The pharmacist role has evolved and expanded significantly in recent years with more and more retail and independent pharmacies offering clinical care services that go well beyond traditional dispensing. During COVID-19, the role has evolved even more as pharmacists have been tasked with everything from providing valuable information and debunking myths to offering point-of-care testing and administering vaccines. Of course, as the role of pharmacists has changed, so has the pharmacy software they’re taking advantage of to work more efficiently and deliver care more effectively. Here’s how:
Medical and DME Billing
Now that pharmacies are offering more clinical care, accurate and timely billing for medical services, supplies, and equipment is even more vital than it already was before. That said, inherent differences between billing to medical and prescription benefits have made getting properly reimbursed for clinical care a significant challenge for many pharmacists. Plus, on top of pharmacists not being as familiar with medical billing as doctor’s offices and hospitals, new COVID-19 billing codes and regulatory requirements have only added to the learning curve. Medical billing software for pharmacies can support and optimize billing for a number of clinical care services, from immunizations and diagnostic testing to medication therapy management, chronic disease prevention and management, and more. While some pharmacists were already using medical billing solutions to save on outsourcing costs, increase profitability, and ensure they’re appropriately reimbursed for the services they provide, adoption has continually increased throughout the pandemic. Solutions such as FDS MEDBILL have evolved to include new billing codes and point-of-care education and training programs to aid pharmacists during the transition. This not only empowers pharmacists to better serve their communities, but also supports pharmacies in expanding their clinical care offering, introducing new revenue streams, improving access to care in underserved areas, and ultimately growing their business.
Real-Time Inventory Management
Keeping track of medication inventory throughout the supply chain has become more important than ever before—particularly to address drug recalls and shortages caused by supply chain disruptions throughout the pandemic. In a recent survey, 66 percent of pharmacy staff reported dealing with up to 20 medications on shortage at a time, and nearly 30 percent had more than 20 shortages at a time. Even more alarming is that the American Medical Association (AMA) shared that “roughly half of all drugs in shortage are injectables, including analgesics, sedatives, and paralytics used for intubating critically ill patients.”
Fortunately, real-time inventory tracking is being implemented using pharmacy software integrated with radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to assist with this and track medication from supplier to pharmacist to patient. Real-time inventory management helps keep drugs on the shelf to avoid missed doses due to shortages and protect medication adherence. Additionally, pharmacists can use software to keep track of what they have in stock across multiple pharmacy locations at any given time, ultimately helping to reduce waste due to expired, unfilled medications.
With pharmacists taking on so much additional responsibility, there is a clear, ever-present need for pharmacies to operate as efficiently as possible. Operational efficiency, which was already a pain point, has become especially important as pharmacies have implemented mobile testing and vaccine locations, curbside services, enhanced sanitization and social distancing efforts, and COVID-19 counseling. Advanced pharmacy software can make a huge difference by improving operational efficiency by automating manual workflows and freeing staff up to focus on patient care. Pharmacists can also take advantage of pharmacy data (using a solution such as FDS MYDATAMART) to identify opportunities to introduce process improvements, streamline and automate workflows, and more. Along with streamlining workflows and reducing overhead costs, operating more efficiently also frees pharmacists and technicians up to spend more time interacting with patients, exploring new revenue opportunities, and expanding their service offerings to gain a competitive advantage and take their business to the next level.
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has become increasingly commonplace in the pharmacy industry, not to mention in healthcare overall. Now, AI technology is even being used to identify alternative routes for drugs that are currently in clinical trials to treat COVID-19. This technology can also monitor prescribing habits of controlled substances and flag any suspicious behavior, which is integral amid the opioid epidemic.
And that’s not all.
Like RFID technology, artificial intelligence is also being used to address drug shortages and identify therapeutic alternatives. It can also be used to identify patients at risk of medication nonadherence, which enables pharmacists to intervene early before it becomes a significant concern. For example, using AI to identify high-risk, nonadherent patients empowers pharmacists to take action by enrolling them in a medication synchronization (med sync) program, offering medication therapy management, and similar forms of intervention. As a result, we’ll likely continue to see new developments and innovations in the months and years to come around the use of AI in the pharmacy industry.
Using Pharmacy Software During the Pandemic and Beyond
There’s no question that pharmacists have already risen to the challenge throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the right cloud-based software can empower pharmacies—especially independent stores that lack the same corporate support and resources as big-box retailers—to operate more efficiently, expand clinical care services, and ensure accurate reimbursement for services they provide for patients. Throughout the COVID-19 health crisis, that has only become more apparent, particularly with software evolving to better support pharmacists during the pandemic.
Wondering what’s next for pharmacy and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the future of the industry? Watch our free webinar to learn what you can expect on the pharmacy industry horizon in 2021 and beyond.