How we helped Sulzbacher find a short- and long-term solution to their administrative overhead
Since December 1995, Sulzbacher, a non-profit organization, has provided a continuum of care, addressing all aspects of homelessness including housing, income and healthcare. Over more than two decades, these services have grown to include street outreach, primary health, behavioral health and dental care for all ages, permanent housing, job placement and early learning.
One of the critical services the Sulzbacher healthcare clinics offer is the operation of two onsite dispensaries, providing low-cost medications for patients Sulzbacher healthcare providers see. To provide medications free of charge or at a significantly reduced cost, Sulzbacher also participates in Prescription Assistance Programs to patients who meet the required guidelines.
Operating the dispensaries is not without its challenges. Dispensing medications ordered by the prescribing Sulzbacher healthcare provider in addition to no full-time pharmacist onsite created barriers to meeting the regulatory requirements necessary for integrating their dispensing software to the patient’s electronic health record prescriptions and allergies.
As a result, staff have to manually enter prescription information, allergies and patient demographics in the dispensing system, resulting in high risk for medication errors and decreased clinic hours available for patient care. The amount of administrative overhead caused significant staff frustration as well as impacted staff recruitment and retention.
To decrease staff attrition and dissatisfaction, as well as improve safe medication dispensing processes, Sulzbacher needed a partner who could assess their current state and identify immediate and long-term dispensing process issues as well as provide recommendations to accomplish strategic objectives.
Enter Centric: Creating a Strategic Plan and Support for an Immediate and Long-Term Resolution
Sulzbacher sought help from Centric Consulting’s Miami office along with our National Healthcare Practice. We facilitated internal interviews with key stakeholders to identify the core barriers impacting patient care and their safe medication dispensing processes. Integrating the EHR with the medication dispensing solution required a third-party regulated solution, SureScripts.
Initially, we assisted Sulzbacher in applying for a National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) number, which is a unique, national identification number assigned by the NCPDP to every licensed pharmacy in the United States and its territories. This is necessary to set up the SureScripts integration between the two systems. However, since Sulzbacher supports only the dispensing of medications ordered by the healthcare providers, they are not operating as a stand-alone pharmacy. And, without a full-time pharmacist on staff, Sulzbacher was unable to meet the qualifications for working with Surescripts directly and required the EHR and medication dispensing vendors to work together to enable the required integration.
We arranged several meetings with their electronic health record (EHR) and dispensing vendors and an in-person meeting with the EHR vendor and SureScripts to identify key steps, barriers, and owners for integrating their systems with the medication dispensing solution. None of the vendors were able to own the integration with SureScripts.
We reviewed the summary of the meetings and options with Sulzbacher, allowing them to decide the most viable solution was to migrate to a new EHR that could own the integration of SureScripts with their medication dispensing solution.
The Solution: Improving Flow Through a New Vendor
Unable to mitigate the EHR clinical documentations combined with the inability to integrate with the medication dispensing solution, Sulzbacher decided to migrate to a new EHR vendor to address both the clinical documentation workflows and the integration to their medication dispensing solution. The new vendor facilitated the process of integrating the electronic prescriptions with the dispensing solution, eliminating the redundancies of manual entry of information.
From the provider perspective, the greatest benefit to migrating to the new EHR vendor has been the ease of patient charting. With the new EHR being web-based, providers have also been able to access patients’ records from their mobile phones and access them from home.
According to John Bowls, Health System and Budget Administrator at Sulzbacher, “Since switching to Athena and having that integration with QS/1, it has really helped with the flow in the medication room. Not having to do double entry has helped with reducing the number of errors and gives the pharmacy techs more time to focus on the medication and the patients themselves.”
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