|Entering a New Chapter: QS/1’s Tammy Devine Reflects on her New Role||| Print ||
Tammy Devine, M.B.A., brings an in depth knowledge of pharmacy software and automation to her new role as president of QS/1. Over the course of almost 30 years with the company Devine has applied her background in computer science to finding technology solutions that support the clinical practice and the business of pharmacy. She's learned the business and the market by having several different roles at QS/1. Devine spoke with ComputerTalk Senior Editor Will Lockwood about how her experience has prepared her for her new role, her vision for where pharmacy is headed, and her plans to continue providing pharmacists with the technology they need.
CT: Tammy, first of all congratulations on your new title. Tell us about your background and the path you've taken at QS/1 to get there.
Devine: I graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in computer science almost 30 years ago. My husband also graduated from USC, with a degree in pharmacy. At that point I had no idea that I'd work for a software company focusing on pharmacy. We moved to Spartanburg and I started working for QS/1 in 1982 as a developer. During that time I was working with the software and hardware for our system. I was fortunate to work for Mr. Smith in the early days, which allowed me the opportunity to see the beginning of the pharmacy system. At that point we were running on a Series/1 minicomputer. This was before the desktop PC was readily available and a pharmacy really had to spend some money to get computers at that point. After working for about 16 years on the technology side I moved to marketing. This was around 1998 and by that time lots of people had experience with PCs both at home and at work, so more people understood them. Our goal then was creating a better link between marketing and development. From there I moved to management, and my time as a developer and in marketing meant that I brought an understanding of many areas of the company. So I've really had the opportunity to work in different areas of the company and to understand the business as it's grown over the past 30 years.
CT: With this background in mind, what's your vision for where QS/1 and pharmacy technology can go in the next few years?
Devine: Our goal at QS/1 is to look carefully at what our customers need and to create a system that grows with them. This is a challenge because, particularly working in the independent market, there are no cookie-cutter pharmacies. They are all different, offer different services, and have different needs. What we do is spend a lot of time thinking about where we see pharmacy going in the next few years, because we want to take QS/1 where pharmacy is going.
CT: Where do you see pharmacy going? What are the scenarios?
Devine: In my opinion, pharmacy is moving to a service model. You'll still have the meds, but there are so many services that can be offered in the pharmacy. There's MTM of course, but that's just one example of the ability pharmacists have to improve outcomes by working with patients. In fact, we believe strongly in the pharmacist's role in providing clinical services, and we've taken this into account in providing healthcare to the employees here at QS/1. We see firsthand that pharmacists provide important and valuable services and that you can cut costs from the insurance side when people manage their meds better.
I think electronic health records [EHR] are another big thing. The country is moving in this direction, and pharmacies can provide not only critical prescription and OTC medication data for EHRs, but details of clinical interactions with patients, as well. Pharmacists are also going to be critical in helping people manage these EHRs. In a mobile society like ours, people move and people travel, and we can easily end up having medical information in different places. Pharmacy is going to play a big role in helping people create a single record of their care.
These are just two examples, and the important thing in our view is to allow pharmacists and their staffs the time to provide these services. Automation, workflow, and other types of technology help free up time. However, let's be clear. We do not see technology replacing staff or taking people away from providing care in the pharmacy. Instead we see it as giving them the time they need to develop new clinical practices and provide the benefits to patients. I'm convinced that we're going to see a lot more of pharmacists working with patients over the next five years.
CT: What has it been like to work with pharmacists as they've become more technologically savvy?
Devine: First, I want to point out that pharmacists have been using computers for over thirty years. Pharmacy has always been out there on the edge of technology, pushing ahead, trying to automate processes. Because of pharmacy's long history with computerized systems, there's so much knowledge to build on. I think working with technology savvy pharmacists has given us, as a software company, better insight into the industry. When you are working with people that do understand technology and its capabilities, they bring ideas from things that they see and directions that they'd like to be able to go. They are bringing ideas from their experiences, from real life. For example, there's a growing demand from pharmacists for mobile access to data and to the tools that have traditionally remained sitting in their pharmacies. This could be from home, or from an LTC facility, or as the pharmacist moves around in a hospital setting. Hearing about this kind of need from practicing pharmacists really puts us a step ahead, because they understand more about their systems, how they all tie together. The understanding of technology that pharmacists means that the questions they come to us with and the enhancements they want are such an important resource. It makes us all better.
CT: What are some of the technology topics and operational issues you are hearing about from your users?
Devine: Reimbursement is one thing that's a continuing concern. I think, from the pharmacist standpoint, they are looking to figure out how to fill more prescriptions, provide more services, and do this without investing a lot more money, and all in an environment where there's pressure of reimbursements. So from what we hear, pharmacists are looking to automate more tasks, improve workflow, and manage time better. Another thing we hear a lot is the need to make multiple systems work together. Whether it's an interface to a hospital system, to dispensing automation, to IVR, or to point of sale, the question is, how can we make all the pieces pharmacists have work better together? How do we eliminate the need to enter information multiple times and ensure that they're getting the best use out of each piece of technology that they have?
CT: How do you, at QS/1, go about developing a strategy for pharmacy technology?
Devine: I think the hardest thing about strategy - about trying to look at where we're going to be in five years, for example - is that you are planning for jobs that don't exist today. If we are automating a particular process, for example pill counting, the key is to look for new jobs and new services that the people who had been counting pills can take on to help benefit the pharmacy and patients. The effort is in trying to create opportunities for new roles and jobs. That to me is one of the hardest things when you are planning for the future. Any time we look at workflow or trying to automate a task, we see it as freeing up someone to do a job that will create a new service, something the pharmacy may not have today, but needs to plan for down the road. But this means that we always have to plan not just for what we have, but for all the new opportunities that will be coming in the next five years.
CT: Tammy, can you sum up the impressions you've had of pharmacy as a profession over the course of your career?
Devine: From my 30 years in this industry, I can say that it's a great industry. There are a lot of good people, and pharmacists are a great group to work with. It's amazing going to trade shows and working with people. The group that you work with in all areas is smaller than you think, and it has been just a really good area to be in. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunities I've had over the years and I look forward to many more.