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I have the privilege of serving on the National Community Pharmacist Association’s Committee on Innovation and Technology. This is the committee that decides the topics to be covered in the one-day seminar preceding NCPA’s annual convention. This year the seminar took place in Anaheim, and once again the room was full.
Of course, they put me to work at these events. I was enlisted this year to moderate a session on bar codes and RFID (radio frequency identification). Max Peoples, who founded RxScan and owns a pharmacy in Westerville, Ohio, was one of the speakers. He is extremely well versed on bar-code symbology and scanners and did a great job in presenting the material. Pharmacy is fortunate to have someone like Max leading the charge here. He makes a convincing case for why every pharmacy should be using bar-code scanners. Scanning should soon become the standard of practice to address patient safety.
This leads me to the next topic covered — RFID. Ted Ng, director of risk management business technology solutions for McKesson, was the speaker, and he was worth hearing. California is the first state to pass legislation requiring electronic pedigrees for prescription drugs and medical devices — anything that requires a prescription or physician order. This legislation goes into effect Jan. 1, 2009, and will affect the entire supply chain, from manufacturer to retail pharmacy. Pharmacies will need special readers to track and trace the products. This will add another step in the workflow. Moreover, it will not be possible to transfer inventory from one pharmacy to another without creating a new pedigree. Record retention will be another consideration — more data to store electronically in the pharmacy.
Ted raised a number of interesting questions regarding the California law. Here’s a sampling: How will partial shipments be handled? What is going to be done about existing inventory? What is the status of “tags” that cannot be read? What happens when drugs are shipped in error? How will pedigree discrepancies be handled? How will damaged goods be handled? You get the idea.
While there is a document-based pedigree standard, there is no standard yet for a true electronic track-and-trace model. An organization called EPCglobal is working on the latter, and Ted is one of its co-chairs.
So here we go again: the launch of something before a standard is in place. This will simply drive up the cost of electronic pedigrees. Speaking of costs, it looks like pharmacies in California will be hit with another cost of doing business.
I wonder how legislation like this gets passed without an assessment of the added cost of doing business and who will bear the brunt of this cost. This is not a cost that can be passed through to the consumer, since the vast majority of prescriptions are price controlled by the third parties paying the bill.
Suffice it to say that this session was an eye-opener for everyone in the audience. The rest of the seminar was also quite informative. My advice is, if you are planning to attend the 2008 NCPA convention in Tampa, make it a point to come in early for the Saturday technology seminar. These seminars are always worth the time. CT
Bill Lockwood is the publisher of ComputerTalk. He can be reached at email@example.com.