What’s Ahead? Pharmacy Technology Will Drive Patient Care

Scott Kemme, SVP, Pharmaceutical Technology & Innovation, McKesson

The pharmacist plays a critical role in supporting the care plan developed between the patient and the physician.

Pharmacies across all care settings, from retail chain and community pharmacies to hospitals, health systems, and long-term care facilities, are tasked with keeping their patients healthy and adherent while facing pressure from payers on reimbursement rates, compressing margins, and the need to stay compliant.

Supporting these pharmacies and finding new ways to help them improve the care they deliver—while reducing costs and improving efficiency—has been a key focus for 2020 and will continue into next year.

Some may see pharmaceutical delivery as a simple logistics transaction; however, at its core, pharmacy is much more than that — it’s integral to the total health care process. The pharmacist plays a critical role in supporting the care plan developed between the patient and the physician.

Empowering pharmacists is paramount

As a result, it is critical that pharmacists are able to practice at the top of their license, focused on improving patient outcomes. Robust logistics capabilities and innovative pharmacy technology solutions are tailored to make basic tasks more efficient and free pharmacists to spend more time interacting with patients.

Pharmacists rely heavily on technology to help them complete many of their daily tasks such as adjudication, prior authorization, and workflow. Automated solutions not only help them with providing better care for their patients but also aid in upgrading their clinical, operational and financial performance.

This enables pharmacies to focus on implementing solutions that not only help reduce costs and increase revenue, but also help them address medication adherence, play a more active role in clinical care, and improve the overall patient experience. Having the ability to integrate tools for claims processing, clinical programs, inventory management, prior authorizations, and navigating 340B program management through their pharmacy management system allows pharmacies to add additional capabilities for better control of the cost of goods and operating expenses. They can even add clinical programs to help generate revenue.

Planning for increased need for financial assistance

Even prior to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, nearly 28.5 million Americans were uninsured or underinsured, leaving them at risk for medical costs they may not be able to afford. Since COVID-19 hit the US health system in March, some hospital pharmacies have seen a 15% increase in identified patients needing financial support, which can be addressed through patient assistance programs (PAPs). PAPs are designed to relieve financial pressures by offering free medications and co-pay assistance.

In response, pharmacies must work closely with PAP providers to stay on top of how PAPs are evolving and changing enrollment and eligibility guidelines to help patients who have lost employment or health insurance to receive their meds at no cost. Participation in 340B not only supports positive health outcomes for patients but also adds cost savings opportunities for hospitals.

Operating during the pandemic and beyond

During COVID-19 and beyond, the role pharmacists play in the health care system continues to broaden. Pharmacists across every care setting are filling gaps and providing value to health care consumers who demand quality and convenience.

Pharmacies are working hard to provide patient care while limiting exposure through such things as free delivery, drive-throughs, and curbside pick-up.

Pharmacy management software and inventory control solutions pharmacies already have in place make it possible for them to stay open and continue serving their patients with confidence. Additionally, McKesson has worked with pharmacies to adjust their needs to allow some employees the ability to work from home while still having secure access to critical EnterpriseRx® pharmacy management data.

Optimizing the way pharmacies look at information can also help them keep critical inventory levels stable to make sure each location has what they need to support their patients. Formed in response to pandemic-induced purchasing increases, McKesson’s Critical Care Drug Task Force monitors medicines across the supply chain by using data and analytics.

For example, the team compares the number of COVID-19 cases reported on a local and national level with customer demand patterns and coordinates the forecasted supply needs with pharmaceutical manufacturers. In doing so, the task force supports hospital customers managing supply constraints and ultimately COVID-19 patients.

Ultimately, technology enables patient care

Use of integrated technologies helps raise patient adherence rates, lower overall pharmacy costs, improve quality of care, simplify adjudication, improve patient outcomes, and strengthen the pharmacy’s financial performance. While technology improves pharmacy workflow and logistics, the ultimate goal is to help patients get the medications they need to live healthier lives.