• linkedin
  • Increase Font
  • Sharebar

    Pharmacy Technology: Disruption or Improvement?

    Is new technology actually making pharmacy any better (or easier)?


    The disruption that new technology gives the pharmacy industry also gives pharmacists more responsibility.

    Although many pharmacies and prescribers have mastered electronic prescribing and share important patient information via electronic health records (EHRs), there is room for more digital disruption in pharmacy. According to the ONC, physician use of e-Rx using an EHR jumped from 7% in December 2008 to 70% in April 2014.

    Integration of real-time information exchange between prescribers and pharmacists, EHRs, and digital tools have given rise to innovations in medication adherence and management, patient reminders to take medications, automatic refills, and electronic prior authorization.

    Related article: Technology: It is Here to Stay

    Disruption in pharmacy—using technology to improve outdated operations and enable advancements in capabilities—doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel; instead, technology and new tools promote convenience, affordability, efficiency, and patient-centered solutions.   

    Not Disruptive?

    “I don’t consider what is taking place as ‘digital disruption’ because we aren’t changing business models; we are enhancing them,” said Tom Skelton, CEO of Surescripts. “What is occurring today is the result of forward-thinking pharmacies that saw value in digitizing the prescribing process back in 2001. The spread of digitization to other inefficient manual processes is a natural progression of technology being used to refine and strengthen existing models, reduce costs, and increase patient safety and adherence.”  

    Surescripts recently released tools to support prescription price transparency, the presentation of therapeutic alternatives, and an integrated prior authorization process. 

    “These tools enable better prescription decisions by delivering timely, patient-specific information at the point of care, increasing fill rates and decreasing the time pharmacists spend on administrative processes related to pricing and coverage,” Skelton said. “Then they can spend more time counseling patients on their medication regimen.” 

    Related article: Health information technology in the community pharmacy

    With an eye toward tackling the high cost of medications, FamilyWize uses a proprietary product, emRxcel, to integrate its prescription drug savings program with EHRs to help patients save on prescription drug costs. Patient adherence to their drug regimens is electronically monitored and communicated back to physicians.

    A pilot program integrated emRxcel into the workflow of 338 ambulatory physician practices associated with Trinity Health. After 4 months of the pilot, 4,865 patients saved a total of $194,106 on prescription drug purchases.

    Skelton say that digital tools in pharmacy offer a number of advantages to stakeholders such as improving care, increasing patient safety, driving greater medication adherence, and enhancing efficiency.

    One of the primary advantages, Skelton said, is helping patients adhere to their medications despite high prices. “Technology exists today to solve this problem. Prescription price transparency is critical to lowering patients’ out-of-pocket costs and preventing ‘sticker shock’ at the pharmacy, while avoiding the hundreds of billions of dollars that medication non-adherence costs the system each year.”

    Skelton anticipates that digital solutions will achieve a return on investment by improving prescription processing efficiencies between pharmacists and prescribers and by avoiding costs associated with patients who fail to pick-up prescriptions.

    Mari Edlin
    Mari Edlin is a freelance writer based in Sonoma, California.


    You must be signed in to leave a comment. Registering is fast and free!

    All comments must follow the ModernMedicine Network community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated. ModernMedicine reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part,in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

    • Anonymous
      I don’t know what ivory tower these contributors live in, but doesn’t work so well in the trenches. Many times the prescibers choose a strength or dosage form that is unavailable commercially or no longer manufactured. Incomplete SIG’s is also a common problem or SIG says one thing and notes section says something else....grrrr. This causes delays in getting meds into patients’ hands....should be able to return to sender with clarification questions. Too much time still spent on faxing and phone calls and waiting for response from prescribers. Sometimes the old way of doing things is not so bad!
    • Anonymous
      I’m sorry, but I couldn’t even make it past “prescribers have mastered electronic prescribing” without choking on my lunch. It’s my day off, that’s how I get to have lunch.
    2018 Novel Drug Approvals: The First Five
    2018 Novel Drug Approvals: The First ...

    Signs point to a cooling on the FDA's fiery approval pace of 2017, but 2018 has already seen five novel drug approvals.

    Five Tips for Surviving a 12-Hour ...
    The Top 5 Pharmacist Movies of All Time
    Top 5 Problem Dietary Supplements