Samson Mekonnen Business Operations Manager Vibrant Care Pharmacy
Samson Mekonnen, Business Operations Manager, Vibrant Care Pharmacy

Pharmacy management software has been evolving rapidly in recent years, with systems offering an ever-expanding list of features. Still, many pharmacies find themselves running their business from multiple pieces of software and logging into various portals each day to get all the functionality they need. This clearly is not the most efficient strategy for running a modern pharmacy.

Samson Mekonnen, business operations manager at Vibrant Care Pharmacy, a closed-door long-term care pharmacy in Oakland, Calif., recognizes this inefficiency. As a result, he has made it his mission to ensure that his pharmacy runs as many processes as possible from its central dispensing system.

Vibrant Care Pharmacy services assisted living facilities, residential care facilities for the elderly, adult residential facilities, group homes, and specialty behavioral health centers.

“We handle the entire process of filling prescriptions and managing residents’ prescription profiles for these facilities,” says Mekonnen. “And we provide multidose adherence packaging for the majority of our clients as well.”

“If you are trying to use a manual process to manage all the prescriptions that end up flagged with issues in the billing queue every day, that’s costing you a tremendous amount of time.” – Samson Mekonnen

The pharmacy has relied on IPS Elite pharmacy management software from Meditab for the last 12 years to run smooth, efficient workflows. According to Mekonnen, it brings together all of the tools the Vibrant Care Pharmacy staff needs in one tightly integrated platform.

“IPS Elite software is the all-in-one solution we need,” says Mekonnen. “We use it to manage every aspect of the intake, dispensing, and communication with facilities.”

Integrated Communications

It starts, according to Mekonnen, with two options at intake: a web portal and an app. These provide channels for data to flow for a wide range of communications, including new and refill prescriptions, notes, and secure messaging with facilities and patients. IPS Elite then sorts the flow of information, such as new stat or regular orders, changes and refills, or messaging, and passes it to the appropriate queues for pharmacy staff. The portal is particularly critical, notes Mekonnen, for smoothing the process of mid-dispensing cycle updates and submitting emergency orders.

As Vibrant Care Pharmacy staff work the various queues, facilities have the opportunity to use the portal to access the most current details and take actions based on it, such as printing out up-to-date medication administration records on demand. In addition, facilities can view prescription status within the dispensing workflow.

“Facility staff are able to go into the portal and see, for example, that a prescription is in the billing error queue,” explains Mekonnen. “Every time facility staff can use the portal to get the information they need, we’ve eliminated a phone call.”

Facilities can also use the app, available on the usual mobile and tablet platforms, to access similar functionality. Mekonnen notes that the app allows for easy and secure document submission; facility staff just take a photo of an order and upload it via the app to an inbox in IPS Elite. From there, the staff can review it and assign it to the correct queue in the workflow.

“What’s nice is that the integration between the portal, the app, and IPS Elite is seamless,” says Mekonnen.

The app also makes a similar set of features available directly to patients to manage their care, as well as a secure chat feature for any questions or concerns.

Billing Queue Management Automated

Another critical element built into IPS Elite is billing automation, according to Mekonnen. Long-term care pharmacies can spend a lot of time managing a particularly complex set of billing requirements. For example, it’s challenging to manage billing given the constant flow of changes to prescriptions in mid-cycle fill.

“What IPS Elite does is maintain a virtual inventory of the medications that have been billed and filled in a patient’s bubble packs,” says Mekonnen.

Suppose there’s a prescription issue to resolve, whether it’s a new cycle-fill or stat order, a refill, or an order change. IPS Elite automatically creates and sends out messaging to resolve the issue. For example, a prescriber may have a prescription without dispensable quantities available. The pharmacy software sends out a message via e-prescribing or fax, depending on the prescriber’s needs. Then, when the prescriber responds, the pharmacy software processes it automatically to resolve the issue and move the prescription to the next step in the dispensing workflow.

“If you are trying to use a manual process to manage all the prescriptions that end up flagged with issues in the billing queue every day, that’s costing you a tremendous amount of time,” says Mekonnen. “We’re filling over 550 prescriptions a day on cycle fill, and another 50-plus that come in as stat orders. Using the automation within IPS Elite, we rarely have to dedicate staff time to taking action on billing issues. For the vast majority of prescriptions, we don’t ever need to worry about it.”

Dashboarding the Information Flow

With all the information flowing through the IPS Elite platform, Vibrant Care Pharmacy can take full advantage of data dashboarding, Mekonnen reports.

“We have the information we need to track productivity closely,” he says. “We use dashboards to see our staffing needs, for example, by identifying the peaks and valleys in our filling volume. We also look for any issues in our billing automation, keep a close eye on drug inventory costs, and track financial indicators by facility.”

When these dashboards are populated by data sourced from a tightly integrated technology platform, there’s a much greater ease of use and data confidence level.

Operating at the Highest Level

Mekonnen sees the array of tools built into Vibrant Care Pharmacy’s IPS Elite software as a central element of the pharmacy’s service level and strong relationship with facilities.

“We typically have great success marketing the value of features in IPS Elite to facilities,” he says. “And once we are on board, we are able to provide a level of service that keeps facilities engaged with us. We find the ultra-efficient communication supported by the portal and app and the consistent flow of information-rich data we can support among our staff and our facilities and patients are key to differentiating ourselves with facilities.”

The efficiency Vibrant Care Pharmacy receives from all of the functionality built into its pharmacy management software has been an even bigger help during COVID-19, Mekonnen notes.

And he makes it an ongoing goal to ensure that the pharmacy uses software that continues to raise its service level. Mekonnen reports that he evaluates the software options on the market at least every two years, a process that has continually convinced him that Vibrant Care Pharmacy has the pharmacy management system that fits its needs by offering the highest levels of functionality, integration, access to information, and ease of use. “That’s what I think really separates IPS Elite and continues to make it our choice,” concludes Mekonnen.” CT

Will Lockwood is VP, senior editor at ComputerTalk. He can be reached at will@computertalk.com.

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