Facing pharmacy trends for the remainder of the year

In January, I offered Drug Store News readers a look at the pharmacy and technology trends facing our industry for the year. Here we are in June (can you believe it?), so I thought we should have a progress check and update for the back half of 2013.

The healthcare industry continues to prepare for the Affordable Care Act implementation and the expected influx of newly eligible patients. Many pharmacies are changing their staffing models in preparation for customers with expanded Medicaid benefits — especially as we approach the New Year. This is a good time for me to remind you to be thinking about your eligibility program. In addition to the newly eligible population, many people have changes in their health coverage year-over-year that go into effect January 1. Pharmacies can easily be prepared for those changes with a robust eligibility program.

So, we have altered the staffing models to prep, but will the pharmacy staff be engaged differently during prime traffic hours? If you recall, we explored this concept earlier in the year and having spent time with the Emdeon Customer Advisory Council that is comprised of representatives from several national and regional pharmacy chains, I believe the answer is a resounding yes. More and more pharmacies are utilizing their highly trained staff to offer expanded clinical services. Whether it’s a routine diagnostic test or a vaccination, pharmacies continue to march towards a comprehensive clinical service offering. And there are still decisions that lie ahead of us like designating pharmacists as Medicare Part B providers. But, I try to stay out of politics.

That brings me to an update on interoperability. If you haven’t heard all the buzz surrounding “big data,” then I am afraid you must be living under a rock somewhere. Harnessing the power of both structured and unstructured data to deliver real, actionable healthcare insights has been the foremost topic of the majority of conferences I have attended this year and for good reason. Complete and accurate data can improve the efficiency with which the healthcare ecosystem operates as we transition from transaction-centric to patient-centric healthcare. And while the industry still has work to do to implement system-wide data and analytics programs, the hastened pace of product development from implementation through beta and into production has shown several use cases that took place over a few weeks instead of the traditional months or years. This is very exciting for the pharmacy industry.

From a regulatory perspective, it seems that Meaningful Use regulations have had a positive impact on ePrescribing with increased adoption and usage. Now pharmacies are preparing for the next round of implementations to meet Meaningful Use Stage 2. At Emdeon, we pride ourselves with the measures we take to proactively prepare for regulatory requirements and recently announced that our ePrescribing network supports the Accredited Standards Development Organization (ANSI), National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) SCRIPT XML version 10.6, which includes specific requirements to support Meaningful Use Stage 2. The Meaningful Use Stage 2 final rules define a common dataset for summary of care records, including how structured and coded data is to be formatted uniformly and sent securely between healthcare providers. Emdeon is set to meet these requirements of transmitting electronic prescribing and clinical health information in the NCPDP 10.6 format and is prepared to meet Meaningful Use Stage 2.

Finally, and I know we touched on it earlier, but flu season will quickly be upon us. On the heels of a severe flu season, past trends suggest the demand for flu shots this year will be tremendous. Pharmacies have the opportunity to contract with commercial health plans to bill flu vaccines (and other immunization procedures) to medical coverage plans within the standard pharmacy workflow. But, preparations should be underway now so that complete implementation has taken place before the first customer asks when flu shots will be administered. If you haven’t examined your contracts with commercial health plans, now is the time to engage in order to prepare for a seamless flu season.

We look forward to working with you to building on the many successes in the pharmacy industry so far in 2013 as we enter into the second half of the year.


Kevin Mahoney
Emdeon EVP of pharmacy services
As EVP of pharmacy services at Emdeon, Kevin Mahoney oversees the company’s entire pharmacy services division including strategic initiatives, industry partnerships and pharmacy product development for all pharmacy products. Mahoney has spent more than 25 years in the healthcare industry with a predominant focus in pharmacy. Mahoney received a Bachelor of Arts in accounting from Belmont Abbey College and an Master of Business Administration from Pace University. 

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