How Can a Specialty Pharmacy Access Complete Medical Records?


Complex medical conditions often involve a large care team that relies on the patient record. Specialty pharmacies are a key part of the team as the specialty pharmacist is knowledgeable on key information on the individual medication, possible drug interactions, unique administration, best practices for patient monitoring and more. Specialty pharmacists need access to the complete patient record and integrated technology tools to help deliver the best patient outcome.

Pharmacies need access to legacy medical data

The number of specialty medications to treat complex conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis, respiratory conditions, rheumatoid arthritis and others account for 75 percent of the 7000 prescription drugs in development. Spending on specialty drugs accounts for 55 percent (up from 28 percent in 2011) of the nation’s drug spending. It makes sense, then, that specialty pharmacies – charged with managing the requirements, handling, storage, dosing and follow-up care of these high-cost, high-touch medications – have experienced 315 percent growth from 2015 – 2021.

The specialty drug pipeline also is projected to grow by another 8 percent each year through 2025. A challenge with this growth is that many specialty pharmacies do not currently have the right technology tools to support their patients.

EHRs need to integrate with specialty pharmacies to provide a complete patient picture.

With growth comes a need for software systems to manage specialized follow-up care. There are several systems designed for specialty pharmacies such as Wellsky’s CPR+ and CareTrend, as well as others that support the specific needs of specialty pharmacies. CVS Health implemented Epic’s EHR system in its specialty pharmacies to “enable immediate information sharing with other health care providers across the patient’s entire care team.” And, with about one-third of specialty pharmacies located within the hospital setting, large hospital networks continue to align their specialty pharmacy systems such that they allow easy access to the patient’s main medical record.

Cures Act interoperability includes specialty pharmacy to improve patient experience.

Pharmacy interoperability is included in the 21st Century Cures Act with a workgroup of private and public health members developing standards for prescribing and management of emerging therapies including specialty medications. Some key considerations the workgroup is focused on include:

  • Patient access to pricing and prescription status information.
  • How to improve inefficient workflows where medications are processed manually at transitions of care and can be lost with papers given to drivers, etc.
  • Medication information being conveyed and verified mostly through the patient.
  • Patient education about their medications that may exist in electronic form but isn’t always linked in patient portals.

Further discussion is also underway to improve the process for prescribing medications, including specialty medications, so that the provider has better access to confirming coverage. The goal here is to decrease the number of times a physician isn’t aware of the patient’s insurance coverage, prescribes a medication that isn’t covered and then the patient is stuck in the middle trying to coordinate the processes needed for further review. The goal is to clear the blockages with information available to the physician, pharmacist and patient.

Why is it important for a pharmacist to have access to the patient’s medical record?

From the moment a physician prescribes a specialty drug, the clinical pharmacist’s access to the patient medical record matters in terms of speed, accuracy, and responsiveness.

Specialty pharmacies are uniquely positioned to collect clinical and qualitative data needed to assess therapy effectiveness and recommend interventions. Specialty pharmacies can be especially helpful if they have the information needed with an integrated EHR pharmacy platform and a clear understanding of what metrics to track. Because it provides a full view of the medication list and lab results, the electronic medical record (EMR) plays a critical role in specialty pharmacy.

As pharmacy systems are upgraded and mergers and acquisitions continue, the need for a specialty pharmacy’s access to medical records remains. As specialty pharmacies continue to work through the technology integration that follows mergers and acquisitions and upgrade their systems, maintaining access to legacy pharmacy records as well as the complete and active patient narrative is vital.

Access to longitudinal patient records supports pharmacists, healthcare teams and patients.

HealthData Archiver® is a HIPAA-compliant record storage solution that can manage specialty pharmacy data. It promotes interoperability and offers built-in workflows for release of information managers, clinicians, pharmacists, legal and compliance officers, rev cycle collectors, researchers, and human resources.

At Harmony Healthcare IT, our mission is to preserve vital information to improve lives. Our active archive product, HealthData Archiver®, delivers cost-savings and information access. It also fortifies defenses against cyberattack by providing a single and secure storage place for disparate silos of legacy data. Harmony Healthcare IT has been consistently ranked as the #1 data extraction, migration, and archival healthcare IT company according to Black Book™ Market Research for four years (2019-2022) as well as ranked #1 in the 2020 Best in KLAS Software & Services Report as a Category Leader in Data Archiving.

We migrate and archive records across the care continuum – for hospitals, health systems, pharmacies, clinics, labs, blood banks, home health care, long-term care and more.

Have mergers and acquisitions impacted your specialty pharmacy system? Does your organization have disparate systems running, leaving legacy data at risk? We can help.

Note: This blog has been updated from an original post on July 15, 2020.

Oct 16 2023

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