Pharmacy can claim their stake with emerging technologies
As we welcome a new year, it is exciting to see all the changes headed our way. With all the movement around healthcare reform and technology, we in the pharmacy industry are quick to point out that this industry is years ahead of the rest of health care in terms of payment solutions and automated workflow. The rest of the industry is running to catch up — but right now the pharmacy industry is far from where we need to be to address critical factors in our industry. That said, there are tremendous opportunities that several companies are bringing forward with new technology that can truly revolutionize the delivery of health care.
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a roundtable discussion with retailers and a handful of solution providers to discuss where the pharmacy industry is headed and the technology that will help retail pharmacies be successful, even with ratcheting of third-party margins and the world of $4 generics.
Everyone at the technology roundtable envisioned pharmacy in 2012 as an exciting innovative industry. How can your pharmacy stake its claim to the emerging technologies? Let’s look at some key areas.
What are some of the newest technologies and their key considerations?
I could give you a laundry list of new technologies in their infancy or on the horizon. Below are some that I think have high potential value to the pharmacy industry, not listed in order of importance because ultimately your pharmacy needs to determine what’s most important to you and your patients:
- The key is how to engage the patient.
- Communication needs to include the physician, pharmacy and patient collectively.
- Utilizing existing network protocols, such as Network Management System (NMS), as well as moving to more innovative ideas, including launching video messages with Video Management Software (VMS).
- Trigger communications with new QR codes, those obscure computer graphics that are popping up in everything from magazine ads to airport wall posters.
- Voice recognition is an important way to communicate. New technology, including Apple’s Siri, is changing the way that we interact with the technology.
- Keep in mind that 65% of people in the United States are still not using smart phones, but 95% of cell phones are capable of receiving text messages.
- Fastest growing population on Facebook is women over 50 years old. Pharmacies can create communications and outreach programs specific to people within this demographic.
- Social media allows patients to set goals and track results, create a fun experience and involve their social circle for reinforcement.
- Mobile solutions can help remind patients to take or refill their medication and offer related education.
- Pharmacists and/or patients can track ailments and health between physician visits (e.g., blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, prior conditions and health events), creating interesting medication therapy management (MTM) opportunities for pharmacies.
- Healthcare tools communicate with patients to allow providers to ask important questions and enable interactive decisions based on information received, such as giving patients up-to-date information about their prescription prior to filing or after the prescription has been picked up.
- QR codes on prescription bottles allow for personalized information beyond what can fit on a bottle and allows the source to easily change information tied to QR codes even after the prescription has been picked up (e.g., notice of drug recall, refill incentives or possible drug interactions based on medication prescribed since a drug was dispensed).
- Medication therapy management — Given that patients are only 50% compliant with their medication directives, this is a key opportunity for pharmacies to be passionate about MTM.
- Medication reconciliation enables healthcare providers to know what medications are dispensed.
- New solutions are becoming available to improve tracking and submission for reimbursement.
- Pharmacists can monitor compliance and consult with patients between physician visits (e.g., blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, prior conditions and health events).
How can your pharmacy stake one or more claims to new technologies?
First, pharmacies should make a “favorites list” of technologies they want to implement given available resources, ROI and patient value. Next, they should talk with their technology vendors to better understand what’s available and coming down the pike. Whatever new technologies your pharmacy chooses to implement needs to be integrated with your existing workflow and where possible, should enable you to leverage your technology investments. For example, all pharmacies have a way to submit claims in real-time to pharmacy payers. If your pharmacy wants to start administering vaccinations, ask your pharmacy network if you can use your pharmacy system to bill vaccinations to medical payers. NCPDP is also a great resource and can help you understand how changes to the transaction standards will accommodate new technologies and market needs.
Emerging technologies can help make pharmacies more profitable, their operations more efficient and enable them to have a more active role in overall patient care. Now is the time for pharmacies to evaluate, communicate and stake their claim.
Rick Sage is VP pharmacy strategies for Emdeon. He directs the company’s clinical pharmacy initiatives with a focus on developing programs, standards and partnerships to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.
Study: Treating depression, diabetes at the same time may improve symptoms
NEW YORK — Patients that are simultaneously treated for Type 2 diabetes and depression are more likely to adhere to their medication and see improvement in their symptoms, compared with those receiving usual primary care, according to a new study.
Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania monitored patients over a 12-week period after randomly assigning them to an integrated care group — which included the combination of a primary care and a brief medication adherence program that was individualized to participants — or a usual primary care group. After 12 weeks of monitoring for medication adherence, 60.9% of patients who received the integrated approach were found to achieve improved blood-sugar test results, compared with only 35.7% patients who only received the usual primary care. What’s more, patients in the integrated care group also were more likely to show signs of remission of depression, compared with their usual care group counterparts (58.7% versus 30.7%, respectively).
The full results of the study are published in the January/February issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.
"Though research demonstrates the link between depression and diabetes, few integrated programs are being implemented in practice," said lead author Hillary Bogner, an assistant professor of Family Medicine and Community Health in the Perelman School of Medicine, and a senior scholar at the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, both at the University of Pennsylvania. "Our results demonstrate that integrated treatment for both conditions, combined with a brief program focused on adherence for primary care patients with Type 2 diabetes and depression can result in a significant improvement in clinical outcomes. We hope the findings will encourage the adoption of adherence programs aimed at improving outcomes."
Bristol-Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca diabetes drug hits speed bump at FDA
PRINCETON, N.J. — The Food and Drug Administration has declined to approve a drug for Type 2 diabetes made by Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca, saying it needs additional clinical data, the companies said Thursday.
AstraZeneca and Bristol announced that they had received a complete response letter from the FDA for dapagliflozin. The agency said it would need more data to better weigh the drug’s benefits against its risks. The FDA issues a complete response letter when it has finished reviewing a regulatory approval application, but questions remain that preclude approval of the application in its present form.
The companies said they would work closely with the agency to determine the next steps and were also communicating with health authorities in other countries.