A computerized pharmacy uses information technology to perform functions such as dispensing medication and storing and retrieving patient data. These systems — whether implemented in a retail pharmacy or in a hospital’s pharmacy — are networked, making them capable of sharing data with health care providers and insurance companies. This information-sharing capability facilitates the accurate processing of patients’ prescriptions, maintaining and exchanging relevant patient data, and efficiently processing insurance claims.
Some computerized pharmacies support automated drug dispensing systems in which robots allocate the correct amount and dosage of each drug to the patients receiving the medication. Some robotic systems are fully automated, requiring no participation from human pharmacists; in “Comprehensive Exam Review for the Pharmacy Technician,” author Jahanqir Moini indicates these robots can fill up to 130 prescriptions every hour. Computerized pharmacies also allow physicians to use a provider order entry system to electronically prescribe medication. The POE system provides additional patient protection by consulting its database to ensure physicians don’t prescribe medication contraindicated with a patient’s other prescriptions.
Databases on a computerized system allow patient profiles to be stored on servers, permitting the system’s users to search for specific patient data concerning allergies to medication, medical conditions, and other information required for consultations and filling prescriptions. In an institution such as a hospital, patient data is typically stored on one central server, with the other computers throughout the facility acting as clients, allowing hospital staff to request and receive information from the server. Modern networks are usually wireless, which eliminates the considerable expense of installing wiring throughout a facility to connect each client computer to routers or directly to the server.
Benefits and Security Issues of Networked Systems
Networked pharmacy systems provide the means for pharmacists to use telepharmacy applications to communicate with health care providers and patients. Telepharmacy services may include remote consultations through videoconferencing, allowing pharmacists to discuss medication concerns with patients and providers.
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, pharmacies are responsible for securing their patients’ protected health information on their servers and during data exchange. Encryption technology can protect data shared through videoconferencing and other communications, while firewalls and virus protection software can protect the data stored on a facility’s server. Pharmacies are also responsible for physically protecting the data on-site by restricting access to authorized personnel, which they can do through implementing password protection systems or other identification verification measures.
Other Legal Considerations
Under the Controlled Substances Act, pharmacists may use computerized systems to receive and process prescriptions for controlled substances under Schedules III through V. The database system must contain comprehensive information concerning the medication, patient and prescribing physician, including dosages, prescription renewals, and the medical condition treated by the controlled substance. The Drug Enforcement Agency requires pharmacies to retain all information concerning controlled substance prescription for two years from the date that the prescription was filled. All pharmacies dispensing controlled substances must register with the DEA and obtain a certificate indicating that they’re authorized to fill prescriptions for controlled substances.