Tech companies look to drive outcomes
Pharmacies and their staffs are under increased pressure. Not only are they filling more prescriptions — almost 4 billion were filled by retail and mail pharmacies in 2015, according to IMS Health — but their job has moved beyond dispensing into a more active role in delivering improved patient outcomes.
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With this shift, pharmacy technology companies are coming at the challenge from a number of different angles, offering solutions to streamline operations and drive greater efficiency in pharmacy workflow, freeing pharmacy staff to better serve patients, improve medication adherence, facilitate medication therapy management and more advanced disease state counseling, and expand immunization services. In this issue, Drug Store News takes a look at what some leading technology companies are doing to innovate pharmacy care and improve patient outcomes.
Innovation: Looking toward the future
Innovation and Binghamton University’s Washington Institute for Systems Excellence hosted a pharmacy automation symposium on BU’s campus in April, where Innovation executives and faculty members from BU WISE shared with attendees the benefits that automation can have for pharmacies.
The symposium walked attendees through the process of adding a central-fill solution into a high-volume pharmacy operation, from planning to development to installation. The two-day event also featured a live demonstration of Innovation’s cobots — flexible and adaptable robots that work in collaboration with humans — as a way to improve efficiency.
“The information that was given was something that will help us make informed decisions that can aid us in enhancing our patients’ quality of life,” Rite Aid manager of pharmacy technology and operations Steve Smith told DSN. For more, visit DrugStoreNews.com/Innovation-BU-Automation-Symposium.
PDX: Leveraging patient data while constantly updating offerings
PDX is using predictive data to help identify patients and improve clinical outcomes through its Care Rx platform. Configured as a standalone program for pharmacies or fully integrated with the company’s Enterprise Pharmacy System and PDX Classic system, Care Rx offers real-time alerts throughout the fulfillment process to determine when patient interventions are needed.
The Care Rx platform also offers integrated immunization solutions through its partnership with Scientific Technologies Corp. The IMMSLINK services for immunization reporting and forecasting coupled with the Care Rx platform improves the workflow for pharmacies and advances the practice of disease management to patients.
“Three years ago, we moved to a new technology platform so that we’re delivering code every five weeks — functional code that our customers ask for — that is automatically deployed and running in stores,” PDX SVP business development George Owens said. “All those underpinnings are part of delivering this total healthcare solution.”
Ateb: Using data to improve adherence
In an effort to improve patient outcomes, software companies like Ateb are developing tailored solutions for pharmacies that utilize pre-existing patient data that can help provide insight into how and when pharmacist intervention is useful.
Ateb’s Time My Meds medication synchronization solution does just that, centering the patient experience around an appointment-based model that encourages pharmacists to engage with patients and decide which intervention — from phone calls or texts to med sync and MTM solutions — are best for each patient.
“We’re collaborating with our pharmacy partners to leverage technology and their data to better identify which patients require targeted interventions and engage them to improve their adherence,” Ateb CEO and president Frank Sheppard told DSN. “Along those lines, pharmacy needs to get engaged and position themselves as a vital partner to improve healthcare outcomes.”
ScriptPro: Streamlining workflow
Streamlinling workflow while freeing pharmacists for patient interaction, ScriptPro’s CRS line of robots can track lot numbers and expiration dates, handling over half of the manual prescription filling process in the pharmacy.
“ScriptPro robots free up pharmacy staff from having to perform manual filling tasks while the patient is waiting,” a company spokesperson said. “Having the much needed time to set up an adherence program for a patient goes a long way to improving patient outcomes.”
ScriptPro also uses a workflow management and tracking system, SP Central, which tracks all prescriptions — including OTC products — that need a label. It also collates prescriptions and can launch patient and drug-level alerts at various steps in the filling process.
And to help bridge the distance between the patient and the pharmacist in remote and underserved areas, Script-Pro is offering a telepharmacy solution that allows the pharmacist to interact live, in real time with patients remotely via a video and audio feed.
