Accompanying the sweeping changes augured by health care reform are ongoing changes from advances in technology, which are opening doors for the retail pharmacy sector with new solutions.

pharmacy technology, Rx tech, health care, health care reform, retail pharmacy, community pharmacy, e-prescribing, electronic prescribing, electronic health records, EHRs, drug store technology, pharmacy automation, telepharmacy, mobile applications, social media, Mike Coughlin, ScriptPro, Mark Gregory, Kerr Drug, L. Preston Hale, pharmacist, QS/1 Data Systems, Doyle Jensen, Innovation, Tom Rhoads, Parata Systems, Christopher Thomsen, Kirby Lester, Ron Weinert, health systems, Walgreens, Richard Monks

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Roundtable: What's coming up next in Rx tech

January 20th, 2011

NEW YORK – Accompanying the sweeping changes augured by health care reform are ongoing changes from advances in technology, which are opening doors for the retail pharmacy sector with new solutions.

With implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as other factors reshaping the U.S. health care system, a variety of technologies — some old and some new — are expected to become even more crucial to community pharmacies.

Chain Drug Review recently asked representatives from the companies that supply those systems and the retailers who use them to take a look at what lies ahead in pharmacy technology.

Participants in this "virtual roundtable" included Mike Coughlin, president and chief executive officer of pharmacy technology provider ScriptPro; Mark Gregory, vice president of pharmacy and government affairs at Kerr Drug; L. Preston Hale, a pharmacist and national manager of strategic accounts for health care solution provider QS/1 Data Systems; Doyle Jensen, executive vice president at pharmacy automation firm Innovation; Tom Rhoads, CEO of pharmacy automation company Parata Systems; Christopher Thomsen, vice president of business development at pharmacy automation provider Kirby Lester; and Ron Weinert, vice president of health systems services at Walgreens.

The following is a sampling of their comments on a variety of topics relating to drug store technology:


"Health care reform will be a catalyst that pushes community pharmacy into a new and higher level of connectivity, and it will have a far-reaching impact on how all systems will work with each other. That includes pharmacies and the automation companies that serve them. For pharmacies that have not yet dealt with this level of technology, it could be fairly expensive and time-consuming to catch up." — Christopher Thomsen, Kirby Lester

RON WEINERT, WALGREENS: "There will continue to be large increases in electronic prescribing, and there will be more ability to share data with providers to enable coordinated care."

"I think we are going to see a lot of government-enforced changes to the way pharmacies operate in the coming years. ... Pharmacies will need to have close, trusting relationships with their system vendors to deal with these challenges. System vendors will need to maintain powerful teams to monitor and keep up with the changes. ... In the future, much more than in the past, the 'system' will include not just the hardware and the software that is deployed at the pharmacy, but also the resources of the system vendor that keep the information technology up to date and compliant." — Mike Coughlin, ScriptPro


"There will continue to be large increases in electronic prescribing, and there will be more ability to share data with providers to enable coordinated care. This will allow pharmacies to receive more clinical information regarding patients and enable pharmacists to provide more clinical interventions. More coordinated care will make it easier to confirm the presence of a disease in a patient; to design and monitor an evidence-based patient-centered care plan; and document assessment, medication and monitoring recommendations." — Ron Weinert, Walgreens


"Pharmacies are well-positioned to participate in the development and expansion of the electronic health record. A patient's medication history and the growth of electronic prescribing are key components of the electronic health record. With financial incentives for physicians to adopt electronic exchange of data there will be more visibility for a complete prescription history. The expansion will create operational efficiencies at pharmacies for electronic transmission of new prescriptions. And requests for refills fit well in the pharmacy fulfillment work flow. Patient care and medication compliance will be improved, because a comprehensive medication history will be readily available. And with the expansion of electronic prescribing, it is less likely that prescriptions will be abandoned by patients when prescribed by their doctor." — Mark Gregory, Kerr Drug


"The greatest opportunity for telepharmacy will be in situations where it can introduce pharmacist access where it has not been previously available. As we've seen with in-store automation, technology adoption is always motivated by the core tenet that pharmacy works best when pharmacists are closer to patients. Today, our automated pharmacy environments fundamentally transform the pharmacist's role as care provider, putting him or her squarely out in front for medication management and to offer support services from immunization to diabetes support. These advancements are only possible because next-generation automation significantly streamlines formerly manual tasks related to dispensing." — Tom Rhoads, Parata Systems


"Social media and mobile apps will continue to grow and become a standard of practice in pharmacy. The only thing that concerns me is that I hope that verbal communication does not go by the wayside. ... I know you have experienced this as well: the endless e-mail. I have been involved with e-mails that will continue over the day when a simple phone call would have addressed all issues. ... As patients, we can only hope this does not occur with our health care." — L. Preston Hale, QS/1 Data Systems


"Interoperability requires clearly defined interface standards for EHRs to be implemented by many vendors. The standards are just now being developed, and it may be a while before they can be widely implemented. ... Until then, interoperability will be difficult to achieve between software products without customized work. ... In our current world, pharmacy technology providers write and maintain interfaces to all types of systems. As we move to EHR use, our hope is that these pharmacy system vendors and organizations, like ASAP [American Society for Automation in Pharmacy], will help bring these standard interfaces to market, thereby eliminating some of the costs pharmacy vendors have to pass along for writing unique interfaces for every product." — Doyle Jensen, Innovation

*Editor's Note: To read the full CDR Technology Roundtable and get additional executive insights, please see the Jan. 17, 2011, print issue of Chain Drug Review.