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The Field Narrows

July 21, 2009
by Daphne Lawrence
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As CPOE takes center stage, many hospitals are finding that a pharmacy system from their core clinical vendor makes the most sense

Jason hess

Jason Hess

According to a recent report from Orem, Utah-based KLAS, pharmacy information systems earn the lowest satisfaction ratings of any area ranked. Though some pharmacy systems deliver a solid product, for many, the integration with a separate core clinical system for this high-volume area is becoming too risky.

Judy c omitto

Judy Comitto

In the last three or four years, sales of best-of-breed pharmacy systems have dropped dramatically, and overall, provider pharmacy system selections have trended towards enterprise solutions. “Anytime you enter an order somewhere, it introduces opportunity for an error,” says Jason Hess, research director at KLAS and a principal author of the study. “If you can eliminate opportunity for deviation on the order itself, you're better off. It's just safer.”

So, must CIOs turn to their core vendor's offering? For many, it depends on whether their vendor has one. But for hospitals whose core clinical vendor doesn't have a pharmacy option, all is not lost - there are ways to make integration work.

Trinitas Regional

The greatest majority of hospital orders are for medications, according to Judy Comitto, CIO and vice president of information technology at 521-bed Trinitas Regional Medical Center, a community hospital in Elizabeth, N.J. “There's a lot of volume in pharmacy, and a lot of variation,” she says, citing tablets, liquids, injectables, dosages and pediatric dosages. “The components of every medication are huge.”

The number of those components has grown, and are one of the reasons that though even four years ago having a single platform was not considered that critical, it is now.

The other major factor? Today's push to CPOE demands it. “It's just the challenge of the closed loop process,” says Hess. “If you go to the expense of getting your physicians engaged and doing CPOE - and that's a huge undertaking - when that order gets to the pharmacy, you've got somebody re-keying it from one screen to another screen. Think about how inefficient and unsafe that is.”

And the Federal stimulus package is only accelerating the trend towards an integrated pharmacy, as the discussion around CPOE heats up. “The medication order is such a key piece in that patient care process, I think that speaks to the reason why we're not seeing best-of-breed purchases in big hospitals anymore,” says Hess. “If you're going to do CPOE, get the pharmacy integrated.”

KLAS maintains that when it comes to pharmacy, few hospitals over 200 beds are buying best of breed, ringing up their core clinical vendor instead.

For Comitto, it was the only pharmacy solution she would consider. Comitto was one of the earliest adopters, selecting Atlanta-based Eclipsys' Sunrise Pharmacy in 2007 to go along with her Sunrise core clinical (Clinical Manager) system.

According to Hess, Clinical Manager is still a relatively recent product offering, which can make for a painful implementation. “But I've talked with some customers that are extremely happy,” he says.

Comitto is one of those happy customers. “We decided, in 2002, to go to Sunrise clinical in a phased approach, and we had to wait because Eclipsys didn't have a pharmacy solution for Sunrise at the time. We needed that piece to move forward with CPOE,” she says. Trinitas went live on CPOE and Pharmacy in October of 2007.

Denver Health

Gregory Veltri, CIO at Denver Health, is about to go live on Siemens (Malvern, Pa.) Soarian after using the company's Invision clinical product since 1996. Invision is interfaced with Siemens Pharmacy. Because the Soarian suite does not currently offer a specific pharmacy component, Siemens is interfacing Siemens Pharmacy to achieve a full offering. “It's an older system, yes, but it is also mature,” he says. “Pharmacy systems are critical to hospitals, and I wouldn't get on a newer pharmacy system today.”

According to Hess, “The big hole is that Siemens is not building Soarian pharmacy. They are basically saying stay with Siemens Pharmacy and we'll integrate it.”

For Veltri, that wasn't a problem.

“I don't know why everybody thinks they're not integrated,” says Veltri. “Our interface is from CPOE in Siemens Invision to Pharmacy and it works like a champ.” Denver Health got Pharmacy and Invision back in 1996, and according to Veltri, they function as an integrated system using HL7 messaging.

Veltri has integration history with both Invision and Soarian (though he's not yet live on Soarian), and is satisfied with both. Though a separate system, Siemens Pharmacy had a long history of interfaces to Invision. “It works because it's an established interface and people have been on it for years,” says Hess.

At Denver Health, 96 percent of physician orders are online with Invision, and Veltri plans to achieve the same results when he goes live with Soarian. “Pharmacy is the center of the universe here,” he says.