Pharmacy manages medication for homes

Hundreds of people walk in and out of Thompson Pharmacy every day, but just beyond an employee’s only door at the Chestnut Avenue location, Thompson Long Term Care is servicing nine counties, 25 nursing homes and more than 3,000 beds monthly.

Thompson LTC serves Blair, Bedford, Cambria, Centre, Clearfield, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson and Mifflin counties and has been working on several new ways to save its customers time and money.

Thompson offers medication management software called QuickMAR where customers can manage their medicine online from home.

But one of the biggest exclusive features Thompson LTC offers are the multiple packaging options for people with medical needs.

Thompson still offers the traditional 28-day bingo card along with 14-day Opus style, MTS robotic packaging and Parata strip packing.

The Parata strip packing is the newest, albeit least used method, but its future might be bright.

“When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, the initial goal was to have every skilled facility in the United States go to a seven-day system where we exchange medicine every seven days,” Thompson Pharmacy President Bill Thompson Jr. said. “We looked at technology for almost two years, and we chose the Parata system. We think going forward the future is going to become a seven-day, four-day or possibly three-day exchange rather than a 30-day exchange.

“We bought this as a possibility of what we see for the future. They made it a 14-day exchange after we had already purchased this, but we’re still doing the seven-day exchange, which limits waste.”

According to Thompson, limiting waste saved one company more than $10,000 just by avoiding wastes that would have built up using a 28-day cycle as opposed to a seven-day cycle.

“The key is waste,” Thompson said. “When you are filling a 28-day system, you can send something out that can be discontinued tomorrow. You would lose 28 days worth of those pills. It would only be seven at the most on this system.

“Waste moving forward is going to be a larger issue with the new act and the effort to keep costs down.”

Director of Pharmacy Brett Ronan explained that most pills are distributed in a 28-day cycle.

This means that nursing homes or patients – or the patients’ families – usually have to sort into plastic seven-day pill boxes.

“Once something is accepted at the nursing home, it can’t be returned for credit,” Ronan said. “So if it’s 28 days and it is discontinued tomorrow, that patient, the insurance or whoever paid for it is stuck with 27 days of medicine they can’t use.

“We can’t accept it back because it was out of our control. We can’t give it to anyone else, so the insurance will have to pay for it to basically be destroyed.”

Only about 10 percent of Thompson LTC customers are currently using the Parata Special Tablet System, but many more use the older version of robotic packing called MTS.

“Between both robotics, we have probably about 60 percent of our customers using,” Thompson said. “One of our goals is making it as cost effective and more importantly as safe as possible, and that’s what these can do better than the traditional packing.”

Ronan said nursing homes have been resistant to change because they’ve been using the traditional system their entire careers.

“The people who use it really like it,” Ronan said. “I don’t think they would go back. Like with anything, change is difficult, but we’re hoping to change that. We’re hoping to bring this out to some of our retail customers, hopefully before summer.

“You could come in to any of our stores and get a roll of meds with a canister and set it up at home.”

The Parata packaging system puts pills in a small plastic bag with the patients’ name, the dosage amount, the time when the pill should be taken, the day and what exactly the pill is and what it does.

The typical strip packaging with the Parata robot is seven days.

“This is the wave of the future, and we’re trying to get into retail,” Parata technician Brooke Grassmyer said.

“The pills come already labeled with when they need to be taken. It can be as simple as a sun and a moon for the time, and it eliminates the families need to do seven-day pill boxes, because they may not always know what they’re doing.”

Grassmyer has worked with the other types of packaging Thompson LTC offers and prefers the Parata method.

“I have been here two years and pretty much have experience with everything here,” Grassmyer said. “(The Parata) is light years ahead of the MTS. I have also worked on the table filling medications, and I can see how slow and physically demanding it can be on the fillers.

“This also has all the safety checks that a person may not have. So I can be ensured that I’m doing all the right things with this robot, and then we have a pharmacist’s verification that makes sure everything is 100 percent accurate.”

Thompson LTC has been using the MTS robot for nearly 10 years, while the Parata robot was installed 16 months ago.

Thompson LTC delivers packaged medications to all nine counties it services using 12 vehicles and 20 drivers that make a morning and evening run every day and are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Thompson LTC offers a state survey consultation in which experts will come to facilities for free to discuss how Thompson can assist the facility.