I’ve noticed an interesting trend recently. Healthcare systems, and more specifically pharmacies, have started to understand the importance of having integrated systems. I realize that the concept of having various systems talk to one another isn’t new, but you’d be surprised at how poorly disparate systems within the pharmacy communicate. Automated packager from company “A”, medication tracking system from company “B”, inventory management from company “C”, and so on. These systems rarely utilize a single master database of information, instead relying on frequent manual updates to multiple databases. The result of such a system is often inaccurate information if you’re lucky, or outright errors if you’re not.
All hope is not lost however as I’m starting to see an interest in integrated platforms from within the intellectually challenged minds of healthcare. A prime example of this is the explosion of Epic implementations over the past couple of years. It feels as though every healthcare system I visit is evaluating Epic, in the process of implementing Epic, or is already using Epic. What’s important to note is that no one that I’ve talked with has indicated that Epic is “the best” system they’ve used – I’ve heard that the pharmacy piece of Epic has issues – but without exception those same people have indicated that the system offers a clear advantage in its integrated approach. People are willing to ignore the shortcomings and embrace the integration.
I witnessed another example of the trend at ASHP Midyear in Orlando in December. I stopped by the CareFusion booth a couple of times. Besides being the size of a small city, it was obvious that someone inside the company has finally grasped the concept of integration across pharmacy operations. The company is telling a story of controlled medication distribution from the back door of the pharmacy to the patient’s bedside. CareFusion added PHACTS central pharmacy automation, medication tracking, and IV room workflow management to their already impressive list of tools for pharmacy operations. While their IV room workflow management system isn’t ready for primetime, it’s easy to see what they’re trying to accomplish. Additional evidence can be found elsewhere with several companies partnering with other, smaller companies in an attempt to mimic what CareFusion is doing.
Only time will tell how all this will play out, but it’s clear what’s on everyone’s mind.