The Problem with Specialty Pharmacy Software (Part 1 of 2)

By Samm Anderegg posted 07-12-2017 09:32


Specialty pharmacy is a complex practice setting.  Prescription processing, prior authorizations, coordinating with all members of the healthcare team meeting accreditation standards, and producing data reports demand unique processes and workflows. 

 As pharmacists, we are focused on the whole patient, ensuring all disease states are optimally managed (not just the specialty disease state), treatments are safely, effectively, consistently, and persistently administered, and all stakeholders, especially patients and caregivers, are appropriately educated. To optimally manage these patients, we use multiple software systems (e.g. dispensing, EHR, case management).

 Each of these systems accomplishes different tasks, but results in complex, time consuming workflows for clinicians who must switch back and forth between multiple systems and interfaces to care for one patient.  This is one of the greatest pains for those of us who work in the specialty pharmacy setting.

 There is not one comprehensive solution out there that meets all of our needs.  Even if that solution were to exist, health-systems are typically married to large EHR vendors that may not easily exchange data with other software.  This requires large amounts of high-demand IT resources, or in most cases, manually transcribing data between software platforms….which is (almost) worse than being on paper!  Not only does this totally mess up our workflow, but it’s a hotbed for medication errors. This ultimately puts patients at risk.

 Wouldn’t it be great if these systems could “talk” to each other and exchange information freely?  

Enter data and communication standards. 

Implementing standards such as SNOMED CT, RxNorm, and Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture (C-CDA) helps us exchange information between disparate software systems to optimize our workflow and ensure patient information flows across the continuum of care, regardless of provider or practice setting.

 Standards also lead to improved data reporting capabilities.  If all software vendors are using standard data elements, we can aggregate data across all practice settings and organizations, regardless of the software systems in place.  This has huge implications for population health and key to leveraging “big data” in healthcare.  It also has a special place in the specialty pharmacy setting, where data is key to accessing additional payer contracts and limited distribution drugs from pharmaceutical manufacturers (we’ll save this topic for another day).

 In our next post, we’ll dive into more specifics on Health IT standards, discuss current implementation efforts, and inform you how to get involved.  Talk soon!


 Samm Anderegg, Pharm.D., MS, BCPS is Chief Executive Officer at DocStation, a software platform for healthcare teams, enabling pharmacists to provide value-based patient care.  For more information, visit

Part of a blog series by SOPIT Section Advisory Group on Ambulatory Care Informatics' Workgroup on Specialty Pharmacy