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I wonder at times if we overlook how much technology contributes to patient safety, compliance, and the detection of fraud and abuse. The reason I say this is that I often read about how medication safety is a national priority, and every now and then there will be stories in the media that are negative regarding pharmacy on this issue.
If you would take a minute and look at the technology you’re using in your pharmacy and the software behind it, you could easily categorize how it addresses safety, compliance, and fraud and abuse. The American Society for Automation in Pharmacy (ASAP) is attempting to quantify the dollars-and-cents value of this technology. There is no question that pharmacies have a lot invested in computer technology, ranging from the core pharmacy management system (PMS) to robotics, workflow, and IVR. Let’s just look at the technology that factors into patient safety. There is drug interaction screening in the PMS; there are warning labels and drug monographs produced by thermal and laser printers; and there’s bar-code scanning, pill images, label imprints, robotic dispensing, electronic prescriptions — you get the picture?
Not only patient safety, but customer service benefits from technology as well. One case in point is Medicare Part D and dual-eligible patients. Can you imagine the problems the Part D program would have without the ability to electronically query a database to determine enrollment status for these people? And pharmacy is footing the bill on the transaction charge incurred. Some may argue that the technology helps pharmacy operate more efficiently. Yes, there is this benefit, but the big winners are the consumer and the government. I have long maintained that pharmacy should not let the government, in particular, get a free ride on its technology investment. Case in point: the transaction charge for Part D E1 transactions. The government should be covering this cost, not pharmacies. The E1 transaction, by the way, required new software — it’s stuff like this that eventually gets passed through to pharmacies in higher software support charges. Then the government turns around and decides to replace AWP with AMP. Seems to me the lawmakers in Washington looked at the annual reports of the publicly traded chains and said, “Look at the profits they’re making. Here’s an opportunity to save some money on healthcare.” Of course, I don’t feel the pharma companies were innocent bystanders in all of this. After all, they stand to reduce their rebates to the state Medicaid programs.
I think it’s time that pharmacy takes a new message to lawmakers and consumer groups. Showcasing the investment in technology and the benefits to consumers and, yes, to the government, could make a difference. Who knows, it might be a powerful enough message to get higher dispensing fees. CT
Bill Lockwood is the publisher of ComputerTalk.
He can be reached at email@example.com.