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Bottled Up: How Better Information Flow Can Empower Pharmacies and Patients

an orange prescription bottle tipped over and spilling round, red pills on the table

In today’s complicated world of healthcare technology, the expectations are piling high on electronic medical record (EMR) providers. Health systems have now invested millions of dollars in these platforms, and, in turn, they want more out of them. But, there are glaring gaps that were never the focus of EMR providers. One of the largest is how to serve ambulatory (or retail) pharmacies and their programs. While the usage of EMRs has always been primarily focused on physicians and nurses, the demands to share data between platforms and across settings of care is higher than ever before. This will only increase as the reliance on electronic statistics, charting, imaging, etc., continues to grow and evolve.

For years, pharmacists have often been relegated to filling scripts and focusing on very operational activity. All the while, these practitioners have had intense clinical training to be able to understand the various different chemical interactions and effects of medications, as well as how they are best applied to achieve optimal success for patients. Now, the healthcare world is looking to bring this expertise closer to the patients in order to improve their care.

Some examples include:

  • Comprehensive review of a patient’s medication history
  • Pharmacist-led medication reconciliation
  • Bedside delivery and consultation of medication therapies
  • Post-discharge outreach for medication adherence

These types of programs have proven to have major impacts on the overall quality of care: lower readmission rates, higher patient satisfaction scores, and fewer medication errors. Some examples of what we’ve already seen include*:

  • Pharmacy-led medication history and reconciliation: The accuracy of medication history increased from approximately 30% to more than 92%;
  • Bedside delivery of discharge medications: Patients who received discharge medications at the bedside were readmitted at a rate 33% less than those who did not;
  • Bedside delivery with pharmacist consultation: Bedside consultation with a pharmacist (coupled with bedside delivery of medications) had the most significant impact on hospital readmissions, with only 25% of patients readmitted who received a consultation at discharge (reduction of 8.04%); and
  • Post-discharge patient outreach: Patients who received a post-discharge outreach call were readmitted at a rate 76% less than those who did not.

Now, the difficult part of this is how to get all this information presented to both the pharmacy team and interdisciplinary team members in an easy, focused way. It requires intelligently sorting through EMR data, drug knowledge databases, broad surveillance of medication fill data, and a variety of other sources. Data acquisition expertise, as well as the ability to sort and organize the information so that it is presentable to the team members in an actionable way, is mandatory.

We’ve already seen some pretty significant adoption of some of the newer standard protocols, such as Clinical Document Architecture (CDA) and Continuity of Care Documents (CCDs), as well as expansion of the already very widely adopted HL7 standards through the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) protocol.

I know, I know … way too many acronyms. Typical healthcare technology jargon, right?

All three of these new standards have great potential, but will require feedback and participation from all of us players in the healthcare technology ecosystem. If we can continue to use them for applications that directly benefit our ultimate end customers (the patients), we will be well on our way to accelerating the innovations our providers need.

Continued adoption and use of these innovative technologies will enable our very talented and well educated practitioners (like pharmacists and pharmacy technicians) to fully apply their clinical skills toward patient care. We will then be creating both a better performing and better connected health system.

*Published stats based on metrics calculated from analyses done in conjunction with individual PharmaPoint clients.

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About the Author

Middleton profile picture

Bobby Middleton
VP of Product Operations

In support of PharmaPoint’s strategic business needs, Bobby provides executive leadership and oversight for software development, support and go-to-market strategy. His 20 years in leadership roles of high growth technology businesses encompass the strategic fields of product management, operations, software development and relationship management, allowing him to both build and lead numerous diverse teams to significant scale, agile performance and operational excellence. Bobby is a proud graduate of Mississippi State University, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Information Systems degree.

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