Are Epic’s Pharmacy Products Right for My Hospital?

If KLAS were a social media platform, Epic’s pharmacy products would be trending right now. Chances are that when we are on a call with a pharmacy manager at a hospital that runs on the Epic system, that manager will say, “Our executives are really pushing me to look at Epic’s pharmacy products. What do you know about them? Are they up to snuff?”

Supply and Demand

Why are customers interested in Epic’s pharmacy products? Well, integration is definitely a huge buzzword, and so is consolidation. But that isn’t the only reason or maybe even the main reason. The fact of the matter is that hospitals are looking to save money. And in these hard times, every dollar counts. Many hospitals feel that it is cheaper to buy pharmacy products as part of the Epic package than to go with a third-party vendor.

Why would an EMR vendor want to get into the pharmacy space? Because their customers asked for it. Hospitals are hungering for this functionality, and third-party vendors haven’t always been an option either due to a lack of developed tools or the total cost of ownership of those tools. Epic has a track record of listening to their customers when it comes to prioritizing development, and customers have a high degree of confidence in Epic’s ability to deliver. 

The Hottest Products

Many of Epic’s pharmacy capabilities are relatively new in the market, and the vendor has historically focused on the development of many other products that are more core to their mission. Hence the question, “Are these tools up to snuff?”

We wanted to give providers an accurate, detailed answer. So we created a report called Epic Pharmacy 2020 that you can find on our website. We focus on the two products that hospital pharmacy leadership are asking about most: Willow Inventory (Inpatient) and IV Dispense Prep.

Willow Inventory, Epic’s medication inventory management system, offers functionality that is fairly simple in concept but difficult to pull off. Many pharmacy vendors lack what customers need, and Epic is working to fill in the gaps. Two things hospitals dread are wasting money buying medication that doesn’t get used and running out of medications that their patients need. Willow Inventory is designed to track inventory and handle the ordering process so that those two fears never become a reality. 

IV Dispense Prep is an IV workflow management system. Whenever pharmacy technicians are tasked with creating an IV solution for a patient, there is always the chance for human error. Technicians may accidentally mix in the wrong medications or the wrong concentration of medication. IV Dispense Prep monitors each step of the process with barcode scanning and a camera. Pharmacists also use the product to sign off on the technicians’ work. 

Despite the clear contribution such technology would have to patient safety, and though many hospitals would like to have an IV workflow management system, it is often just not in the budget. That is mainly due to the fact that the product is expensive and that there isn’t a clear ROI outside of patient safety improvements. What stands out about IV Dispense Prep is the low cost. The module is included in the Epic package. That is driving higher adoption. Still, many customers wonder whether the product will meet the needs of their facility.

A Key Finding

A pattern emerged in our research.

epic pharmacy expertise and guidance

Epic has a great reputation for smooth implementations and great training. As you can see from the chart above, Willow Inventory and IV Dispense Prep are no exception. However, you will also notice that Epic provides very little specialized guidance to help customers with ongoing optimization.

If your facility has a team of Epic analysts or IT people that can provide support, your chances of success with Willow Inventory and IV Dispense Prep are high. However, if you don’t have a lot of internal resources, you should expect more of an uphill climb to get all the bells and whistles out of the system.

Epic is continuing to develop their pharmacy offering. More features will become standard for all customers eventually, but ongoing guidance will likely not be present. Whatever the case, you can bet that Epic’s road map will be based on the needs of their customers.



Photo Credit: Adobe Stock, Tyler Olson