In my imagination, the independent pharmacy is still a quaint family establishment where an amiable grandfather type prepares medications with a mortar and pestle, then rings up orders on a clunky cash register. In truth, independent pharmacies are sophisticated, technology-dependent operations. Because the pace of technology is swifter than ever before, many pharmacies run the risk of falling behind. Health care operations need to invest in technology in order to protect patients and the business. Here are four technologies OpenEdge recommends that pharmacies assess and consider upgrading…
1. Point-of-Sale & Pharmacy Management Systems
The POS system used for front-of-the-store checkout and back office operations is arguably the most important element of business technology used in the pharmacy. A well-developed, networked POS, built for the pharmacy, can streamline nearly all parts of the business. A strong pharmacy point-of-sale can help with: prescription recordkeeping, accounting, inventory, customer data keeping, marketing, payments acceptance, FSA/HSA acceptance, employee records, data security, staff scheduling, documentation and more. If your POS is not designed specifically for the pharmacy industry, or it hasn’t been upgraded in the last year, it may be time to consider whether that system is doing all it can for the business.
2. Data Security
A number of technologies (EMV, point-to-point encryption and others) have been implemented to protect sensitive credit card data. For industries related to health care, the security concerns are deeper still; security measures are crucial for protecting patient records. Pharmacies maintain more personal details about their customers than the average retail operation. A customer’s credit card data, address, health plan, doctor and more are often maintained in pharmacy records. A data breach by hackers can be financially crippling to a pharmacy, not to mention the impact on customers. Instituting the latest protocols for payments and patient data security is business-critical.
In 2014, for the first time, more people accessed the internet through mobile devices than through traditional desktops. Billions (not millions) of apps have been downloaded for smartphones. Top pharmacy apps such as MyPharmacist and iPharmacy help patients utilize pharmacy services, plus many larger pharmacies host their own custom apps. Pharmacies which have not explored leveraging existing smartphone apps (or developing their own apps) are potentially missing a huge opportunity to reach new and existing customers.
4. HIPAA Compliance
HIPAA ensures federal protections for the privacy of patient information. Pharmacies are required to follow a specific series of administrative, physical and technical safeguards related to electronic health data. Outmoded computer systems (refer to the POS section above) may make HIPAA compliance more difficult. In the worst case scenario, insufficient technology could cause the pharmacy, unknowingly, to be out of federal compliance, resulting in fines or lawsuits. Pharmacies should confirm they are compliant with HIPAA rules, and explore IT that streamlines the process.