Home Infusion Technology Use Adapted to the Needs of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Pharmacy Times Oncology Edition, December 2021, Volume 3, Issue 6
Pages: 47

With home infusion providers experiencing increased demand since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists have had to utilize new technology to coordinate care, communicate with team members, and practice and deliver a higher quality of service.

Modern technology is crucial to the provision of home infusions, according to Vincent Thompson, founder of Thompson Solutions, an Ohio-based consulting company serving home infusion pharmacies. After 32 years in the home infusion space, Thompson said, he has seen reliance on technology increase significantly. For pharmacies, this involves clinical documentation, reimbursement, billing, and tracking of dispensing, inventory, lot numbers, and more.

Although Thompson said he has not seen a significant shift in the features and functions of technology used in home infusions, he said there have been incremental changes. For example, he explained home infusion providers have been utilizing electronic charting for 20 years, so virtual applications had already existed pre-pandemic, but were adapted as needs changed.

“I think that the industry has been more ahead of the curve than a lot of health care,” Thompson said. Although many home infusion providers were moving toward digital processes before the pandemic, the last 2 years accelerated this progress further. In a recent survey, 228 home infusion providers gave data on their use of technology between April 2021 and June 2021.1 According to the report, 99% of respondents increased their use of technology and data solutions since the start of the pandemic, including technology for electronic medical records, intake management, care coordination, and reporting and analytics. The use of this technology is also a significant factor in cost savings, with 30% of survey respondents saying technology saves them between $1000 and $5000 per month due to improved efficiency.1

Software platforms enable this efficiency in several ways, explained Sean Hill, senior account executive of AlayaCare. Home infusion appointments can be lengthy, he said, and although nurses might check vitals regularly, they can spend up to 8 hours sitting with the patient. New software allows the nurses to complete documentation electronically at the point of care, in addition to accessing necessary information at any time during the appointment.

Thompson said improving efficiency is a major goal in the home infusion market because providers want to improve automation and reduce touchpoints, especially during the pandemic. He added that many technology products used by home infusion providers allow more effective communication between departments, because, although hospitals and home health have had interoperative platforms for decades, home infusions have been largely separated, much like retail pharmacies. Now, novel platforms are pushing for more connection between different team members—such as specialty pharmacists in the office, nurses in the field, and prescribers. This greater level of technological connectivity also translates into better communication with patients via emails or texts rather than phone calls.

In addition to accelerating the adoption of new technology, the pandemic created a need for expanding access to contact-free health care. Cassandra Redmond, PharmD, MBA, director of pharmacy operations for Penn Home Infusion Therapy with Penn Medicine, explained that although technology has allowed contact-free care in certain respects, there are still areas in which it has not been possible.

“Many of the platform engineers were looking at how to provide services and engage patients in a contact-free manner,” Redmond said. “Obviously, there are certain areas [in which] that thought process may work—delivery, waste pickup, order transmission. However, there are still things like lab draws, medication administration, and dressing changes that require hands-on, in-person nursing care.”

Redmond added that she has seen exponential growth of home infusion care in the ambulatory marketplace over the last 10 years, with drug safety and stability, ease of administration, potential adverse effects, and compounding requirements used as guiding principles to determine whether they can be administered at home. The growing number of therapies and the desire for patients to receive care at home has enabled a massive expansion of the market.

“This growth and shift in care has provided a basis for software companies to keep up with the ever-changing needs of home infusion providers and patients,” Redmond said. “Many have upgraded platforms that have been around for decades. Others have created entirely new platforms that are nothing like their predecessors, whereas others decided to join forces and resources to create competitive products in the market space that can handle all aspects of home infusion.”

With a growing market and opportunities to collaborate with nurses, physicians, and other health care professionals, pharmacists are perfectly positioned to work in the home infusion space. Thompson said pharmacists are frequently able to act as “true clinicians” in home infusion care, making therapeutic recommendations and performing more clinical functions than pharmacists working in traditional hospital or retail settings, as well as coordinating care, compounding medications, overseeing the delivery of treatments, and following up with patients.

REFERENCE

State of tech in the infusion market report. 2021. AlayaCare. Accessed September 10, 2021. https://www.alayacare.com/2021-state-of-tech-in-the-infusion-market