Pharmacies rely on technology for every aspect of their operations: patient profiles, drug utilization reviews, adjudication, dispensing, clinical services, point of sale, inventory management, wi-fi, phone systems, safety and security, alarms, refrigeration temperature monitoring, bookkeeping, payroll. The list can seem endless.
No matter what promises vendors make about automated upkeep and maintenance, technology does not take care of itself. Human intervention keeps pharmacy systems up to date, secure, and running optimally. And human intervention means pharmacist intervention.
“We have to take a role in technology upkeep,” says Eric Bandy, RPh, owner of Bandy’s Pharmacy and Medical Equipment in Salem, IL. “Our four pharmacies suffer if software is not upgraded successfully. And if there is a problem, the pharmacist always has a key role. We are not big enough to hire an IT guy, so I’m the go-to guy for all our technology housekeeping.”
Vendors can help, Bandy says, and many do help with automated data backup and software updates, telephone support, user groups, and more. But vendors can’t do it all.
Read More: Five Tech Best Practices
“Pharmacists and vendors both have roles,” says Paul Carrig, vice president of technology for PioneerRx, a pharmacy software company. “Dividing up those responsibilities depends in part on what technology you use. We recommend steps for the pharmacist to take to protect their network, but ultimately it is their responsibility to keep their business safe and secure. Consequently, PioneerRx employs many best practices to ensure our users are protected against risks and vulnerabilities.”
In the Workflow
The upkeep of your technology has three fronts:
- A daily data backup.
- Regular updates.
- Security, both physical and virtual.
All three start with the pharmacist.
“Keeping your pharmacy running smoothly starts with recognizing that your technology is as critical to your operations as your staff is,” says Robyn Ambers, a consultant with software vendor PrescsribeWellness.
“Engaging in using your technology, training on it, monitoring, and managing it is how you keep it running smoothly,” Ambers says. “You can’t ignore your technology any more than you can ignore your staff and expect them to function optimally on their own. Technology upkeep has to be part of your routine workflow.”
Watching data backup is about as interesting as watching paint dry. That’s why most vendors offer automated backup solutions.
“Doing backups is critical,” says Christopher Antypas, PharmD, president and chief operating officer of Asti’s South Hills Pharmacy in Pittsburgh. “The processing and dispensing of medications is the primary piece of what we do. If we were to go down, it would be crippling for us and for our patients.”
Asti’s is three pharmacies in one, a retail operation that does 800 to 1,000 scripts a day, a closed-door long-term-care pharmacy, and a specialty pharmacy that delivers most of its scripts. Antypas backs it all up every night locally and remotely through his vendor.
Other pharmacies use public cloud backup for businesses such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure Cloud. They send nightly data backups to the cloud, a generic term for servers owned by Amazon, Microsoft, or other vendors which typically store data in multiple locations to increase reliability.
Business-focused cloud vendors offer high data-transmission speeds for quick backup. More importantly, they can provide quick downloads to restore data and get the store up and running in hours. Consumer-focused cloud backup is far cheaper, but downloading to restore data can take days at the transmission rates for consumers.
Backing up only at the pharmacy is as bad as not backing up at all.
“If you make a physical backup on site, you have to physically remove it from the location,” says Tim Tannert, RPh, president of software vendor Framework LTC. “We’ve had pharmacies store their backup in a safe in the store. And when the building caught fire and the safe got hot and the backup media melted, it didn’t help them much.”
Up Next: Software Updates and Security...