A PMR check in

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A PMR check in

Patient medication record (PMR) systems have been chuntering away in pharmacy dispensaries since the 1980s. In recent years, an increasing need for pharmacy teams to get the most out of their PMR systems, and the looming prospect of hub and spoke dispensing, have seen the smart systems suppliers fine-tuning their offerings to support the range of services that make up community pharmacy’s portfolio.

A popular choice

Cegedim Healthcare Solutions’ Pharmacy Manager PMR was recognised as Product of the Year in the Technology/IT category of the 2022 Independent Community Pharmacist Awards for the second year in a row.

Over the last 18 months, the company has made a significant investment in R&D in a bid to support pharmacies faced with challenging market conditions, resulting in continuous adaptations and regular releases. Recent innovations include integration between Pharmacy Manager and the NHS, providing one-click access to the Summary Care Record; real-time exemption checking (RTEC); integration to the NHS Prescription Tracker as well as Community Pharmacist Consultation Services (CPCS), and the introduction of the Pharmacy Intelligence Hub and Cegedim’s Pharmacy Display. 

“What sets us apart is our collaborative approach to new product development and holistic approach to the pharmacy market,” says Tracey Robertson, Cegedim’s product and  technology director, “both of which drive us to deliver a complete pharmacy business IT solution that supports operational efficiency and revenue generation.”

Over the next 12 months, this investment in new product development will continue, with 2022 set to see the launch of a hub and spoke solution and new dispensing module. Ms Robertson says this will enable pharmacies of all sizes “to explore the benefits of remote dispensing with full prescription visibility to ensure the quality of customer experience remains high”.

A commitment to customer input is a core part of the company’s agenda. “We listen hard to our customers’ needs and ensure any new developments truly reflect business needs and are incremental, rather than sweeping changes,” says Ms Robertson. “One of the key tenets of [our]new Pharmacy Manager vision is close collaboration with customers to ensure any new developments truly reflect business needs.” And then, of course, there are the new processes and ways of working that require adaptable and responsive IT systems – in particular, the move to more integrated care. 

“IT is business-critical, and pharmacies have been understandably nervous in the past about technology change,” says Ms Robertson. “After all, no one wants to disrupt the dispensing process or risk upsetting patients.” 

Rather than haphazardly adding technology, which is likely to add complexity rather than streamline and simplify, Ms Robertson says Cegedim’s solution is to “consider the whole: will the solution meet future needs?” 

She is dismissive of new propositions intended to release capacity that actually require manual intervention, describing them as “the biggest barrier” to community pharmacy integration with the rest of primary care. “New, sweeping solutions in the marketplace often rely on workarounds, which can result in inefficiencies,” says Ms Robertson. “Without any doubt, technology must play a key role in automating processes, enabling innovation, improving customer service and providing new levels of business visibility and understanding. But it is essential to take a strategic approach.” 

Giant aspirations

Tariq Muhammad, the former community pharmacist turned tech entrepreneur behind Invatech Health’s Titan system, is no stranger to strategy. Last year’s Pharmacy Show saw the company wrap up 100 new contracts with community pharmacies around the UK for its Titan Professional end-to-end PMR system, followed by a further £950,000 loan from Innovate UK under a programme to support innovations in the UK’s SME community.

Over the last year, Mr Muhammad has continued his drive to innovate and integrate, adding a number of new features for Titan’s users since the introduction in 2021 of Titan.X – the first AI system for pharmacy. 

“Titan Power Mail is the first ‘e-mail in system’ for any PMR and takes paperless pharmacy to the next level, enabling Titan users to email prescriptions directly into Titan and dispense straight from the screen,” says Mr Muhammad. “Power Mail can also be used for uploading documents and storing them against patient records. 

IT is business-critical, and pharmacies have been understandably nervous in the past about technology change

“We also recently launched a new concept where Titan can print 2D barcodes on the package label that can be read by third party systems. This functionality means that Titan users can scan data straight into other systems, such as delivery apps or collection machines, saving time and effort.”

However, Mr Muhammad is quick to stress that the issue is not necessarily about giving pharmacists more functionality. “Yes, we are developing modules which will help pharmacists deliver new clinical services, but we need to get the basics in the pharmacy right,” he says. “Adding more and more buttons to old systems and old processes that are not fit for purpose will not help pharmacy deliver on future roles. We need to release the pharmacists’ time to do these new roles. We need to establish efficient ways for pharmacists to communicate with patients by re-engineering the pharmacists’ processes. This is what Titan does best.”

Over the next 12 months, Mr Muhammad says the company is working on new concepts to help pharmacists manage repeat ordering for patients; a new approach for clinical services that goes beyond just filling forms on a screen, and integration with more robot companies, collection machines, delivery systems, finance systems, and stock ordering systems.

Ease of use for new customers is also a target. “Another area which is an important part of our focus is making Titan really easy to use and to implement,” says Mr Muhammad. “We want pharmacy businesses to easily switch to Titan when they are ready, so we are investing a lot into our onboarding experience.”

