The market is rife with technologies, digital tools and mobile applications all promising better business results for independent pharmacies. None will fulfill their promise unless they work in harmony with one another and with a pharmacy’s primary pharmacy management system.
McKesson asked Kurt Seefeld, director of retail product development for McKesson U.S. Pharma, to gauge the pace of tech adoption by independent pharmacies and explain how integrating new technology on a single platform is an effective way to improve clinical, financial and operational performance.
How would you describe the level and pace of technology adoption by independent pharmacies?
Seefeld: There is a lot of pressure on independent pharmacies to adopt new technologies beyond their traditional pharmacy management systems. That pressure is coming from a number of directions, most notably value-based reimbursement models and changing customer expectations. The adoption rate is moderate to accelerated. Many independent pharmacies are embracing new technologies. Those that haven’t certainly have gotten the technology wake-up call.
What types of technologies are independent pharmacies adopting or considering?
Seefeld: There is a whole new constellation of tools and technologies pharmacies are looking at that go much further and deeper than their current pharmacy management systems. The tools and technologies fall into five buckets: clinical performance, patient engagement and marketing, regulatory compliance, business analytics and consumer mobile applications. Every pharmacy needs something from each bucket these days to be successful. But every independent pharmacy is different, so how much each needs from one bucket can vary.
What’s the value of integrating technologies in these five areas on one platform?
Seefeld: The most obvious benefit is time. Integrating technologies on one platform creates a one-stop shop for all the data pharmacies need to run their businesses more effectively. Pharmacists don’t have to log into different systems to pull the information they need and manually compare it with information pulled from another system. In an independent pharmacy, every second counts. If integration can save pharmacists 10, 20 or even 30 minutes a day, it adds up and starts to have a measurable impact.
What broader benefits accrue to pharmacies that integrate new technologies on one platform?
Seefeld: Everything is connected in health care—the clinical, the operational and the financial. What you do clinically affects you operationally, and what you do operationally affects you financially. Pharmacies are no different. It makes perfect business sense for pharmacies to connect new clinical, operational and financial technologies through one platform. By doing that, they can immediately see how decisions or changes in one of those three areas affects the other two.
How specifically does technology integration help an independent pharmacy financially?
Seefeld: The financial help arrives on several levels. The first is learning about purchasing promotions or opportunities for pharmaceutical products. Technology can alert the pharmacy to those promotions and opportunities. Using an integrated platform, the pharmacy can determine if the products will support the operational and clinical sides of the business. It can calculate the return on investment from product savings, inventory management costs and revenue potential of the products.
How else can an integrated technology approach drive financial results?
Seefeld: The next level down is reimbursement data from payers. A pharmacy can see how much a plan is paying it for a prescription drug claim and how much margin it’s making from that claim. A pharmacy can use that information to tweak a clinical program or a business workflow. Deeper yet are analytics that measure the pharmacy’s performance using a variety of key performance indicators. The KPIs can flag outliers, perhaps caused by something the pharmacy is doing clinically or operationally. Again, it’s all connected. Data in one area can provide insights into other areas. Without integration, that would be much more difficult for an independent pharmacy.
How does technology integration help an independent pharmacy operationally?
Seefeld: Looking at clinical data generally and financial data specifically can point a pharmacy to an area of its operations that could be improved. For example, late payments or denied claims can indicate that the pharmacy needs to improve its claims submission process. Higher-than-expected inventory costs can tell the pharmacy that drug ordering and purchasing may need upgrades, or even that the pharmacy may benefit from a central fill service. Same with clinical data that may show lower-than-expected refill rates or adherence to medications. That data may point to the need for operational improvements.
How does technology integration help an independent pharmacy clinically?
Seefeld: Many independent pharmacies fill as many prescriptions as they can. They see their business as volume-focused, and transactional. They actually would have better financial results if they were outcomes-focused. That’s a huge cultural shift to make. When they see the data on an integrated dashboard, they see how clinical programs can move the needle financially and operationally. They see how a medication synchronization program leads to workflow efficiencies and prescription revenue opportunities. They see how clinical interventions like medication therapy management push adherence scores higher. Higher scores affect their star ratings, which, in turn, can lead to more business from health plans as a preferred pharmacy. Clinical, financial and operational data displayed on a single dashboard let pharmacies step back from their transactional mindset and see their businesses holistically.
How do mobile technologies support this integrated data approach by independent pharmacies?
Seefeld: Mobile is an important part of the strategy for pharmacies. Pharmacies need to go where their patients are, and mobile allows that to happen. That can be a simple application that notifies patients when a refill is needed or when a refill is ready for pick up. It can be a website that patients can visit via their smartphones to schedule med sync appointments. It can be a more sophisticated application for patients on specific medications for multiple chronic medical illnesses. For those patients, a mobile app can provide adherence support, prescription benefits information and lifestyle tips. All that mobile data can be fed into the integrated platform and provide additional business insights for the pharmacy.
How can a pharmacy ensure that what it’s adopting will work well together on a single platform?
Seefeld: Pharmacies have to look at building their integrated technology platforms like putting together a Lego set. You want all the pieces to fit together. Given the big investments many of them have made in their pharmacy management systems, a pharmacy should talk to its system vendor first. The pharmacy should ask its vendor who its preferred vendors are for the types of additional technology the pharmacy wants to build on to its PMS. A pharmacy also should ask other pharmacies about their experiences with new tools and technologies that they’ve integrated into their PMS and whether they’re working seamlessly together to drive clinical, financial and operational improvements at their sites.
Article by McKesson