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Pharmacy Technology – Part 1: Is It Time to Get Your Head in the Cloud?

Why did you decide to build a career in the long-term care pharmacy industry? Over the years, I have asked many successful LTC pharmacy executives that question. Almost all of them spoke of LTC pharmacy as a calling to provide the best pharmaceutical care to the U.S.’s most vulnerable seniors. I’ve never met anyone who says they got into long-term care pharmacy to hone their information-technology skills.

If that’s true for you, it’s probably time to ask how much you’ve explored cloud technology to manage your business.

What Is Cloud Computing?

Chances are you’ve heard of “the cloud,” and each cloud platform seems to have a slightly different definition, but here’s one from the National Institute of Standards and Technology:

Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

OK – that’s a bit windy, but think of an example you’re already familiar with: Gmail®. Many of you have a Gmail account, the Google® cloud-based email service. If you have Gmail, you never need to worry about losing emails if your computer dies or remember to back things up; Google does all that for you. You can also retrieve email from your desktop, laptop, and phone without transferring files among your devices.

Run Your Business, Not the IT Department

Imagine how much you rely on digital tools. Most of your compliance documents, policies and procedures, order entry systems, inventory, controlled substance records, delivery documents, and more are vital to the operation of your pharmacy.

If all the digital information you use is located on a hard drive in your pharmacy, what happens when the computer stops working, catches a virus or ransomware, or is damaged in a fire? You have just become an IT manager frantically working non-stop to get your system back online and your pharmacy operating again. Relying solely on a local data site should frankly keep you up at night.

Cloud computing puts this responsibility in the hands of a company devoted to managing it. Cloud companies dedicate massive resources to data centers and expert personnel whose only job is keeping your data safe and accessible to ensure business continuity.

Not on Their Watch

Cloud computing companies have been exceptionally successful over the past decade, with half of all U.S. corporate data now stored in the cloud. Because data failures are so harmful to their reputations and business models, these companies can’t afford to skimp on data security and, unlike most of us, they never forget to update their security software.

Cloud services also make frequent and redundant backups of data, so there are no lost files and hair-pulling panic when your drive crashes and you didn’t think to save that 20-page document you were just finishing up.

Files Go Anywhere

Years ago, I was up late at night in a hotel in Las Vegas preparing for a final run-through of a presentation I was to give the following morning. I pulled out the laptop and searched, in vain, for the PowerPoint presentation. I recall the sinking feeling when I realized that the document was safely tucked away on the hard drive…of my desktop computer, 2,000 miles away. Fortunately, I had emailed the presentation to the conference coordinator a couple of days previously, but I stayed awake wondering if I had sent the original or revised version. This won’t happen when files are available on the cloud. Just login and work!

Finding Gold in Your Data

Your pharmacy creates a lot of data – but as you know, data is not very useful unless it can be turned into actionable information. This is another area where cloud technology can help. With all your data consolidated in one place, your cloud provider can use sophisticated tools to sort through the bits and bytes and uncover business insights you may never have imagined. It’s really all about using technology to discover and recover value.

With advantages like this, it’s fair to ask yourself if moonlighting in IT still makes sense. You’ll be amazed at how much time you can find to grow your pharmacy and serve the people who need you.

X-Factors for Considering Cloud Technology in Your Pharmacy

• Determine how vulnerable you are to data loss and time waste by managing your own data.

• Gather information on features of cloud computing that would make a significant difference for your operations.

• Talk with your software team about creating the right solution for your pharmacy.

Subscribe to catch Part 2 of this blog, along with other upcoming Integra X Files content about pharmacy technology. April’s podcast will feature conversation with Bob Bates, President of Integra and QS/1.


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Long-Term Care Pharmacy Resources