TECH CORNER: MARCH/APRIL 2013
Our Recommended Approach to Buying Technology
If you are like us, you have a stack of journals (paper and electronic) that you have good intentions of reading and others that you open immediately upon receipt and find a way to look at every page and read every article. We are unashamedly tech guys, and ComputerTalk falls into the “read now” category for us. We thought we would cover some of our recommendations for getting the most out of the ComputerTalk 2013 Retail Buyers Guide while you are finding a quiet place to look over the product offerings found herein.
When we talk in our live presentations and seminars or in our columns about trying to acquire, upgrade, or jump to new capabilities in your practice, we always try to approach the process systematically. While it is frequently true that gadget lovers have little difficulty in justifying their next purchase, mainstream pharmacists usually have to prioritize their investments and make sure that a measurable return on investment occurs. A simple “coolness factor” purchase criterion for technology should be balanced with how well a new technology will ultimately perform in your operations and what the investment is for your new purchase, not only in acquisition costs, but also in learning curves and practice disruption when a change takes place.
Consider our colleague’s approach to technology. We both had a department head, years ago, who was asked why he didn’t have a computer in his office. He finally met with us and said he was getting one of those PCs people keep asking about. Unfortunately, it was only a prop. In fact, when the printer on one of our computers went down, we exchanged our dead one for his unused one. We went months before he mentioned his printer was not working. His approach to his computer changed, however, when he learned that certain people could best be contacted by email. He also realized that using 2x2 slides to talk about the future of pharmacy was not as effective as using presentation software like Microsoft’s PowerPoint. Our point is this: One thing that could stimulate your use of this buyers guide could be an immediate need to do one of two things.
Defining Better All technology is designed to enhance your ability to do your practice or, when possible, to replace certain activities currently performed by human beings with technology that performs it better. Better can mean faster. Better may also mean more accurately, or based on better science. Better may even mean less costly. Lastly, better can certainly mean safer for patients. A focus on patient safety should help prioritize a list of technologies for your consideration. While we are talking about patients, anything that helps patients to be more engaged in their own care could be a reason to invest in technology. Remember, you can invest in the best pharmacy systems, but if patients are not doing what they need to do, it all goes thud. If you have been following our writing at all, you will know high levels of connectivity with every one of your constituencies internal to your practice or externally is now infinitely possible. We find it exciting that you can be as connected as you want.
You are the best judge of the high-priority bottlenecks and trouble spots in your operations. Are you running out of capacity? Are you running out of physical space? Do you own a set of technology tools that have been purchased over a long period of time, making interoperability and integration your primary concerns? We know that if we can get you to answer this basic question concerning problems that need addressing, then we are probably going to be able to find a technology that will meet your needs. We know that any new technology that is not integrated will probably yield less than optimal results. This is why you see us recommending that you talk to your pharmacy management system vendor before using Google to find a new technology. If your vendor has interfaced a new solution to your existing system, it is almost always a good thing.
Now let’s assume that you are a pharmacist who is fairly content with your systems. What you may be looking for is a technology that will improve an already good operation. We are blessed to be able to have all day long to seek new technologies that are not even on the market. We receive push technology communications from a number of sources that tell us about healthcare technology announcements. We pour over these communications looking for new things to enhance your practice. If you are looking for a stimulus for technology to consider, you can go through this buyers guide and examine the products. You can also go through a website developed by the technology and innovation committee for the National Community Pharmacists Association that places pharmacy technology into categories. All you need to do is go to the Rx Technology Resource Center and fill out an evaluation tool found there. It’s located at
For each of six areas that include pharmacy management systems, point-of-sale, automation, and interactive voice response systems, you will discover a great deal of additional resources. You can look at features and benefits available in the marketplace for each of the categories. You can see recommended questions to ask vendors during the evaluation phase of your technology consideration. You can also see a short listing of vendors to consider for scheduling demonstrations. Overall, we have helped build this resource to assist you in your purchasing decisions.
Here is another offer that we will make. If you’ve looked through this buyers guide issue, have gone through the Rx Technology Resource Center asset described above, and have remaining questions, you are invited to write to us or schedule a call to discuss your technology needs. We will be happy to tell you what we know about technology that can address your problems, enhance your practice, better use existing personnel, integrate your systems, or do anything to help your pharmacy continue to be relevant and viable in this exciting information age. Start by contacting us by email. We look forward to hearing from you. CT
Bill G. Felkey, M.S., is professor emeritus, and Brent I. Fox, Pharm.D., Ph.D., is an assistant professor, Department of Pharmacy Care Systems, Harrison School of Pharmacy, Auburn University. They can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.