“Telepharmacy allows pharmacists to bring special expertise to the patient regardless of where the patient is located,” according to ScriptPro. “That one-on-one interaction between pharmacist and patient goes a long way — compared to just getting a package from the mail carrier — to helping patients get better and lead healthier lives.”
QS/1: Mobile-ready platforms
In 2015, QS/1 rolled out several new products both for pharmacists and patients, helping increase convenience for pharmacies through its new Sharp-Rx pharmacy management system, which includes an iPad delivery app for pharmacies.
Additionally, the company is offering such mobile patient solutions as its mobileRx refill app and the PocketRx app, which pharmacies can customize with their own branding and logo to provide convenient access to refills and such services as delivery and refill reminders. All of these solutions are aimed at making health care more convenient for patients, while improving pharmacies’ ability to provide more services efficiently.
“Our delivery app makes it easier for the pharmacy to efficiently deliver medication to patients even in remote areas where there isn’t an Internet connection,” QS/1’s VP national sales Ed Willet told Drug Store News. “We must do everything we can to make adherence as simple and easy as possible for the patient.”
Ultra AppleLean catches apple cider vinegar trend
RONKONKOMA, N.Y. — Sales of apple cider vinegar supplements are on the rise, and Princeton Research now offers the next top-trending supplement that will greatly increase incremental segment growth — Ultra AppleLean Cider Vinegar.
(Click here to view the full ECRM OTC Report.)
Manufactured by Piping Rock Health Products, the ultra-strength formula delivers the benefits of apple cider vinegar enhanced with ingredients, such as vitamin B-12 and chromium. These nutrients work synergistically to maximize the body’s performance, stimulate sugar and carbohydrate metabolism, and support maximum energy levels.
Sales down as focus shifts to weight management
It’s been a little more than a year since GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare announced the return of Alli (orlistat 60 mg capsules) to most stores in the United States and Puerto Rico. Today, the over-the-counter diet aid has reclaimed much of its lost dollar base and its No. 2 spot on the list of best-selling diet aids across total U.S. multi-outlets with $30.8 million in sales for the 52 weeks ended April 17.
(Click here to view the full ECRM OTC Report.)
Also performing well on the charts is Wellnx Life Science’s Nature’s Science, which generated $10.4 million on 117.1% growth in that period.
However, sales across the majority of top products driving the diet-aid tablets business are down, contributing to an 11.2% drop in sales to $343.4 million. And that may be because Americans are turning more toward weight-management solutions than weight-control solutions.
“Consumers are looking for guidance on how to control their weight; they are looking for products that work and work together as part of a simple yet effective plan,” Paul Gagliano, EVP sales at SlimFast, told Drug Store News earlier this year. “Retailers can capitalize by merchandising products together and communicating to the consumer how the products work together as part of a plan.”
This past fall, SlimFast launched 15 new items as part of the SlimFast Advanced Nutrition line, including ready-to-drinks, powders, bars, 100-calorie snacks and a capsule to round out the complete SlimFast plan. And the RTDs are performing exceptionally well — generating $91.1 million since launch.
Another weight-management solution that is trending at mass retail is Nutrisystem. “Retail expansion is an area of opportunity,” Michael Monahan, Nutrisystem CFO, recently told analysts. “For 2016, revenue from our retail channel is now projected to grow year over year to $36 million,” he said, thanks in large part to a roll-back promotion with Walmart that drove significant trial.
Nutrisystem in May conducted a test in the freezer aisle of around 400 Walmart locations in the Northeast, offering a single day kit that includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks at $12 versus the shelf-stable, five-day kit merchandised in the diet-aid section now. “We will have four SKUs available for this test,” reported Dawn Zier, Nutrisystem president and CEO. “It’ll be in a different place right now than the pharmacy aisle, … which is where our competitors are as well, but this would give us space in the freezer aisle — another section in the store.”