|Publisher's Window: Technology Still a Priority||| Print ||
|November-December 2006 Publishers Window|
I have the pleasure of serving on the NCPA Innovation and Technology Committee. This committee is charged with framing up the technology seminar that precedes the NCPA annual convention. These seminars have been packing the house, clearly demonstrating the interest from pharmacy owners in technology. The seminars give them a chance to hear what their peers have to say about various technologies being deployed in the pharmacy. More importantly, the seminars are interactive. Pharmacists are encouraged to ask questions during panel discussions and share their own experiences, which they do.
This year there was someone from the DEA on hand to discuss the new electronic ordering system for controlled substances, known as CSOS. This speaker asked how many pharmacists in the audience were using CSOS, as opposed to the 222 paper form. I was amazed at the number of hands that went up. What this tells me is that anything that will improve business operations, in this case reducing inventory on hand, is quickly embraced. Lead times on ordering controlled substances have been shortened by the electronic ordering system that requires the use of digital certificates.
At this year‰¥ús seminar I had the opportunity to moderate a panel on IVR. While the use of IVR in the chain segment is fairly widespread, the same cannot be said of the independent segment. I had two pharmacy owners on my panel who gave compelling reasons for pharmacists not to fence-sit on this decision. Yet there are still many who fear that having to interact with a computer rather than a human when calling the pharmacy will alienate their customers. In a busy pharmacy there is no question that IVR can avoid disruptive phone calls, and the consensus from pharmacists using IVR is that customers like, and in many cases prefer, the change. Why not, when a person can order a refill any hour of the day, 24/7? When the pharmacist opens in the morning, these prescriptions are queued up waiting to be processed. Personally, I can‰¥út buy the fear of negative customer reaction as a reason not to install IVR, particularly when a customer can override the system to talk to the pharmacist at any time.
I mentioned earlier how a system like CSOS can reduce on-hand inventory because of the shorter time it takes for replenishment. Something like this can help a pharmacy‰¥ús cashflow, which has become very important since the launch of Medicare Part D. I had a feeling that Part D was not going to get off to a smooth start, and that proved to be the case. Shifting the dual-eligibles into Part D from Medicaid was messy, and then adding insult to injury there were the lower reimbursement rates and longer payment cycles. Our cover story takes a postmortem look as we close out the first year of Part D to see what pharmacists did to weather this storm, and how technology factored in. We also look at the new opportunity that Part D presents with MTM programs. This could be the so-called silver lining for pharmacy.
Let‰¥ús hope that 2007 gets off to a better start.
William A. Lockwood, Jr.
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