Medication Dispensing

Medication dispensing technology gives patients better access to key oral and self-injectable therapies, while opening a new potential revenue stream for doctors' practices.

  • What is medication dispensing?

    Medication dispensing is the in-office preparation and delivery of prescription drugs to patients in physician practices and other clinical settings. Through new technologies that manage inventory and dosing, drug dispensing at the point of care has become a safe, efficient and cost-effective way of helping patients manage their treatment plans.

What are the benefits of medication dispensing?

There are a number of benefits to doctors and other clinicians of dispensing a patient's medication directly at the point of care:

An automated medication dispensing system minimizes medication errors

These systems help physician practices and other clinical settings extend safe dispensing to as many patients as possible at the point of care. It builds a strong barrier against medication errors by combining the sound judgment of pharmacists with features such as:

  • Screenings for lookalike/sound-alike (LASA) prescription drug pairs
  • Medication dose checking
  • National Drug Code (NDC) numbers
  • Dispensing quantities
  • Days' supplies
  • Absolute minimum and maximum safe dosing
  • Clinical significance scoring
  • Medication dose screening for pediatric (age 12 and under) and geriatric (age 65 and older) patients
  • Real-time medication safety messaging for pharmaceutical manufacturers, physicians, and patients at the point of dispense
  • Risk evaluation and mitigation strategies (REMS) programs to ensure pharmacies can dispense select medications

Medication dispensing systems improve patient care

By adding a point-of-care dispensary or pharmacy, practices can give patients the full range of treatment options at one site from a team of health professionals they know and trust. Meanwhile, clinic staff can easily assist patients with:

  • Concerns about cost, coverage, patient safety and side effects
  • Proper self-injection of medications
  • In-office adjustments to medication or dosage
  • The big picture of their prescription drug treatment plans and programs

Medication dispensing tools help practices capture all potential revenue

Automated medication dispensing lets physicians tap into new revenue streams while freeing up time to focus on patient care. As with any new business venture, starting a point-of-care dispensing program requires an investment in the resources needed to succeed. However, this additional revenue stream opens up opportunities for exclusive group purchasing organization pricing on many self-administered pharmaceutical products.

An automated medication dispensing system also offers revenue management tools that help clinics streamline pricing, simplify reimbursement, and easily manage billing workflow.

What are the wider benefits of an automated medication dispensing system?

Improved medication adherence for patients with complex treatments

For patients undergoing difficult therapies such as cancer treatment, traveling to get a prescription can be exhausting, if not impossible. Many oncology drugs and other specialty drug therapies aren't available at local pharmacies, and many won't be within a patient's coverage network.

Automated medication dispensing systems offer a solution that benefits both patients and physicians. Using pharmacy management software, physicians can help patients determine their insurance coverage, complete payer-imposed prior authorizations, and find co-pay assistance for costly prescription drugs. The actual drug delivery can be coordinated with other elements of the patient's regimen to further improve medication adherence.

Minimized drug waste with true split-fills

In the case of highly toxic drugs (such as those used in cancer treatment), 30-day fills are often the norm. However, patients may delay or discontinue specialty drug treatment plans because of intolerance or tumor progression, resulting in drug waste.

Some specialty pharmacy channels offer preset 14-day "split fill" programs. However, practices that offer automated medication dispensing systems at the point of care can improve medication adherence by:

  • Dispensing a portion of the amount that coincides with the patient's office visits
  • Adjusting the prescription as needed, reducing waste
  • Ensuring the patient returns to the office for follow-up care

Excellent community care supported by a national research network

The treatment landscape for complex chronic diseases continues to evolve. The number of self-administered injectable and oral therapy options is increasing rapidly. These therapies account for more than half of the drugs in Phase III clinical trials for complex conditions.

By offering medication dispensing at the point of care, physician practices help advance integrated community care with clinical and business support capabilities. Automated medication dispensing systems free up physician time and staff resources, letting local clinicians focus on research and peer collaboration. Onsite dispensing also capitalizes on the movement from infusion to oral chemotherapy drugs, supporting high-quality, efficient oral care therapy.

Electronic health records stay up to date

When a patient's treatments all happen in the same location, electronic health record (EHR) documentation is simple and straightforward. As a result of this accurate, real-time documentation, physicians have the visibility to make informed care decisions that:

  • Coordinate with other aspects of the patient's treatment
  • Track a patient's total healthcare costs (useful in value-based reimbursement models)

Seamless pharmacy automation technology integration reduces the administrative burden

In-office drug dispensing services offer a number of automation options, including:

  • Point of care automation solutions
  • Central pharmacy automation solutions
  • Preparation and packaging automation solutions
  • Ordering and receiving automation solutions
  • Bar-code medication dispensing
  • Pharmacy robots
  • Medication dispensing nursing stations and carts

What are the features of a quality automated medication dispensing system?

The right medication dispensing system offers measurable benefits to both patients and practices. When considering potential vendors, practices should ask about the following features:

Superior clinical resources, including:

Revenue management tools that can help:

  • Streamline pricing
  • Manage the reimbursement process with ease
  • Simplify billing workflow, including billing secondary co-payment or other funding sources to save patients the financial burden

A technology suite that integrates critical functions, such as:

  • Practice management
  • Prescription processing and claims adjudication
  • Managed care services for easy administration of patient pharmacy benefits

A messaging platform that can help to:

  • Reinforce pharmacists' clinical expertise with proven pharmacy communication technology, so they can dispense medications with additional confidence, even in cases of lookalike/sound-alike (LASA) prescription drug pairs
  • Raise awareness about medication patient safety at the point of dispensing
  • Check for potential mistakes during the dispensing process

Advanced single-distribution source features, such as:

  • Large product inventory to increase likelihood of availability
  • Distribution for all drug-related products
  • Support for existing pharmacy management systems
  • Support for requirements of state quality-assurance programs

Expert support and service from a team of licensed pharmacists and technicians who can help with:

  • Planning and implementation of the point of care system
  • Work processes
  • Patient education tools

How to develop an optimized in-office dispensing program

Physician practices and other clinical settings should build their automated medication dispensing program on three pillars:

1. Operational excellence

Successful automated medication dispensing programs require efficient, synergistic workflows. Third-party assessments can help practices identify opportunities for improvement, such as:

  • A single ordering and billing platform
  • Seamless integration of practice technology
  • Intelligent reporting that prompts staff to manage refills and follow up on medication and symptom management

Focusing on a few key areas of operation can reduce the administrative burden by as many as 2-3 hours per week for front office and clinical staff.

2. Maximized provider engagement

A successful point-of-care dispensing program depends on team engagement. A seamless relationship between pharmacy and physician is the key to success.

Practices with automated medication dispensing systems also need marketing platforms positioned to help both providers and patients. They should focus their efforts on marketing the clinical value of in-office dispensing services to the entire practice staff, as well as to patients. That value includes:

  • Faster time to treatment for patients
  • Enhanced clinical tracking of adverse events, compliance, and treatment responses
  • Improved patient outcomes

3. Meaningful data and analytics

The right pharmacy consulting partner will offer helpful data and analytics advice and services, such as:

  • Pharmacy benchmarking
  • Workflow optimization
  • Process improvements
  • Cash flow optimization
  • The identification of opportunities for growth in prescriber engagement, prescription fills, and profitability

Meanwhile, pharmacy services administration organizations (PSAOs) can provide services including claim processing, payments, and managing deductibles. Some PSAOs provide expert contracting assistance for third-party payers and PBMs, as well as consolidated reimbursements with daily electronic funds transfers (EFTs), electronic claims reports, and reconciliation assistance.

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