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The industry continues its tremendous response to support pharmacies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s NCPA (National Community Pharmacists Association) town hall calls, resources from organizations like CPESN (Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network) and the Avant Institute, or practical and continued support from your pharmacy vendor, the message is clear: You are not alone.
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Here is a preliminary roundup of what vendors are offering to customers. Solutions are updating regularly at ComputerTalk’s COVID-19 page.
Speed Script: Secure Remote Access
Speed Script’s Chuck Welch, CEO, says many of his customers are moving nonclinical staff such as bookkeepers off site, yet pharmacy owners need this staff to have access to the computer system. The most important piece of technology now for this situation is a secure remote connection, and Welch is offering a free VPN (virtual private network) connection for customers for the next month.
“We are looking at being flexible for the next couple of months,” he says. He adds that with the increase in remote workers with stay-at-home orders, there’s also been in uptick in hacks. Security is even more important now. “Even when working remotely, you need to work securely,” Welch says.
Datascan Pharmacy Software: Communicating with Customers
Datascan Pharmacy Software customers are using the company’s electronic delivery system to help manage at-home deliveries for prescriptions and OTC (over-the-counter) items. Using SMS/email notification, pharmacies are able to notify patients when prescriptions are ready for curbside pickup or are out for delivery. Datascan’s bulk message program lets pharmacists alert all patients of any store hour changes or store protocol changes, such as shortened hours, curbside pickup, and delivery only. Finally, the company says that some customers are using Datascan’s patient mailing label option to generate labels and send mail to patients/customers with updates.
QS/1: Adapting Point-of-Sale
Examples of adapting familiar technology to handle this COVID-19 pandemic range from point of sale, to robotics, to communication. In the QS/1 podcast QCompass, Justin Buckland shares examples of customers who have relied on credit-card storage, remote signature capture, delivery modules, and accounts receivable to serve customers outside of the pharmacy. He notes that there are pharmacies going back to A/R, filling the prescription, then billing the customer. “This keeps a customer from storing a credit card or touching a sig pad,” he points out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has relaxed some requirements for signature at pickup. Pharmacists can use “COVID-19” for a signature now when allowable. You can hear the entire podcast as well as access resources around workflow efficiencies, communication, transactions and deliveries, reporting, and more at www.qs1.com/COVID.
ScriptPro: Robotics Meet Demand
ScriptPro’s Catherine VandeVelde says robotics is ideal to handle the dramatic increase in prescription volume as patients look to fill all their prescriptions and limit trips to the pharmacy. Robotics also allow pharmacists to respond to staff shortages and minimize handling inventory.
“Robotics allows pharmacies to streamline their workflow and reduce the number of staff handling the medication,” VandeVelde points out. “And it can facilitate offering home delivery or mail order, as staff is free to handle these new tasks.”
Micro Merchant Systems: Remotely Capturing Signatures, Copays; Delivery Integration
Ketan Mehta at Micro Merchant says the company has responded with a number of remote-based features in the system as well as interfaces for delivery and shipping. He also hopes to have a solution that supports counseling around COVID-19 testing. “We know that pharmacies are working as hard as they can, and we are doing the same at our end,” Mehta says.
To collect signatures remotely, the system sends a text message to the patient, with a URL that takes him to a web-page where the prescription information is masked and the patient can simply sign for the prescription and submit. The signatures is then stored in PrimeRx™.
The company’s www.primerxpay.com, is a web-based portal that gives the pharmacists the ability to select and submit a prescription that can be sent for copay collection. A text message sent to the patient has a URL that takes the patient to a page with the prescription number and masked drug name. The patient has an option to click on a button to pay the copay. This takes the patient to a secure page where the patient can choose an appropriate credit card and pay the invoice. Receipts can be emailed. Pharmacists can log-in to the website and look at the prescription records to see what is paid. Pharmacists can also choose to print the receipt or reverse the transaction.
This will allow the pharmacies to then schedule the deliveries once the copays are paid.
The company’s PrimeCOMM, the company’s text messaging service, is free for the month. Micro Merchant is explaining how pharmacies can bill PBMs (pharmacy benefit managers) for delivery fees.
“We don’t know how long is this going to last, but I know that we allow for prescriptions to come in electronically and you may have a delivery and shipping mechanism in place,” says Mehta. “If we can help through the logistics of collecting copay and collecting signatures, maybe it may allow customers to offer yet another service to your patients.”
Micro Merchant integrates with ScriptDROP for delivery and shipping services. This allows customers to print shipping labels directly from the pharmacy system, or to outsource deliveries through their driver network.
Lastly, with the announcement that pharmacies can order and administer COVID-19 tests, Mehta says the company is talking with some labs where they will be able to have the pharmacy see a result of all the tests for their patients online, and can counsel patients through the teleHealth program.
“We are looking into the ability for PrimeRx™ to be integrated so to counsel patients via video,” he says. “This is still new, but I know that we will turn this around in a couple of weeks.” More at the Micro Merchant COVID-19 resource page.
SoftWriters: Temporary Free Licensing
SoftWriters is making it a priority to help customers navigate this new normal, while introducing new ways to manage the demands of the pharmacy, says President Tim Tannert. Over the last several weeks, the company has scaled, trained, and tested the necessary technologies to ensure it continues to provide uninterrupted virtual support to customers. SoftWriters has also offered relief to customers through temporary free licensing to pharmacies serving pop-up hospitals and with ways to help better manage social distancing in the pharmacy. It has also created COVID-19specific resources, product tips, and industry-training materials to help customers preserve public health.
“It is in times of great disruption and uncertainty that our ability to stay grounded in our mission, serving the most vulnerable American citizens, is of utmost importance,” says Tannert. “Our customers’ first-responder mentality is admirable, and it is our responsibility to ensure the tools, services, and software we provide are up to the task. We are all in this together, and together we support our customers in combating COVID-19.”
