Could the wiring of neighborhood pharmacies encourage the use of automatic identification in drug packaging?
A proposed lending program is intended to ease funding of information technology upgrades that could bring state-of-the-art connectivity to these small businesses. The U.S. House of Representatives’ Small Business Committee has reportedly passed H.R.3854, the Small Business Financing and Investment Act of 2009; the bill is expected to be voted on soon by the full House. It includes the amendment H.R. 3014, the Small Business Health Information Technology Financing Act, which would allow state-licensed pharmacists and other health care providers to use a lending program for health information technology (IT) through reduced cost loans guaranteed up to 90% with a subsidized deferment period of up to 3 years, reports the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).
Such funding would help these smaller businesses prepare for electronic health records. Says Bruce T. Roberts, RPh, NCPA executive vice president and CEO: “The timing of this financial assistance is especially appreciated with the federal government’s drive to have system-wide use of electronic health records in a few years. Now pharmacists can focus on helping to create a system that works for everybody and not worry about the implementation costs of participation. Health IT improves the quality of patient care, because health care providers are able to operate in a more efficient and coordinated manner.”
With pharmacy chains preparing for electronic health records, the next logical step would be to implement automatic identification of all packages moving in and out of pharmacies. Drug manufacturers will have to comply with electronic pedigree rules in a few years (California’s deadline is in 2015) involving serialization of saleable units. If pharmacies get on the road to becoming fully equipped with bar code readers (or maybe even RFID readers, because CA is still keen on RFID), why not use IT to its fullest potential by eliminating manual counting and repackaging?
Unit-of-use packages carrying auto ID technologies could help drug companies comply with e-pedigree rules, and pharmacists could cut error-prone filling process—increasing patient saftey in several more ways than one.