Loyal customers

Clanwilliam Health systems, such as RxWeb, are used by more than 20,000 clinical users across Ireland and the UK, with the last 12 months seeing the “biggest changes” since the company’s inception, according to customer success manager Jon Williams.

As well as recording 99.99 per cent uptime, Clanwilliam introduced One-Click Dispensing to speed up the dispensing process, as well as Trusted Dosage and RTEC, and numerous improvements to workflows.

In order to make sure that updates are meeting customer needs, the company uses a variety of ways to ensure its community pharmacy users get their voices heard. “RxWeb has always had a loyal following of customers who have helped direct the product by sharing their thoughts and ideas,” says Mr Williams. “Customers can feed in their ideas through the ‘change request’ form available on our website, by email or by contacting their business development manager or the support desk. 

“We have a large number of customers that we speak to regularly, who form the RxWeb User Group. In early 2021, we also introduced customer ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions to allow our customers to see new features before they are released and learn how to get the most out of the system.”

Clanwilliam is also working to address requests from community pharmacists for connectivity into other apps and programmes they want to run. “We receive a lot of requests from customers who want us to connect/integrate with third party systems,” says Mr Williams, “and we achieve a lot of this through our Integration Hub – for example, for robot and eMAR integrations. We also provide additional functionality within the core system to pass data using barcodes or by utilising our extensive reporting suite.”

Adding more and more buttons to old systems and old processes that are not fit for purpose will not help pharmacy deliver on future roles

Next on the cards, Clanwilliam Health is developing APIs [application programme interfaces] for all of its products, which will enable further integration opportunities between its own and third party systems. The company also recently announced a partnership with HubRx to deliver the UK’s first centralised automated hub for independent pharmacy contractors.

“We are very excited about the development roadmap for 2022,” says Mr Williams, “which will deliver bag locator and services apps, accuracy checking and an API, creating new streamlined processes for our customers and freeing up even more of our pharmacists’ time to focus on delivering services.”

Positive changes 

Positive Solutions released the latest version of its Analyst software in January, with key enhancements including intuitive clinical checks, where scripts can be fast tracked into the dispensary with the approval of the pharmacist; auto claiming, which saves time for the pharmacist, and new mobile apps QuickPick and Handout, which allow more flexibility, improve workflow and help pharmacies become paperless.

In the coming year, the company’s goal is to continue to deliver efficiencies using digital transformation, according to product strategy lead Mark Merry. “Improving safety via scanning, digital communication via mobile technology and providing access to live data via dynamic display methods will help drive down costs, improve patient care and increase profitability,” he says. 

“With its mobile capability, Analyst is already delivering efficiencies to pharmacy, and enhancements in this area will continue to grow over the next 12 months, while [next generation clinical services platform] HxConsult is PMR-agnostic, and launched with a module for the delivery of CPCS. It will be closely followed by other essential and advanced NHS services.”

As the community pharmacy contract continues to evolve, the company values customer input about their changing needs and requirements to feed into its product development plan, with shared care records one area keenly in its sights. 

“We know that improving the quality of the patient record and the patient’s use of their own data is key and a focus for our future,” says Mr Merry. “The development of NHS technology to link patient records is improving, and both Analyst PMR and HxConsult use spine services for demographics and GP summary care information. Our products are aligned to use the latest FHIR [fast healthcare interoperability resources] technology for NHS interoperability. Between systems, records are shared and improved with live updates via the Personal Demographics Service.” 

X marks the spot

With a variety of systems to choose from, it might seem as if there is something to suit every pharmacy’s needs, but there are still pharmacists who think things could work better. “Every pharmacy has to fit their workflow in the workflow of their PMR supplier, which has usually been designed by some techie who has never worked in a community pharmacy,” says pharmacist Paul Mayberry.

Putting his money where his mouth is, the managing director of Mayberry Pharmacy group in Wales felt that existing PMRs were not meeting his needs so created his own: the new Pharmacy-X cloud-based PMR system.

“In my opinion, existing PMR suppliers have stifled innovation in pharmacy, so with the help of my son – who was working as a technology management consultant for KPMG – and a developer with systems integration experience, we’ve built something that integrates my PMR with my MDS and original pack robot and communicates with our patients once we have the prescription dispensed.” 

As Pharmacy-X is cloud-based, pharmacists can use it with their existing laptop, computer, scanners, labellers, laser printers and other hardware, without having to buy expensive new kit and associated maintenance agreements, and there is no long contract to tie them in. “You can use your own machines, go to the website, log in and you’re away,” says Mr Mayberry. “Simply sign up for a licence for your pharmacy and a licence for your hub and that’s it.”

So far, Mr Mayberry is running Pharmacy-X in four of his seven branches, with the rest to come this year, and then more into colleagues’ pharmacies. He has already seen the benefits to staff and customers alike. “Our customer service has improved as we know exactly where the prescriptions are and our patients know exactly when they are ready,” he says. “This in turn puts our staff under less stress – a dispenser in one of our branches has been there 25 years and told me recently that he’s enjoying the PMR system, which is unheard of. Now contracts are changing to become more service driven, I simply want what most pharmacists want: to be released from the dispensing process to run more services that benefit patients.”

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