Pharmacy Technology News

MARCH 01, 2009

ePharmacy Program Addresses Pharmacist Shortage

Saint Luke's Health System has come up with a strategy to address the growing shortage of pharmacists that saves money and increases patient safety. Two health-system members recently launched a new ePharmacy program.

The program, which is live at Missouri's Hedrick Medical Center in Chillicothe and Wright Memorial Hospital in Trenton, uses state-of-the-art technology to provide remote overnight pharmacist coverage to several of Saint Luke's facilities. With ePharmacy, physician orders are scanned to the pharmacist at the remote location. The pharmacist on duty reviews the orders and enters them into the computer system, screening for potential drug interactions and performing other clinical activities. The entering of the order into the computer system allows nurses to remove the medication from automated dispensing cabinets.

Furthermore, the ePharmacy program addresses a push by The Joint Commission for more pharmacist oversight to help eliminate medication errors.

Pharmacists Learn with Virtual Patient

Keele University's School of Pharmacy (Staffordshire, United Kingdom) has developed a virtual patient to help train future pharmacists. The pharmacy students interact with the computer-generated characters to gain experience in effective communication and decision making.

The students talk with patients via voice recognition technology or by typing questions into a computer interface, and the patient responds verbally or with a range of nonverbal gestures to indicate, for example, pain, stress, and anxiety. At the end of the session, the patient gives feedback to the students on their performance.

The virtual patient can be used to assess a number of conditions, such as dyspepsia and hypertension. When ethnicity, age, or sex is relevant to the treatment, the case can be designed to demonstrate to students how such factors are clinically important.

"Using the virtual patient allows us to explore the full patient consultation and to let the student learn from mistakes in a safe environment that would not be possible in real life," said Prof Stephen Chapman, head of the pharmacy school.

Family Health History Tool Gets Updated

The recently released, updated, and improved version of the Surgeon General's Internet-based family health history tool enables individuals to easily assemble and share family health information. The tool also can help clinicians make better use of health history information so they can provide more informed and personalized care to their patients.

Features of the new version of the Surgeon General's My Family Health Portrait, released by the US Department of Health & Human Services, include:

  • Consumer control and privacy. The family health history tools give individuals access to software that builds a family health tree. Individuals download their information to their own computer, giving them control over how the information is used.
  • Electronic health record (EHR) and decision support readiness. Because the new tool is based on commonly used standards, the information it generates is ready for use in EHR and personal health records. It can be used in developing clinical decision software.
  • Information sharing. Because the information is in an electronic form, it can easily be shared with relatives or practitioners. Relatives can add to the information, and a special reindexing feature helps them easily start their own history based on data in a history they received.

NACDS Supports HIT with Exceptions

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary recently held a hearing on "Health IT: Protecting Americans' Privacy in the Digital Age." The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) articulated its support for health information technology (HIT) adoption in its comments to the committee, but urged caution when it comes to so-called privacy provisions.

"Chain pharmacy has been on the leading edge of the adoption of HIT for many years. We have been actively involved in fostering the use of technology to improve the quality of patient care and developing standards to allow the exponential growth of HIT in pharmacy practice," NACDS stated in the letter.

NACDS, however, continues to urge that lawmakers reconsider many of the privacy provisions in the pending legislation.