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6/12/2012
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10 Popular Pharmacy Information Systems

Healthcare providers need top-notch pharmacy information systems to safely deliver medications. Consider our overview of the top players.
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In order for your hospital or group practice to keep patients safe and well managed, your pharmacy information system--also called a medication management system--must have several core functions, including in- and outpatient order entry, dispensing, and inventory and purchasing management. But in this age of integration, these systems must also connect to other systems within the enterprise, including an EMR, computerized physician order entry (CPOE), barcode technology, and smart IV infusion pumps.

In the past, providers had to choose between a stand-alone product from a best-of-breed vendor and a vendor that offered an integrated system. While the best stand-alone programs may provide automated medication-dispensing cabinets, barcode technology, and the like, most providers are nevertheless opting for an integrated approach.

"[Providers] want fewer vendor interfaces," Mark Neuenschwander, president of The Neuenschwander Company and cofounder of the unSUMMIT for Bedside Barcoding, told InformationWeek Healthcare. Neuenschwander said that it's easier for healthcare organizations if they pick an integrated system because they get everything they want--all the intelligence that assists in decision making--in their order system and in their filters. And at the same time, the program interfaces with their barcode scanning at the point of care and their medication dispensing cabinets. "I really think it is an integrated world," Neuenschwander said. "There are still some teaching [and] university hospitals out there that build their own systems, but that's the exception."

In this age of integration, what kinds of challenges do hospital CIOs face when helping pharmacy directors select a pharmacy information system? "There is the classic question of choosing a best-of-breed pharmacy application or one that is fully integrated with the EHR, medication administration suite, and other clinical system vendor-family solutions," said Helen Figge, a senior director of career services at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

The former, said Figge, might provide enhanced feature functions to the pharmacy, while the latter is more integrated in data sharing with other modules that may aid other caregivers. "There again, another choice might be more integrated with pharmacy robotics, packaging and dosing solutions, or even a retail application/dosing solution."

Figge, who recently served as the chair of the Ambulatory Care Informatics Section of the American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP), said that among the other challenges facing CIOs is selecting a pharmacy system that's well suited for pharmacists but that might not also integrate with CPOE and other MD-supporting systems.

With these complexities in mind, here's a look at integrated products from 10 of the top pharmacy information system vendors, based on HIMSS Software Market Share Results from April 2012.

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