Pharmacy Times interviewed David Pope, PharmD, CDE, chief innovation officer at OmniSYS, on some of the technology trends that occurred in the pharmacy space during the pandemic.
Alana Hippensteele: Hi, I’m Alana Hippensteele with Pharmacy Times. Joining me is David Pope, PharmD, CDE, chief innovation officer at OmniSYS, to discuss some of the technology trends that occurred in the pharmacy space during the pandemic.
So, David, what are some of the technology trends in the pharmacy that came about because of some of those problems that occurred during COVID-19?
David Pope: Well, thanks for having me today. Number 1 is clearly the digital front door, including the use of scheduling for clinical services. Before the pandemic, very few pharmacies asked the patient to schedule an encounter for their flu shot. But now that there’s a digital front door, there’s just lots of opportunity, and clinical service opportunities, that we can bring forward to the patient without simply relying on a technician or a pharmacist to proactively bring that up with the patient.
Number 2 is the adoption of a clinical [electronic health record (EHR)]. Before the pandemic, we saw it growing within the pharmacy space—having an EHR. Now, after all, you may have only needed one if you were doing something like clinical services, diabetes, education, and tobacco cessation and education. But with new vaccines and testing, pharmacies quickly figured out that they needed something that was clinically focused that also closely mirrored a physician EHR, but it was scoped to the pharmacy. Those that tried to use their own in-house technology at first quickly found that changing technology and data requirements for COVID vaccination and testing was just operationally heavy. It didn’t allow them to respond quickly in response to the market.
The final thing that we’re seeing is investments and technologies that improve the workload of the pharmacist through automated patient engagement tools, and then data integration. So, as you know, everyone is recognizing the myriad of tasks the pharmacist is asked to do in their workday—I’m a pharmacist myself—so I recognize that. So pharmacy organizations are trying to automate pharmacists’ tasks by adopting new modern intelligent patient engagement systems. There’s a new breed out there of patient engagement platforms that really do prevent staff burden while driving clinical outcomes and top line revenue.
Alana Hippensteele: Right. How have technology solutions allowed pharmacists to provide more holistic patient care and are these strategies here to stay?
David Pope: Yes, so the advent of test-and-treat is an absolute prime example. Pharmacies immediately stepped up to the plate to provide COVID-19 and flu testing. They needed a place to bill it, document it, communicate it with stakeholders like the federal government and the patient themselves. Technologies that drive this are now going to be used going forward as pharmacists expand those service offerings into infectious disease testing, as well as lab testing that now affects value-based care programs, like an A1C test.
Alana Hippensteele: What technology solutions do you see as being on the horizon to help address challenges pharmacists face day-to-day?
David Pope: Great question. So pharmacists have consistently proven through integrated networks that they can make a measurable difference in the lives of their patients living with chronic disease. So as a result, additional information just needs to get in front of the pharmacist, like labs tending to their disease state, so that the pharmacist can not only ensure the medications are right, but they’re also effective.
So this requires technologies to be interoperable with physician EHRs and labs. So now that pharmacy organizations are billing more on the medical side, they’re also going to need technologies and organizations that help them with credentialing. Thankfully, much of the medical billing support is already there.
Alana Hippensteele: Right. What are some technology solutions that would help support the pharmacist’s role as drug expert on health care teams?
David Pope: So as a pharmacist myself, I absolutely understand the need for the patient to be able to have that personal relationship with their pharmacist. So any technology that can take disparate data from different sources to get up at the right time for the pharmacist and provide insights, highlights on medication opportunities—those are the ones that have a big chance of making a measurable difference in the life of the patient. In other words, clinical decision support is going to play an increasingly big role in the pharmacy space, as labs and other patient data is revealed back to the pharmacist.
Alana Hippensteele: What is your view on the COVID-19 regulations in the pharmacy space, and how have these regulations impacted the pharmacy?
David Pope: Well, they’re still being worked out today, that’s for sure. But the PREP Act gave pharmacists the ability to immunize and test patients—this has been an overwhelmingly positive thing for pharmacy. Just before the pandemic, most discussions around lab testing in the pharmacy really revolved around the litany of red tape that prevented pharmacists from lab testing in the interest of the public good. COVID-19 tore down most of that red tape. In fact, it has brought other lab testing to the table for pharmacy, stuff like flu testing.
So I don’t see our country going back to the days of big red tape, preventing pharmacies from lab testing—but currently, it is tied to the emergency order in the [Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP)] Act.
Alana Hippensteele: Right. What are your hopes for the future of the pharmacist?
David Pope: Well, that’s a great question. So I’m excited to see the role of the pharmacist move more and more to the medical benefit. Pharmacists are billing for professional services now more than ever, so I expect this trend to increase exponentially.
Pharmacy has proven itself with infectious disease. It’s time to unleash the same group on combating chronic disease like diabetes and heart disease. So to do so, they’re going to need the right tools at the right time. They’re going to need to be able to prescribe under protocol, bill for those services as a low to moderate complexity office visit. I mean, I may have some rose colored glasses on, but I believe the future is brighter now than the day I graduated pharmacy school at University of Georgia.