E-sampling can improve patient safety

May 8, 2006

Following closely on the heels of its work group success one-prescribing as well as its newest long-term care work groupestablished last year, the National Council for Prescription DrugPrograms (NCPDP) continued to push forward with its plans todevelop a new work group aimed at establishing an e-samplingsystem. These plans were reiterated by NCPDP president Lee AnnStember at the organization's 29th annual meeting in March inPhoenix.

"In the past year, we've embraced a new category into our membership ranks, that of long-term care," said Stember in her opening address to attendees. "The long-term care community and NCPDP have been working together to build new technologies and efficiencies to one of the fastest-growing areas of health care.

"And more recently, we've begun the process of building another new technology. We've reached out to manufacturers, payers, physicians, and pharmacies about building standards for an e-sampling system that would work in a fashion parallel to the e-prescribing and the EHR [electronic health records] models."

"We are hopeful that the efforts and the vision of your NCPDP staff and your fellow NCPDP members will pay off with a brand new product sampling process to improve efficiencies and patient safety within the framework of healthcare interoperability," Stember told attendees. "This exciting new process will allow the physician and the pharmacist to have access to all the treatment safeguards that e-prescribing offers. This includes improved inventory tracking and packaging safety for the manufacturers and more foot traffic in the retail pharmacy setting."

An e-sampling system would allow the physician to prescribe samples to patients rather than simply handing them off in his or her office. Instead, the samples would be picked up at the pharmacy, where the system could potentially include records of samples being included in patient drug history, reduced sample abuse, and reduced waste. In short, NCPDP hopes to achieve improved efficiencies and patient safety.

"I expect that the Work Group 15 SMARTS will be able to improve business practices and better the tracking of the patient's drug history and inventory management, resulting in savings to the manufacturer segment and better safety for the patient," said Phillip D. Scott, senior VP sales and marketing for NCPDP, who was instrumental in the work group's development. "It's a win-win for everyone."

NCPDP also provided an update on its National Provider Identifier (NPI) initiative and its continued move forward with enumeration plans for pharmacists as related to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services' publication of its requirements for Electronic File Interchange Organizations. In late spring, CMS plans to go live with bulk enumeration for EFIOs, and NCPDP was selected as a beta test site by CMS and conducted testing with CMS in February. An educational track session entitled "Effective Planning for NPI Compliance," hosted by Andrea Danes, Fox Systems Inc., helped explain the importance of this initiative to attendees with the deadline for compliance just over a year away.

"With the realities of the NPI upon us, we have worked hard to become an electronic file interchange organization," Stember said. "We have reached out to the retail marketing communities to ease the burden of the NPI application process on their behalf. Almost every chain across the United States has consented to NCPDP handling its NPI application process. This provides a tremendous service to the industry at no cost to the pharmacies. And it will allow our NCPDP database to continue to be the important tool for the pharmacy services sectors."

In other news coming out of the annual meeting: