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    From IVRs to PHRs, more technologies beckon pharmacies

    Technologies focus on improving automation and boost efficiency at the NACDS Technology conference.


    The National Association of Chain Drug Stores Pharmacy & Technology Conference, held in Boston last month, offered pharmacists one of the best opportunities to see emerging trends in new technologies. Among the wares on display were those designed to remind patients about their drug regimen, help pharmacists comply with regulations, and improve patient safety and outcomes. Here's a sampling of the new products and services exhibited at the show.

    Enhancing medication adherence

    McKesson Corp. is one vendor that's getting into this business through a new unit called McKesson Patient Relationship Solutions. According to Stefan Linn, senior VP of marketing for McKesson U.S. Pharmaceutical, the wholesaler will "leverage all its assets to drive adherence." Among the San Francisco company's assets is RelayHealth, which connects more than 90% of the nation's pharmacies to payers, physicians, manufacturers, and others. RelayHealth announced the launch of NotifyRx, a real-time messaging notification and intervention tool for pharmacy businesses, at the meeting. An example of NotifyRx's capabilities is that it recently alerted pharmacies to Omacor's name change to Lovaza (omega-3-acid ethyl esters, Reliant Pharmaceuticals). RelayHealth also launched a tool for medication reconciliation called IntegrateRx, which provides healthcare organizations with patients' medication histories for seamless continuity of care. McKesson revealed that Duane Reade is among the pharmacies that have agreed to make their patients' drug records available to hospital emergency rooms.

    Besides McKesson's offerings, a host of interactive voice response (IVR) systems for driving patient compliance were on display at the NACDS show. Marketed by TeleManager Technologies, Varolii Corp. (formerly called PAR3), West Interactive, and others, IVR systems allow pharmacies to not only install an automated system to answer the phone and handle refill requests, but also to reach out to patients and notify them before it is time to refill their medications. These systems contact patients via telephone, e-mail, text message, or even instant messaging. They allow patients to select their preferred method of contact and which programs they are interested in learning about, whether it is refills, preventive health notifications, or clinical program enrollments.

    Improving security

    Detecting counterfeit drugs has become faster and more accurate with the XT250.
    Pseudoephedrine-tracking systems are continuing to generate interest, as many pharmacies look to move from paper logs to a more efficient method (see Drug Topics, July 23). Appriss, Legal Age ID Systems, and Pharmitas all displayed systems to simplify and, more important, speed up the process of collecting patient identification. Both Pharmitas and Legal Age ID Systems offer integrated solutions that can scan a driver's license bar-code or magnetic strip and automatically input addresses and license numbers in the database.

    Another solution, focused on counterfeit detection, was also on display at the show. Xstream Systems' XT250 Material Identification System uses basic X-ray technology to examine powders, pills, or even entirely sealed bottles to determine whether they are legitimate or counterfeit. Scanned medications receive a pass/fail grade. The machine can scan inside opaque plastic, cardboard, or even metal packaging. The results can be printed, stored, or sent to a server.

    EMRs versus PHRs

    Swiping licenses at checkout speeds up pseudoephedrine tracking.
    The NACDS show also devoted some attention to the topic of electronic medical records (EMRs) versus personal health records (PHRs). Unlike EMRs, PHRs are Web-based, can be accessed from anywhere, are owned and controlled by the patient, and combine data from all providers. According to Robert Burg, VP of business development and sales at Medem, a PHR provider, many patients prefer to fill out a more comprehensive PHR survey on-line before an appointment to completing a paper form at the doctor's office. Burg suggested that PHRs could not only benefit pharmacy in-store clinics, but also provide ways to strengthen pharmacy brand identity with patients.


    Reid Paul
    Reid A. Paul, Senior Editor, joined Drug Topics in 2006. He covers technology and community pharmacies. He has six years' trade ...