Siemens (based in Malvern, Pa). Many of its customers are choosing to use Siemens Pharmacy and Siemens Med Administration Check together. In >310 hospitals, Siemens Pharmacy provides total support for the pharmacy department. It integrates with Invision and Soarian and non-Siemens systems for CPOE of medication orders, pharmacist clinical intervention documentation, and clinical decision support. Med Administration Check uses barcoding technology to confirm the ?5 rights? of medication administration as well as patient information such as injection site. All of these data are captured at the point of care and are automatically documented.

    ?Both systems are easy to learn and easy to use,? said Christiansen. ?The advantages of both systems are that they are integrated on the same database and provide nursing and pharmacy with a common view of data for enhanced communication and work flow.?

    The Reading Hospital and Medical Center in West Reading, Pa, has been using Siemens Pharmacy since 1998 and Med Administration Check since January 2003. Anne McKee, assistant director of pharmacy, said that both systems work well for the 566-bed hospital. ?Everything the pharmacist does impacts what the nurse does. Because the systems are interactive and everything is being looked at in real time, essentially the pharmacist and nurse are working together in the same system to the benefit of the patient.?

    Tampa (Fla)-based LifeCare Technologies prides itself on being ?a market niche? because it offers medication management solutions for pharmacy and nursing, according to Tom Morrill, Performance product manager. The Performance Pharmacy System dates back to 1988. It is an integrated management tool used by pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and nurses. The system is designed to automate routine pharmacy tasks and basic medication management as well as to monitor and document drug therapy.

    Also, Performance provides access to the patient medication profiles, and a messaging function improves communication with physicians, nurses, and the pharmacy. Another feature of the Performance system is its electronic medication administration record (Emar). This integrated software provides for a bidirectional link for order entry between the point of care, the nursing unit, and the pharmacy. A pharmacy can have the system up and running in 3 months. LifeCare will install it and will provide 3 days of training. After 12 weeks, LifeCare will review what the pharmacy has done to ensure that everything is fully operational, according to Morrill.

    Both the Siemens and LifeCare systems work together with the drug formulary database. LifeCare uses Medi- Span software, which has 30,000 drugs in the database, said Morrill. There are 2 indicators on the software: ?Is the drug on the formulary?? and ?Is this drug stocked?? Once the drug is located, the system gives the pharmacist all the needed information, such as dose range, possible allergies, and the option of patient education material that can be printed and given to the patient. Because Medi-Span integrates with Performance, it puts the caregivers (doctors, nurses, and pharmacists) ?on the same page,? allowing for patient safety to be taken to a new level, said Morrill.

    The Reading Hospital and Medical Center uses the drug formulary from First DataBank. McKee said that the Siemens system works with First Data- Bank and allows the nurses and pharmacists to be on the same system and to see the same alerts. Another advantage is, ?You can tailor the formularies you see to formulate your needs,? said McKee.

    Hospital pharmacies are not the only ones improving the practice of pharmacy. Independent and chain pharmacies also are seeing the benefits of pharmacy software. Tammy Devine, vice president of marketing for QS/1 Data Systems in Spartanburg, SC, said, ?One thing we see a lot of is pharmacists wanting everything integrated to streamline the process and use 1 system that keeps all the data.? Because of the many different ways prescriptions come into the pharmacy, ?work flow is so important, because you want to separate tasks and utilize the staff you have,? she said. QS/1 offers various systems to meet a particular pharmacy?s needs. RxCare Plus for independent pharmacies was introduced in 1977. This pharmacy management system is used by >8000 independent pharmacies. Built into every RxCare Plus system are comprehensive tools for disease management, third-party billing, prescription processing, and flexibility to customize the system to meet a pharmacy?s requirements.

    Chain pharmacies rely on the CRx in-store management system. With a 20-year track record and installation in 660 chain pharmacies, CRx is a menudriven, user-friendly system that is easy to learn, integrates seamlessly with the in-store management system, and performs requests from multiple users at the store and corporate office simultaneously. QS/1 also offers Prime- Care for nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and hospitals. This system, installed in 519 locations, gives these institutions the ability to track patients through the course of their care, with support for bar-coding systems and access to clinical information on >150,000 drugs.

    The installation of the 3 software systems takes from 2 to 6 weeks, depending on the size and location of the pharmacy. Devine said that, depending on what the pharmacy needs, systems can cost from under $10,000 up to $100,000.

    Building on its commitment to pharmacy and patient care, PDX-NHINRx. com reaches 10,000 customers with its pharmacy software technology. PDX is the pharmacy software branch of the company. Its customer base is comprised of chain, mass merchant, grocery store, and independent pharmacies, according to Todd Whitley, director of communications. As the pharmaceutical industry continues to grow, ?there has been continued interest in making things more electronic and cutting down on paper,? said Cherrie Cruz Cannon, sales and marketing consultant for PDX-NHIN-Rx.com.

    Referred to as the ?legacy product,? the PDX Pharmacy System was introduced in 1985. The system offers a host of functions, such as basic prescription filling, detailed reporting, and pharmacy management capabilities. Furthermore, the system can be tailored to fit a pharmacy?s needs.

    In an effort to meet the growing demands on pharmacists and the pharmacy shortage, the company created PDX Workflow. ?The need for Workflow was to free up the pharmacist,? said Jill Burton, manager for Rx.com EPS Implementation and account manager for PDX-NHIN-Rx.com.

    ?It is integrated into the PDX Pharmacy System to organize and streamline work behind the counter,? added Whitley. PDX Workflow works by organizing the prescription filling routine into common blocks of tasks, including data checking and drug utilization review checking. It helps pharmacy staff members maximize productivity and increase prescription-filling efficiency. ?It [PDX Workflow] really lends itself to graphic features and has safety nets and security features,? according to Cruz Cannon. Also, she said some pharmacies choose to implement PDX Workflow ?to keep from increasing staff.?

    Whether it is independents trying to stay abreast of the cutting edge of technology, chains trying to meet all the needs of their stores, or hospitals trying to keep up with all the health care changes, the pharmacy industry is an ever-evolving marketplace. Therefore, pharmacies are moving toward technological advances such as pharmacy software solutions to help them return to the basics of pharmacy? improved patient safety and patient counseling.



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