Virtual Verification Elevates Technicians

Pharmacy Times, July 2021, Volume 87, Issue 7
Pages: 63

Staying on track with immunizations means modifying workflows and reallocating pharmacy staff time.

Now that the COVID-19 vaccines have been rolled out, keeping immunizations on track is more critical than ever, and pharmacists have been called on to administer them at warp speed.

For pharmacies to stay on track with immunizations, it is important to elevate the role of pharmacy technicians, modify existing workflows, and reallocate staff time to maximize efficiency. Balancing the routine prescription volume with patient consultations and increased immunization demand requires adjustments on the part of pharmacies, but there is 1 adjustment that will have a trickle-down effect on efficiency in general. Implementing virtual verification streamlines prescription verification by taking the process “to the cloud” and removing much of the manual work typically involved with processing prescriptions.

Here is how the virtual verification process works:

  1. The prescription arrives at the pharmacy.
  2. A licensed technician fills the prescription, then takes and uploads high-quality images of the bottle, the label, and the medication.
  3. In the virtual verification software, the prescription enters a virtual smart queue, where it awaits verification from the first available pharmacist, whether this is on-site or at a different location.
  4. The pharmacist reviews and approves the prescription in the system, with full audit log and photo documentation saved for future reference. (The pharmacist has the option to reject the prescription and send it back to the technician for reprocessing.)

The goal of virtual verification is to allow pharmacists to step away from the filling counter, spend less time on delegable tasks, and allocate more time to patient interactions and the necessary clinical duties that only pharmacists can do, such as administering immunizations. The byproduct of this modification to the prescription verification workflow is the elevation of the technician’s role.

Virtual verification helps accomplish several goals for pharmacies, such as clearing more time for immunizations, enhancing clinical opportunities, and maximizing efficiency. There are many positive effects, such as:

Virtual verification elevates the role of the technician. Technicians take on new duties and assume more responsibility for tasks to save pharmacists time. The more pharmacists can delegate tasks to capable and trusted technicians, the better. Making the prescription verification process virtual creates a clean delineation between pharmacist and technician responsibilities. Technicians handle bagging, filling, imaging, and labeling of prescriptions, allowing pharmacists to work through the verification queue efficiently and quickly without distraction and the manual work of bagging and stapling prescriptions.

Devin Trone, RPh, a pharmacy owner of 2 Medicap pharmacies in Idaho, uses virtual verification to connect all 4 of his pharmacy locations (2 traditional, 2 telepharmacies, with another telepharmacy in the works) in the cloud.

“When we put our pharmacists in the cloud, we discovered that 40% to 50% of their time had been spent on mundane things, such as stuffing bags, stickering, or applying labels. Working in the cloud helps them focus on pharmacist-only activities,” Trone said.

This extra work by his technicians does not go unnoticed, as the pharmacies have a new title for certain technicians: technician in charge (TIC), and this title comes with a pay increase. With the modified workflow, technicians play a much larger role in helping run the pharmacies.

“Many of our TICs say after just 1 week on the job that they didn’t realize how much the pharmacist has to manage on a daily basis. They all realize the importance of taking that load off the pharmacist so they can stay focused on their pharmacist-specific work,” Trone said.

By elevating technicians, without changing their scope of practice, pharmacies provide a meaningful career move for hard-working technicians who otherwise might not have had many opportunities in more traditional pharmacy settings.

Virtual verification maximizes efficiency. When talking about overall staff efficiency across all locations, Trone said that virtual verification has had a huge impact.

Once he implemented virtual verification for one of his telepharmacy locations, he realized that the system could benefit all the locations.

“It didn’t take us long to realize we could use the same telepharmacy system as part of our quality control workflow for all our prescriptions,” Trone said.

“We have 4 locations, so you know that some aren’t as busy as others. Instead of having scripts back up at the busier location, why not use the virtual verification process to distribute the workflow?” Trone said.

“Putting all of our pharmacists in the cloud helps keep any 1 pharmacist from getting overloaded,” he said.

Trone and his staff members did not need the onslaught of vaccine demand to kick them into gear and realize that they could use their staff more effectively. The pharmacies have been enjoying the benefits of this increased efficiency for some time and will be more prepared for the rising demand of immunizations year after year.

“We could easily add another 500 prescriptions a day without making our pharmacists work harder,” Trone said. “We will be able to continue growth without overtaxing our staff.”

Pharmacists can focus on immunizations and other clinical services. Imagine having a pharmacy workforce in which each pharmacist spends time conducting vital patient interactions and performing value-added activities, while prescriptions are being verified and processed efficiently, keeping patients feeling cared for and safe. For instance, a pharmacist who spends 10 fewer seconds on each prescription and fills 180 prescriptions a day would save approximately 30 minutes per day, or 3.5 hours per week. That extra time could be spent on administering more immunizations, offering medication therapy management, or providing point-of-care testing, helping drive revenue opportunities and value for patients.

Conclusion

Virtual verification provides valuable benefits downstream for the whole pharmacy industry. This includes patients who will experience efficient and high-quality service, pharmacists who get to practice at their top of their licenses, and technicians who have a new opportunity for career development. Add in the positive effect on a pharmacy’s bottom line, and it is clear that virtual verification is a great way to use pharmacy staff members to their full potential.

Mitch Larson is senior marketing specialist at TelePharm in Iowa City, Iowa.