The performance expectations placed on retail and outpatient pharmacies are rising as health care industry stakeholders respond to value-based reimbursement models, health care consumerism and increased competition. McKesson spoke with Emilie Ray, president of McKesson Pharmacy Technology and Solutions, about emerging pharmacy technologies and other technology trends that will help retail and outpatient pharmacies grow and succeed in this new health care environment.

What aspects of a pharmacy’s business are being targeted with new technologies or advances in existing technologies?

Ray: The two big targets are clinical and financial. In the clinical performance area, I’m referring to technologies and innovations that better connect pharmacies to their patients and that produce better patient outcomes. In the financial performance area, I’m referring to technologies that improve workflows and generate operational efficiencies that reduce operating costs, free up time for more patient-facing clinical activities and drive additional revenue.

Emerging Technologies Define Retail Pharmacy of the Future QuoteWhat are some examples of emerging technologies or innovations that promise to increase pharmacy customer engagement and clinical results?

Ray: One would be health wearables—mobile devices that monitor the health of patients. We need to take the information being generated and integrate it into the workflow of the pharmacy to help pharmacists become more aware of the patient’s personal data. Onsite health screening technologies like blood pressure machines also are a source of patient-specific data that can be fed into pharmacy management systems. Another is social media. Obviously, social media is not new. What is new is how pharmacies can use social media to engage patients in their own health and medication use. For instance, pharmacies can use secure text messages to remind customers to fill and pick up their prescriptions. Some pharmacies are also now launching pharmacogenomics programs that use genetic profiles to determine a patient’s responsiveness to a specific medication treating a certain disease state. A fourth example would be technologies designed to meet the retail service expectations of pharmacy patients like online shopping, ordering, shipping and delivery of over-the-counter pharmaceutical supplies that might be complimentary to their individual conditions.

What about technologies that target chronic medical conditions and medication adherence?

Ray: Advances in medical screening technologies allow those screenings to be performed safely and accurately in the pharmacy setting, where permitted by state law. For instance, blood pressure machines to check for hypertension or blood tests to check blood sugar levels for diabetes. Applications embedded in pharmacy management systems can track adherence and flag non-adherent patients for interventions, and create customized clinical programs to meet the specific needs of patients. Other pharmacy management systems apps such as medication therapy management portals and automated medication synchronization scheduling tools also can help retail and outpatient pharmacies drive improved adherence and better management of chronic medical diseases.

What are some examples of emerging technologies or innovations that promise to improve the financial performance of pharmacies?

Ray: One would be central fill. That’s when a pharmacy’s prescriptions are filled at a central location instead of onsite. Central fill is not new. What is new is how pharmacies are using it. Rather than setting up their own central fill operation, which requires an initial capital outlay, ongoing capital and labor expenditures and a large prescription volume to justify the cost, some retail pharmacies are approaching central fill as a service. They’re licensing the central fill services offered by a third party and avoiding the capital, inventory carrying, and labor costs.

Other than central fill as a service, are there other emerging technologies or innovations that target pharmacy operating costs?

Ray: The other big area is drug inventory management. There is predictive modeling to effectively manage inventory and reduce the expense of maintaining unused stock onsite. The mindset of most pharmacies is “we never want to run out of anything,” so they overstock. They are carrying the cost of unused pharmaceuticals and absorbing the cost of unused drugs that expire. A more sophisticated approach is using predictive analytics embedded in technology that looks at historical dispensing trends to order and stock the right drugs in the right amounts at the right time. This approach also reduces labor costs.

We’re hearing a lot about artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things. How do you see these innovations affecting the technological capabilities of retail and outpatient pharmacies?

Ray: These innovations will make the pharmacy technologies I’m referring to even more powerful in the future. In the case of artificial intelligence or machine learning, they’re able to process extraordinary amounts of data quickly and enable pharmacists to make better decisions faster. The same holds true with the Internet of Things, which will improve the accuracy and speed of drug inventory management via device to device communication. The successful pharmacy of the future will be skilled at using emerging technologies of all kinds to drive performance improvement.

Related: Learn about McKesson’s technology solutions for pharmacies.

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About the author

McKesson editorial staff is committed to offering innovative approaches and insights so that our customers can get the most out of the health care solutions they have and identify areas for operational improvement, revenue growth and improved patient satisfaction. If you have a suggestion for a blog topic you’d like to see covered, let us know in the comments.