Gone are the days when pharmacists simply filled and billed prescriptions. Today pharmacists offer much more, from making care recommendations to providing enhanced clinical services like immunizations. The evolution of the pharmacist’s role in recent years presents a myriad of opportunities and challenges—especially when it comes to independent pharmacies that lack corporate resources and support.
According to Christina Michalek, BS, RPh, a medication safety specialist at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, “Small and rural facilities face unique challenges when trying to prevent errors involving high-alert medications. Often, smaller facilities don’t have the same resources as larger hospitals, such as a staff member dedicated to medication safety. Instead, employees often wear multiple hats, with pharmacists serving the roles of directors, clinicians, technicians, and medication safety experts. Smaller facilities also may not have access to more sophisticated EHRs [electronic health records] or other technologies that can help identify and prevent errors.”
Fortunately, advanced pharmacy technology benefits both patients and technicians alike. Enter automation solutions, which ultimately benefit the patient and help independent pharmacists and technicians improve patient safety and outcomes. Pharmacy automation also streamlines workflows and frees up time to spend with patients, enabling independent pharmacists and their staff to work more efficiently and effectively.
Here are four benefits of automation solutions, and the reasons why pharmacy patients are better off when their technician has access to them.
1. Prevents Medication Dispensing Errors
Each year, 7,000-9,000 people die as a result of a medication error in the US alone, not to mention the hundreds of thousands who experience adverse reactions due to medication. It’s estimated that medication errors harm at least 1.5 million people per year. The three most common dispensing errors include miscalculated dosage, failure to identify potential drug interactions, and dispensing incorrect medications, dosage strength, or form.
This is clearly a huge risk factor for both patients and pharmacists. Medication errors are not only concerning because of patient safety but also costly from a business perspective. The total cost of caring for patients with medication-associated errors exceeds $40 billion per year.
Of course, mistakes are bound to happen from time to time, but they can be greatly reduced with automation solutions. The use of automation technology helps eliminate human errors caused by manual work, ultimately increasing pharmacy accuracy and efficiency and avoiding preventable dispensing mishaps.
2. Frees Up Time for Personalized Care
As the executive director of the American Society for Automation in Pharmacy said, “Automation is making pharmacies more efficient, no question about it. Increased efficiency is giving pharmacies the opportunity to offer more services and to provide more drug safety.”
As the role of the pharmacist evolves to incorporate enhanced clinical care services, small, independent pharmacies are tasked with finding ways to free up time to implement those services and spend more quality time with patients. By automating time-consuming manual tasks, pharmacists can simplify workflows, provide better care to patients, expand their clinical service offerings, and work toward meeting value-based and population health initiatives.
This goes a long way in becoming trusted community caregivers—especially in rural, underserved communities that are far from a doctor’s office. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of Americans in rural areas say access to doctors and hospitals is a major problem in their community. That’s why in many cases, rural pharmacies are the first line of defense.
3. Arms Technicians with Valuable Insights
Automation solutions arm pharmacy technicians with valuable insights into patient care, as well as the resources required to improve the patient experience. Using pharmacy automation technology, pharmacists and technicians can access robust analytics that drive clinical and operational efficiencies.
For example, automation solutions offer better tracking systems for medication adherence, which is important for a number of reasons. Not only is medication adherence directly tied to better patient outcomes, but it also increased performance metrics, U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Star Ratings, and pharmacy profitability.
4. Simplifies the Inventory Tracking Process
Medication tracking is also simplified with access to the right pharmacy automation solutions. This is more important than ever before, especially as smaller, independent pharmacies look for ways to differentiate themselves from big box chains and make patient care more personable.
Automated systems not only make it less likely a patient will receive the wrong medication or dosage, but they also lead to decreased waste and lower costs. Pharmacists can use automation technology to easily identify shortages, track expiration dates, and receive alerts when it’s time to reorder medications.
Additionally, increased visibility into pharmacy inventory ensures you have adequate stock on hand and helps to reduce refill wait times. This prevents potential gaps in care and the negative impact late refills can have on staffing, inventory, and refill volume.
Improving the Patient Experience with Pharmacy Automation
Automation solutions improve the patient experience, reduce costly and dangerous errors, and empower independent pharmacists to work more efficiently. By automating the health of your business, you can free up time to focus on the health of your patients. It’s a win-win situation that benefits everyone involved, from patients and pharmacy technicians to the pharmacists running the show.
That said, you need access to the right kind of pharmacy automation technology to reap the full rewards. Pharmacies of all kinds can benefit greatly from additions to their existing pharmacy management software (PMS), ultimately improving efficiency and customer care. Learn how to take your pharmacy business and patient care to the next level by downloading our free guide: Technology Additions to Pharmacy Management Systems.