Kevin Welch, president of Smith Technologies, parent company of QS/1, and chief technology officer of J M Smith Corporation, was asked to share his thoughts on where pharmacy is heading. Here is what he had to say.

ComputerTalk: Kevin, please share your vision for pharmacy and how technology will power it.

Kevin Welch President, Integra LTC Solutions, and CTO, J.M. Smith
Kevin Welch, President, Integra LTC Solutions, and CTO, J.M. Smith

Kevin Welch: Expertise, love of community, and easy access make pharmacists an essential part of the patient care team. As pharmacists’ role continues to evolve and expand beyond dispensing, they will likely become the initial healthcare provider for an increasing number of patients.

Healthcare is becoming more focused on patient health outcomes, and pharmacy is in an ideal position to impact results. Pharmacy can show its value by optimizing medication therapy management — engaging patients while monitoring clinical impact, recommending necessary adjustments, and communicating plans and progress to other members of the patients’ healthcare team.

Advanced technology will enable more efficient workflow that frees up pharmacists to be more clinically engaged and patient facing.

Healthcare is becoming more focused on patient health outcomes, and pharmacy is in an ideal position to impact

CT: When you think about the solutions available now, which ones do you think will change how pharmacy will look in the future?

Welch: The Pharmacist eCare Plan initiative has opened the door for pharmacists to communicate with other providers in a universal language. The eCare Plan provides data for outcomes analytics as well as patient status reporting in a standardized format.

Precision medicine also has the potential to enhance the patient experience. Through a combination of pharmacogenomics and collaboration with prescribers, pharmacists can better predict treatment and prevention for chronic conditions, which improves health outcomes.

Pharmacies have access to so much data. Intelligent analytics are essential to ensure ongoing business success and help with identifying areas of growth and objectively viewing weaknesses; monitoring trends; looking at contracts and services with negative margins; and analyzing inventory management. With decreasing prescription reimbursement margins, pharmacies must operate at maximum efficiency to maintain positive cash flow. Business analytics enable decision makers to make informed business decisions.

CT: And what will pharmacy look like?

Welch: Dispensing will continue to be more automated, with increased technician involvement — allowing pharmacists to focus heavily on patient engagement and clinical outcomes. Appointment-based medication management will combine synchronized medication delivery with clinical-based pharmacist counseling. Enhanced clinical services as part of, or independent of, collaborative agreements will provide revenue streams from the medical-billing side of healthcare reimbursement.

CT: How is technology going to let pharmacists redefine themselves and become a bigger part of the fabric of the industry and their communities?

Welch: Pharmacy management systems are increasingly providing workflow models with integrated quality control measures that both support enhanced technician roles in the dispensing process and reassure the dispensing pharmacist of prescription accuracy and accountability. With technicians focused on dispensing, pharmacists will have more time to engage patients in clinical discussions that optimize outcomes. Enhanced clinical screening will also further enhance the accuracy and efficiency of medication assessment with appropriate documentation and then communication with other members of the healthcare team. Secure communication options will improve patient engagement while ensuring privacy and data security. CT