OmniSYS: COVID-19 Testing Resources
After the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) authorized pharmacists to administer COVID-19 tests, OmniSYS announced it is providing all pharmacies free access to the OmniSYS Training Center™, which guides pharmacists through all aspects of the process to operationalize COVID-19 testing, including required waivers, enrollment, documentation, medical benefit coverage and billing. In addition, all existing customers of the OmniSYS cloud-based pharmacy EHR will receive immediate access to COVID-19 testing encounter forms to support the automated documentation, reimbursement (where permitted), and care plan communication at no additional cost, the company says.
“We are positioned to support clinical services at pharmacies, and we want help ease the burden for pharmacists on the front lines by sharing our expertise on how to operationalize COVID-19 testing encounters without pharmacies having to worry about the cost,” said John King, OmniSYS chief executive officer. “We have always been passionate about building solutions that enable pharmacists in their role as providers, and we’re thankful that we have an opportunity to offer our support to pharmacists during this difficult time so they can continue to focus on serving their communities.”
Because a pharmacist assumes the role of a provider in clinical encounters such as COVID-19 testing, there are documentation and reimbursement requirements for the pharmacist that are similar to the requirements in physician encounters. The OmniSYS Training Center provides contracting, credentialing, documentation and reimbursement guidance for pharmacists in their role as providers of care, according to its release.
The complementary COVID-19 resource section within the OmniSYS Training Center provides step-by-step guidance for pharmacists to start administering COVID-19 testing including how to order tests, apply for the required state licensing, administer the nasal swab, bill for the encounter with a payer, submit positive cases, and share the results with the patient’s other care providers.
“Pharmacists already provide essential clinical services every day including immunizations, medication therapy management, point-of-care testing and diabetes education,” says David Pope, Pharm.D., C.D.E., OmniSYS chief innovation officer. “Formalizing approval for COVID-19 testing to be administered by pharmacists was a logical next step to help increase access to a critical public health resource during this time of crisis.” Visit omnisys.com/covid-19-testing to request access.
TDS: Relevant Solutions
TDS has launched its business continuity plan to continue to serve customers through the pandemic. While all employees are working remotely, the company is 100% committed to keeping support hours the same, and notes that there has been an improvement in service levels, response, and resolutions to customer issues.
The company has enhanced client communications with a weekly update on the state of the business, along with best-practice information and quick reference guides on relevant solutions to the COVID-19 situation, including curbside pickup, drive-thru and delivery services, and refill apps, to name a few.
Customers also receive partner and payer/insurance updates when they occur, including payer delays, reimbursement changes (such as additional delivery fee reimbursement), and credit processing information and possible rate locks. The company’s resource page is here.
Parata Systems: Pharmacy Employee Relief Fund
Parata Systems has launched a Pharmacy Employee Relief Fund, with an initial commitment of $100,000. The fund will support employees of retail, long-term care, hospital, and direct-to-home pharmacies across the United States who have been impacted by COVID-19. The fund will provide assistance to pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy employees who are facing a financial hardship due to illness, quarantine, business closure, or school closure as a result of COVID-19.
“We believe a COVID-19 relief fund that is solely dedicated to helping pharmacy employees is essential,” says Rob Kill, CEO of Parata Systems, who added in a press release from the company that Parata is inviting its industry partners to join the company to make contributions to the fund.
To that end, Parata is has announced that Comprehensive Pharmacy Services (CPS) has stepped forward and will also make a $100,000 donation to the fund. “With a team of over 2,500 pharmacy experts serving over 800 U.S. hospitals today, many of whom are working directly alongside our clients on the front lines of this pandemic, CPS is proud to support pharmacy employees across the U.S. during this time,” says Frank Segrave, CEO of Comprehensive Pharmacy Systems. Additionally, members of the Parata board of directors, including those from lead investor Frazier Healthcare Partners, as well as the Parata executive team, have made personal contributions totaling an additional $25,000 to the fund.
Importantly, both Parata and CPS have committed to match their initial $100,000 donations once the fund exceeds $10 million in donations. Contributions to the fund can be made by visiting parata.com/relief and clicking on the “Be a Donor” button.
Applications for hardship relief can also be accessed by visiting parata.com/relief and clicking on the “Get Assistance” button. Grants will be awarded as soon as possible to those individuals who meet the eligibility criteria. Subject to the availability of funds, a one-time grant of $500 will be disbursed directly to the applicant, with a limit of one grant per person.
The fund will be fully operational on or before April 24, 2020, and will be managed by the Emergency Assistance Foundation (EAF). Applicant eligibility will be reviewed and verified by EAF. Questions about the Pharmacy Employee Relief Fund can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kirby Lester: Help with More 90-Day Fills and Staff Shortages
Geoff Dutcher with Capsa Healthcare’s Kirby Lester technology notes that pharmacies across the country are dealing with more 90-day fills or emergency fills, staff absences, home deliveries, and altered workflows to accommodate safety. Yet scripts have to be filled quickly and accurately.
“We are counseling pharmacies dealing with new challenges to make fixes that don’t add even more strain,” Dutcher says. In times like this, the simplest tool is the best, he says. The Kirby Lester counter needs no IT connection or training, is simple to clean, and handles higher prescription counts to save time and strain. Plus, inventory counts — especially C-II — cannot be ignored. “In fact, the Kirby Lester range of products can provide immediate relief, or strategic long-term solutions, for pharmacies adding telepharmacy and consulting, and redeploying their staff elsewhere.”
CPESN (Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network) is hosting a weekly podcast on the latest on COVID-19 (). Pharmacists can share “Practice Pearls” and concerns too.
Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency