Part 3: Leverage Technology to Transform Pharmacy Practice

Expert Interview

"Patient care doesn't stop with COVID-19"

In an interview with Drug Topics®, Jason Ausili, PharmD, chief clinical officer at FDS, discusses the implications of Biden’s recent announcement of shifting vaccine supplies to local pharmacies and solutions to challenges that pharmacies may face, including managing daily responsibilities, patient consults, aligning pharmacy management systems (PMS) with expanded medical billing requirements, and reporting with state vaccine registries.

Don't miss part 1 and part 2 of this exclusive interview.

Ausili: Secondly, having a more automated register reporting solution is critical.

With the high volume of COVID-19 vaccines, doing this manually really is a struggle. So being able to capture data and reuse the data in a way that's meaningful from a workflow perspective and just having the pharmacists fill out the few fields that they need to fill out, that you only have after you've administered the vaccine - like the injection site, the lot number, expiration - you know, you can't predict that information, so you have to document that in more of a real time fashion. But leveraging technology to report that information in a more automated way, saves a lot of time.

One of the important areas that I mentioned, Gabrielle, with dedicating time and resources, this makes it critical that you're optimizing your workflow and maximizing efficiency, even before getting into your COVID-19 vaccine practice.

So, we found that there's technology tools that really can directly free up pharmacist time that can be reinvested in clinical services, especially medication synchronization. By leveraging med sync to drive workflow efficiency, you're not only able to coordinate with a delivery schedule that might run a few days a week, but you're using the most efficient way to fill prescriptions.

You can balance workload by having certain days of the week where you fill all the patient’s prescriptions. You're reducing their visits into the pharmacy, you're able to anticipate problems with no refills, insurance issues, and you name it, and you're able to manage your inventory in a more meaningful way too, because you know in advance what medications you're going to need.

Gone are the days of the patient coming in with a bag full of bottles. And you're only able to help them out with maybe 60-70% of their prescriptions because the other ones encounter problems. Med sync allows you to do the work when you need to do it and eliminate all those problems proactively, so that when you're ready for the patient to get them their medications, you've worked through all the issues.

We've heard many case studies where leveraging a medication synchronization solution has freed up full pharmacists’ time to be dedicated to clinical time. I think that's really key to driving your vaccination business.

Drug Topics®: So it sounds like these technology solutions, not only do they address these COVID-19 vaccination issues, but also will help these community pharmacists take the next step forward in patient care as well.

Ausili: I love that you said that because patient care doesn't stop with COVID-19.

Some of the barriers that have come down to make way for pharmacists to help their communities even more are those same barriers that don't need to go back up when the public health emergency ends. We have gained a lot of momentum as clinical providers during the pandemic that I want to see further expanded and further advanced.

Whether it's point-of-care testing - a lot of pharmacists got exposed to COVID-19 testing that may have not been aware of that before. But this has been a practice that's ideal for pharmacy, not only because of our accessibility, where 90% of the population lives within 5 miles of a pharmacy, making us the most accessible.

Why wouldn't you have a pharmacist test for things like strep and flu where the alternative is going into the ER, the urgent care after hours, and waiting and leveraging a much higher cost of care than what's needed when you could pop into your local community pharmacy and get tested and treated all in one visit.

It’s a much more convenient experience for the patient, but also much more friendly from a total cost of care perspective.

Drug Topics®: What would community pharmacists, knowing what they know now, change about how they prepared and approached the vaccination opportunities?

Ausili: Yeah, great question. And as I mentioned, I've spoken with many vaccinating pharmacies over the past 6 months and those that have gotten deeply involved in the COVID-19 testing experience. And some of the things that they've told me that I've reflected on and shared with others is leverage your entire team: your technicians, your staff, even volunteers. Whether it's student pharmacists, or even volunteers in your community. It could be partnering with the local fire department and coming up with community programs and how pharmacy can help their community in new and creative ways.

It's really talking about your goals for the day. Having a huddle in the morning and saying, “Hey, we're all doing all that we can. Let's take a step back, come up with a plan, and set goals for each and every team member.”

And sometimes it's identifying a champion within your staff. They’re probably not the head pharmacist. It's your rock star technician that can be a champion, and really lead and delegate these medical billing, vaccine reporting, all these other tasks that are not a normal part of the workflow. If you have a champion that can watch over those and really delegate appropriately, they can help you lead the way.

It's also dedicating enough staff hours for all these tasks. Your champion and the delegation of those tasks can help, but make sure you're appropriately staffed for the vaccine effort. Otherwise, you're going to lose time on your normal workflow and things are going to get out of hand.

But I mentioned leveraging students and volunteers, but it's maximizing really the role of the technician. One of the amazing things that the HHS authorization allowed for was the expansion of technician capabilities. I’m a big advocate for the pharmacy technician. They really make things run in the pharmacy and now to have them be able to operate at a higher level not only is exciting for the pharmacy technician, and it creates a deeper career path for those very skilled individuals.

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