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September 30, 2020

Are Disparate Solutions Causing Visibility Gaps in Your Pharmacy Operation?

Lani Bertrand, RPh
Senior Director, Clinical Consulting, Omnicell

Ask any pharmacy professional who works with a pharmacy platform comprised of disparate, disconnected systems, and they’ll tell you this: when systems aren’t interoperable, problems, such as incomplete and incorrect medication data, sub-optimal inventory management, drug shortages, and ever-present diversion risks — to name but a few, start snowballing fast.

The operational blind spots caused by disconnected, siloed systems compounded by the delays and errors caused by outdated manual workflows are the hallmarks of operational complexity that impedes ideal perpetual inventory management and leads to financial strains that plague pharmacies. Disconnected systems also complicate merger and acquisition activity. Although $9.9 billion is forecasted to be spent on electronic health records (EHR) by 2024, many hospitals continue to be burdened with costs. Hospitals spend $563 million in readmissions, $359 million in drug shortages, $800 million in expired medication, and $7.5 billion on drug diversion.

Put simply: It’s imperative to have interoperability across your pharmacy systems, providing a view of inventory and medication journey to help streamline workflows, achieve closed-loop reporting, reduce medication errors, limit diversion risks, lower costs, and improve patient care.

One area where interoperability specifically helps is the management of controlled substances. When it comes to managing diversion, interoperability supports a tightened chain of custody across the controlled substance journey. A tight integration between an automated dispensing system and EHR enables automated reconciliation of controlled substances.

Additionally, interoperable workflow benefits include the ability to remotely queue medications from the EHR, which was proven in a recent study to reduce nurses’ time to retrieve medications by 54%. Another benefit of integration is the opportunity to automate the process of identifying variances between dispenses from automation and actual administration of medications. Removing manual process saves 72% of nursing time and 80% of pharmacist time related to controlled substance reconciliation. That’s time gained to now spend on direct patient care.

Another substantial benefit of having an interoperable system: it provides the necessary foundation for supporting embedded intelligence. For example, after Stormont Vail Health established an automated, interoperable pharmacy system, they maximized their technology investment by embedding pharmacy intelligence and predictive analytics to drive superior operational excellence. Intelligence is ushering in a new way of thinking about every dose of medication as a node on the network that carries valuable data about patients, inventory, and more. Applying intelligence to this data converts the information into actionable opportunities to solve problems and drive pharmacy operations forward. But intelligence only works if you have an interoperable platform to support it.

The errors and mistakes caused by siloed, disparate systems keep pharmacists up at night. With an integrated platform, you can gain insights, leverage analytics for improvements, improve clinical workflows, and achieve closed-loop medication reporting. Interoperability sets the stage for further operational improvements, such as the addition of cloud-based intelligence and predictive analytics software. Ultimately, the interoperable pharmacy is the critical foundation to achieving the promise of the zero-error pharmacy. 


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author(s). These views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time and may not be held in perpetuity.

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