Meghann Chilcott, Chief Technology/Marketing Officer at Benzer Pharmacy looks at current pharmaceutical service trends that aim to create a more perfect union among technology, medication delivery and patient care for independent pharmacists.
The move toward automation is reducing the complexity faced by medical coders, with software acting as the go-between, providing needed checks and balances on the process.
As we turn the page to begin another calendar year, it pays to take stock of where the industry stands at this pivotal moment. The most impactful trends have already surfaced, particularly in terms of the pharmacist’s expanding role in the coordination and delivery of healthcare services.
Yet, a slightly deeper dive reveals just how important the human factor is likely to be in the year ahead and beyond.
That’s because technology is already in the process of making several dramatic leaps forward. Those in the loop won’t be surprised to learn that advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have already begun to address the challenges of human error in billing and coding. In essence, the move toward automation is reducing the complexity faced by medical coders, with software acting as the go-between, providing needed checks and balances on the process.
The upside is tremendous, particularly given a 2017 statistic from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that estimated the cost of errors to be more than $36 billion.
While using leading-edge technologies for digital health record-keeping isn’t new, what does represent a stunning advance forward is the entry of Amazon into the picture for the first time. Reportedly in the early stages, Amazon appears to have made significant headway into ML techniques for digitizing physical medical records, which includes capturing the idiosyncrasies of human note-taking, as well as accounting for gaps in medical histories.
The details remain in deliberation, but that hasn’t prevented Microsoft and Apple from testing the waters with their own proprietary platforms. In any case, it will take cognitive human abilities to sort out the next steps forward.
Here’s the outlook on several other fronts of concern:
Medication therapy management that measures up
One-to-one consultation and the art of serving the needs of patients is projected to grow in importance as pharmacists look to expand in-store offerings beyond immunizations. There will be a greater emphasis on patient education and onsite treatment of minor, non-health-threatening conditions.
Social media that completes the treatment circle
Increasingly, customers are doing their own research online long before they enter the store. They’ll compare and contrast symptoms and side-effects with others on social media, so it’s critical for the industry to have their finger on the pulse of what people are saying on Facebook and Twitter—either in support of the general sentiment or, to defuse baseless and potentially harmful gossip.
Keeping better company from a collaborative angle
In this age of misinformation, it’s more important than ever to find common ground with insurance company partners. By working together with representatives of various plans, pharmacists will be able to give voice to concerns about potential prescription issues before they become cause for alarm.
Ringing up better communication through telepharmacy
The latest trend in pharmaceutical service comes by way of a long-established technology, but that fact makes it no less critical in conveying healthcare information to patients whose health or mobility limitations keep them at a distance.
The state-of-the-pharmacy business in 2019 is, no doubt, as strong as it has been in recent years, but that doesn’t equate to it being any easier.