Alison Yesilcimen joined Catalyst Healthcare, provider of the oneMAR cloud-based electronic medication administration record (eMAR) and sister company to Pack4U, an adherence packaging service, earlier in 2014 and has now been named president of the company. In this interview, Yesilcimen talks with ComputerTalk senior editor Will Lockwood about the state of pharmacy’s use of technology to track important adherence and outcomes metrics and support clinical and patient data exchange. She also touches on the strategic direction at Catalyst.

: Alison, congratulations on your new leadership position and thanks for taking time to speak with us. Tell us a little bit about your background first.

Alison Yesilcimen:
Thank you. Before coming to Catalyst, I led a publishing company during a time when technology was changing rapidly, much like it is in healthcare today. I started my own SaaS [software as a service] platform, so I have technical experience on the software side. I’m absolutely excited about the opportunity to lead at Catalyst. It’s an exciting time. There’s just so much going on, and I continue to learn and grow as the company continues to flourish.

CT: Let’s set the stage then by talking a little bit about the current state of eMARs, and where things are with Catalyst’s product in particular.

We’ve created an eMAR software system called Catalyst oneMAR that allows facilities and pharmacies to share data in real time to advance quality and improve patient outcomes. Our eMAR has been in the market for about six years now, so we have a lot of experience providing full connectivity between the pharmacy and facility. The need for connectivity is growing, and we expect that to continue across the industry.

CT: Pharmacy is, in general, really working to make sure it is connected into healthcare data flows. What does a robust eMAR mean for pharmacies in this context?
The right eMAR means that pharmacies can share vital, real-time patient medication data with facilities, physicians, and nurses. They connect the whole healthcare team for one patient to data about his or her medication record. Our oneMAR, with the scan of a single barcode, gives providers a real-time view of the medication list and the medication administration data. For both the pharmacy and the facility, that’s valuable data, especially for providers and payers who are driving to improve key quality measures.

CT: I think it’s very interesting that you bring up quality measures, since these are such a focus right now and getting the right data to demonstrate quality is critical for pharmacy. Long-term care pharmacies have really been leading the way here for some time and providing an excellent model for what you can do with the right data management tools connecting a care team.

That’s right. Accurate, up-to-date information is a key part of the foundation for demonstrating quality. And it’s important to realize that not all eMARs are created equal, so pharmacies must ensure that the eMAR that they do choose includes the features they need to capture the data that they want.

CT: What metrics are pharmacies looking for right now?

First and foremost, they want to be able to demonstrate that the medications are being given out at the right time and to the right patient. Those are basic goals, but anyone familiar with pharmacy knows that this is more complicated than it sounds. Then there are other key pieces of medication data that a robust eMAR can bring into the patient’s record. For example, with oneMAR, facilities have the ability to enter in drugs that the family may have brought in when a patient becomes a resident, or vitamins that they’ve brought in that they would like their loved one to be taking. That’s information that needs to get transferred back to the pharmacy. When you have a complete medication record, then the pharmacist can do a true medication review to look at compatibility and polypharmacy. Things like this are absolutely instrumental in ensuring patient safety and better outcomes.

CT: I think this introduces the topic of continuity of care — that is, making sure that an accurate medication record goes with a patient as he or she moves between care settings. This is another important conversation in pharmacy right now.

With an eMAR, you can have a full, data-rich record of a patient’s entire medication history, with coordinated, easily managed input from facility and pharmacy. This is a record that is then easily transferred from place to place, as opposed to in the past when you had paper here and paper there. And then pharmacies serving long-term care facilities using an eMAR can leverage powerful reporting capabilities and analyze the data better than ever before, really down to the patient and dose levels. This is valuable, because a more accurate patient medication record supports better reporting, better access to and use of the data in a clinical sense, and easier continuity of care when patients transition to a new location.

CT: It’s a classic situation of having to have good data coming in in order to be able to generate good reporting and show useful metrics. So as we are talking about the ability to collect all this data into an eMAR, what should pharmacists consider when they are looking at how an eMAR communicates with their other technology, with their pharmacy management systems, with their IVR systems, etc.?

I think one major consideration right now is data syncing versus real-time data. Some eMARs operate separately from the pharmacy’s systems. Facility staff collect data in their own system, then synchronize with the pharmacy’s systems later. There’s an obvious delay in the flow of information with that model. With real-time communication, like we have with oneMAR, as soon as a facility staff member scans a barcode, that information is linked directly to the pharmacy serving that patient to see if anything has changed. That’s a key capability pharmacists should demand.

CT: Is there a topic that’s top of mind for you in terms of talking about connectivity and the tools that are driving it?

Yes. One issue that’s important right now is the improvement of a pharmacy’s visibility and key adherence metrics and how this contributes to star ratings. An eMAR can help with that, and it’s important for pharmacists considering an eMAR to ask that question.

CT: Certainly. Star ratings are really top of mind all across pharmacy right now.

eMARs give pharmacies the power to extract data across the patient populations they are serving to show medication administration and adherence rates. The impact eMARs can have on plan ratings will become one important way for pharmacies to become a partner of choice for facilities. I’ll give you an example: Consider a pharmacy and a facility that are using an eMAR to track and improve adherence for a group of Medicare patients who taking statins. The facility shares that data with the Part D plan and the plan then uses that data to improve its star rating.

CT: OK. What else should we know about Catalyst Healthcare right now?

Now’s a great time to share details about our sister company, Pack4U. This is a service that provides low-cost, patient-specific adherence packaging to pharmacies. This is something you’re going to hear a lot more about as more and more pharmacies see it as critical to offer patient-specific adherence packaging. This is a service that can improve adherence and ease medication administration, and that means it can improve the quality of patient outcomes too.

CT: What kind of packaging is this?

It’s multidose strip packaging.

CT: Have you noticed any trend in retail pharmacies wanting to provide compliance packaging, to leverage that impact on adherence for retail patients?

Yes. Pack4U is relatively new. We’re speaking to and working with a lot of pharmacies serving walk-in retail patients as well.

CT: Let’s return to eMARs to close. Where are we in having them become the standard of practice for LTC pharmacy?

The adoption trend is growing with eMARs, certainly. There’s more demand from pharmacies and facilities, and I expect this will continue as both focus on improving their patient care and documenting the metrics to demonstrate success. We’re excited to continue our work to provide pharmacies with medication administration and adherence solutions. We see great opportunities for pharmacists to show their tremendous value in 2015. CT