May 08 2018

Five Considerations in Selecting a Pharmacy Software System

You’ve made the decision. Your pharmacy needs to automate. But with dozens of pharmacy software systems to choose from – with different capabilities and price points – how can you choose the right system for your business?

Selecting the right technology system is a critically-important decision, so a pharmacy manager needs to commit the time to carefully review options. A good place to start is by familiarizing yourself with systems currently on the market. Pharmacy industry publications and trade association journals are full of articles and case studies about how various systems helped a particular pharmacy meet its needs. This information will offer guidance about how technology can improve your own pharmacy’s processes.

Among the things to keep in mind as you consider investing in a technology system:

1) System integration. Most pharmacy managers want a technology system as a way to streamline processes, so that all pharmacy functions are linked and able to interact. This includes everything from prescription records, signature files, drug inventory levels, patient histories and contact information, and point of sale capabilities. By having all systems integrated, a pharmacy can provide customers with a seamless, hassle-free transaction, while at the same time, eliminating the need for paper records and clunky file storage. It’s important to invest in a system that has all the capabilities that you will need. Some systems focus only on compliance-related issues – recordkeeping and signature files, but not on customer-friendly interfaces like automatic renewal notices. You want to be sure your system is a comprehensive solution that fits your precise needs.

2) Workflow visibility. A pharmacy technology solution should allow a technician to have immediate and full oversight of all pharmacy activities. This includes everything from prescriptions waiting in queue, prescriptions currently being processed, and those waiting to be picked up. In addition, information about prescriptions waiting for insurance authorization, or for physician renewal, should also be readily accessible. All of this information should be easily accessible, usually by just hitting a few keystrokes. However, this is often not the case. Many systems are very difficult to maneuver, and require a user to follow many steps to access the required information. Technology is supposed to facilitate the pharmacy workflow, so make sure the system you choose does just that, and provides easy, intuitive access to information.

3) Technical Support. Imaging buying a technology solution, but finding out after it’s installed that you have no idea how to use it, and worse, that there’s no one you can call. Unfortunately, this happens all too frequently. A pharmacy invests in a technology package, only to find that the provider offers little in the way of support. You must be sure that a technology company will stand behind its product, with a dedicated team of support professionals. Make sure professionals will be on hand to install the system, train your employees, and critically important – to be readily available 24/7 when a problem arises. What would happen if your system shut down in the middle of a busy day? Imagine how frustrated your customers would be, and the chaos that would ensue as you tried to manage. A good technology company would have a professional readily available to troubleshoot your problem, and have you back up and running as quickly as possible.

4) Experience matters. Would you trust a plumber to fix your electrical system? Or hire a painter to install an HVAC system? Of course not, so neither should you buy a pharmacy technology system from a company with no pharmacy experience. Managing a pharmacy is a highly-complex, exacting process, with zero room for mistakes. But unless an individual has direct pharmacy experience, it would be quite difficult to build a technology solution for a pharmacy. Instead, choose a solution that takes into the account the multiple needs unique to a pharmacy. This includes everything from regulatory compliance to signature capture to insurance lookup capabilities.

5) You Get what you Pay for. Technology solutions come at multiple price points, and in many forms. A business could purchase an “off the shelf” software package from Amazon; have an existing technology solution customized for its specific needs; or enlist a technology company to build a solution from the ground up. Unless you are running a chain of multiple stores, there’s probably no need for a custom-built solution – which can run into the millions of dollars. And unless you have a very limited budget or specific need, the Amazon off-the-shelf solution probably isn’t the solution you need either.

For most pharmacies, the better option is to work with a technology provider to customize an existing solution to meet its specific needs.For example, does your pharmacy often have multiple technicians interacting with insurance companies at the same time? A technology system can be configured to allow that capability, and any other capabilities your pharmacy may need.

Investing in a technology solution is a critically-important business decision, and will be a significant expenditure. While you probably don’t need a Cadillac-style custom built solution, neither should you think a solution purchased online for a couple hundred dollars will be sufficient. Instead, an existing system, reconfigured for a pharmacy’s specific needs, is usually the best and most cost-effective way to proceed.

Clearly there’s a lot to consider in deciding on a pharmacy technology solution. Which is why it’s so important to proceed with caution. Talk to industry colleagues to see what solutions they have implemented. Ask for demonstrations from solution providers, and ask lots of questions. If you aren’t 100 percent confident that a system will improve your pharmacy’s workflow and efficiency, it’s probably best to keep looking.