2014 Technology Innovator of the Year Finalists
Technology Innovator of the Year
Stephen Eckel embraces technology in the healthsystem setting, seeing it as a way to advance pharmacy services and improve patient care.
His experience with new technologies in the health-system setting began when he led the beta testing of Hospira’s Plum A+ smart infusion pump, which involved performing its first clinical trials with patients. That experience led him to lead the first patient trials with the company’s next-generation infusion device, Symbiq.
In addition to IV pumps, Dr. Eckel has researched closed-system transfer devices, pioneering a concept called drug vial optimization. The research results allowed organizations to reduce chemotherapy waste by up to 75%.
Dr. Eckel developed a partnership between the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists that provides monthly continuing education activities. The program, UNC Pharmacy Grand Rounds, has subscribers from 40 separate states and several international subscribers.
In addition, his responsibilities at UNC Hospitals allowed him to implement a practice model that was awarded the American Society for Health- System Pharmacists’ best practices award in 2011. He received the award again in 2013, after developing a hemophilia stewardship program.
“Currently, almost 20% of all clinical pharmacy practitioners in North Carolina work at UNS Hospitals,” his nomination read. “These pharmacists are actively billing for their services, improving the well-being of patients, and helping to improve the revenue of the organization by promoting our specialty pharmacy services.”
Noting the presence of residual chemotherapy in many health-systems, Dr. Eckel cofounded ChemoGlo, which provides a kit that can quantify trace amounts of chemotherapy agents and identify the potential for hazardous exposure.
As leader of an internationally recognized pharmacy residency program, Dr. Eckel mentors future health-system pharmacy directors and teaches classes on pharmacy technology and management.
If you ask Chris Geronsin about using technology in the pharmacy, he will tell you it is a no-brainer.
“Technology is everyday to me,” his nomination quotes him. The incorporation of technology into his practice allowed him to find new methods to improve patient care.
An early adopter of dispensing technology, he increased prescription volumes at his first pharmacy, Beverly Hills Pharmacy, fourfold. He also embraced strip packaging at his second pharmacy, Gateway Apothecary, to improve compliance in patients who have HIV or psychiatric illness.
Geronsin turned to technology when looking for tools to assist in his adherence and partnership programs, which led to the development of customizable patient portals that increase interaction visibility. Both patients and providers can use the portal. Its features include the ability to track patient refills after hospital discharge and the ability to check drug pricing prior to writing a prescription. It can also be used to fill prescriptions during off-hours and to view prescription status in real time.
“Chris recognizes the importance of medication compliance, and takes every opportunity to help local hospitals, clinics, and schools lower readmissions,” his nomination read.
His technology know-how drove his approach when addressing the needs of his HIV-positive patients, many of whom were homeless or moved frequently. He created a medical cell phone that was programmed to call only the pharmacy, hospital, or the patient’s caseworker, and to receive text messages reminding patients to take their medications.
Geronsin applies his technology expertise to his other business ventures, including providing professional sports teams with medications. The tracking service he provides for the St. Louis Cardinals allows coaches and trainers to transmit prescriptions electronically in real time—from the diamond—and have them delivered to the stadium, using a smartphone for signature transmission. The service also creates a master record for each player to track the player’s medication history. He uses the smartphone technology to track and confirm medication deliveries to his patients as well.
Jannette Soto sees technology as a way to increase the quality of service to her patients.
At her current post at Farmacia Del Pozo, Dr. Soto researched and implemented technology solutions that allowed the pharmacy to process and dispense more prescriptions. These technologies also allowed the staff to improve the level and quality of service they provide to patients.
“Since her employment at Farmacia Del Pozo, Dr. Soto has taken major actions that have enabled our pharmacy and team to accomplish prescription sales growth from an average of 250 prescriptions in 2003 to more than 650 in 2013,” her nomination read. “On good days, we consistently process 950 prescriptions.”
The technologies implemented include robotic dispensing systems, which allow the pharmacy to increase its prescription volume, and video cameras in key areas to monitor queue, improve patient flow, and reduce patient wait times.
“Even though the prescription volumes more than doubled to an average of 650 per day, wait times have not increased,” her nomination read. “They are at the same levels as before the increase in volume. The use of the technologies mentioned improved services, allowed time for clinical patient programs, reduced the probability of errors, and increased overall efficiency at the pharmacy.”
In addition to her technology prowess, Dr. Soto actively works to enhance the pharmacist’s educational role in the community. She volunteers and serves on the advisory committee for a local technical college that offers a pharmacy technician program and offers suggestions on how to improve the program. She has also volunteered as a guest lecturer at other colleges, where she covered HIPAA rules, their importance in pharmacy, as well as other topics.
Dr. Soto coordinates several community outreach and education programs at the pharmacy that provide free services to community members. Community events held in 2013 provided flu vaccinations and thyroid testing, and educational programs covered pulmonary function, sex education, and diabetes management.