Moving Toward Clinical Collaboration by Jeff Felton Expanded collaboration solutions will take retail pharmacy practice to the next level
s our nation’s healthcare system undergoes significant change, retail pharmacies — wellpositioned for an increased role in primary patient care — are examining clinical interoperability and collaboration options for developing advancements in care. The principles of the Pharmacy e-Health Information Technology Collaborative (go to www.pharmacyhit .org), for example, call for collaboration that leads to an electronic health record (EHR) in the pharmacy practice. If pharmacy is going to be an integral part of a developing, interconnected healthcare environment and be prepared for new clinical roles, it must look beyond automation of traditional processes like prescription filling and toward secure, two-way messaging and interactive connectivity that gives the pharmacy the capability to both view and populate the patient’s community health record. As most of the great variety of clinical systems are created for nonpharmacy providers, it won’t be practical to expect pharmacy information systems vendors to develop direct interfaces in all cases. Instead, pharmacies will need to choose a partner with significant expertise in health information exchange, as well as pharmacy workflow and revenue cycles. The value of this approach cannot be weighed on a “fee per transaction” scale. While implementing these solutions requires a capital outlay, the expense is more than offset by 16
the new opportunities they present the retail pharmacist. Expanding the pharmacy’s reach opens opportunities to provide services and increase revenue that were previously unavailable, and allows for the redirection of staff resources from administrative duties to patient care by automating previously manual transactions. The goals are simple: These pharmacies seek to create an outstanding patient experience and increase patient adherence for improved outcomes, without increased expenses or margin compression.
A Unique Opportunity A convergence of developments is creating unique opportunity for retail pharmacies. For example, it’s commonly agreed that the shortage of primary-care providers will grow just as reform gives more patients access to primary care. In many places, pharmacies are already jumping in to fill that role. In fact, information from the American Pharmacists Association, accessible at www.pharmacist .com/medication-therapy-management-services, notes that pharmacists in all 50 states are allowed to administer immunizations through collaborative practice agreements with physicians. Additionally, retail clinics offer price transparency that is not commonly seen in our current healthcare system (see “Comparing Costs and Quality of Care at Retail Clin-