Community pharmacy was an early adopter of technology, recognising the value in automating and streamlining labelling and ordering in community pharmacy practice in the 1980’s. It was back then that our journey first began with the earliest version of a pharmacy program that printed labels for dispensed drugs and kept a stock count of prescription drugs.
Naturally, automation in pharmacy systems has advanced a lot since then – not least to support the rapid growth in prescription numbers with electronic solutions that further automate the dispensing process and streamline workflows.
There are many drivers for automation in a community pharmacy setting, from increasing dispensing capacity, reducing costs and dispensing errors, improving access to medication and supporting patient adherence. Each of these also allows pharmacists and technicians to spend more time on patient-facing activities.
Today’s customers want their experience with technology to be simple, to add value and generate real-time outputs. In our company, we are working hard to match these expectations alongside those of a rapidly changing NHS, where the Long Term Plan outlines a vision for ‘fully integrated community-based healthcare’ where pharmacists play a prominent role in multidisciplinary teams aligned with new Primary Care Networks.
We have embedded our commitment into a product experience goal that commits to delivering products and solutions that precisely match our customers’ needs, enhance the UK healthcare economy, and facilitate improvements in patient care and outcomes.
But meeting this promise requires change. We know that for very valid reasons customers find change daunting, we are talking about an IT system that sits at the very core of the pharmacy, and without which the pharmacy cannot operate.
Change must, therefore, be applied in the right way and, where possible, offer multiple benefits. We aim to achieve this through working closely alongside customers and ensure that their business is at the heart of ours.
A good example of this is the introduction of barcode scanning when the Falsified Medicines Directive came into force earlier this year. For many pharmacies, where barcode scanning was not already in use, this enforced regulatory change was seen as inconvenient, bringing about unnecessary costs and changes to tried and tested workflows.
As a technology partner to the industry, we saw FMD as a huge opportunity to work with customers to drive more automation into the dispensing workflow. For example, barcode scanning does not just allow pharmacies to verify and decommission stock for FMD; with our system it also supports expiry date checks, picking accuracy checks, updates the dispensing record and triggers a claim notification. Small efficiencies like these add up, especially when you are dispensing thousands of prescriptions each month.
We are committed to a process of continuous improvement in our solutions to deliver as much efficiency into pharmacy as possible. For us this is about making solutions work smarter, and utilising technology to its fullest potential. All the system changes that we introduce are geared around customer feedback and designed to solve common problems in pharmacy such as access to the right information at the right time, prevent duplicate records, reduce the need for re-keying data and address process inefficiencies, to name a few.
One of the biggest changes that we are about to roll out is the introduction of an intelligent dashboard that sits within our core PMR, to give pharmacies real-time updates of key events as they are happening. We are doing this so that pharmacy teams have quick access to the information they need, and so they can make informed decisions about where their attention is most required.
As part of this dashboard, we are also giving integrated access to a range of NHS services, another automation step that removes the need to re-key information.
For all of these services to work seamlessly, we, of course, need to access and utilise data. The amount of data that exists in the healthcare space is vast and can generate incredible insights into patient journeys, treatment pathways and health outcomes. Naturally, a lot of people have concerns around data security. This is something we take very seriously and place as one of our greatest priorities to ensure the highest levels of data security and integrity are maintained at all times.
We understand that it can be hard to keep up with constant changes but the pace of change isn’t going to slow. In fact, the NHS is only going to be seeing more changes in future as we progress towards a more integrated care ecosystem, with pharmacy a core component of multidisciplinary teams.
Whilst we don’t necessarily have to embrace change, it is important to understand the problem we collectively are seeking to solve, both for the value it will deliver back into your pharmacy and into pharmacy as a whole. Pharmacy has embraced technology before; it is time to embrace the change that automation can bring again.
Pharmacy Product Director at Cegedim Rx, Tracey Robertson, contributed to this article.
This article also appears in the October issue of Pharmacy Business.