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Epic Pharmacy Solutions 2020 Epic Pharmacy Solutions 2020
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Epic Pharmacy Solutions 2020
What Progress Has Epic Made with Medication Inventory and IV Workflow Management?

author - Jackson Tate
Jackson Tate
author - Paul Warburton
Paul Warburton
October 22, 2020 | Read Time: 5  minutes

Despite pressure to take an Epic-first approach to software decisions, many pharmacies at Epic organizations have held on to third-party products due to the relative immaturity of some of Epic’s more recently developed pharmacy solutions. However, Epic has put significant focus on broad pharmacy development (the only enterprise EMR vendor to have done so), and customers want to know—is it time to switch? To answer this question, this report explores medication inventory management (MIM) and IV workflow management—the two areas where Epic has focused much of their development efforts—to validate what capabilities these modules deliver and where gaps still exist.

Overall Progress Report: Technology Development Slow and Steady; Workflows and Optimization Left to the Customer

Customers agree that Epic does well at helping with initial implementations and continuing to develop needed interfaces. Once live, customers are highly reliant on their own internal Willow analyst teams to customize workflows and deliver reporting to drive optimization. As a result, pharmacy managers and directors can feel they lack a direct Epic connection and the ongoing vendor guidance and expertise that many third-party pharmacy vendors typically provide.

epic pharmacy expertise and guidance

Medication Inventory Management (Willow Inventory)

Willow Tracks In-Scope Medications Well; Gaps Remain with Reporting

Organizations that implement Willow Inventory today have more out-of-the-box options than their early-adopting peers, and a great deal of this functionality came about as a result of joint builds between Epic and early pharmacy customers. Because customer needs vary, this functionality will be sufficient for some, while others will need to put in additional work and customization. The chart to the right shows how often customers report having to put in additional work for different MIM capabilities.

medication inventory capabilities

Inventory Data from Third-Party Sources Often Incomplete

Customers state that Epic’s technology resources are great at helping organizations establish interfaces between Willow Inventory and the various hardware and software solutions that store and track medications. However, the completeness of data from solutions outside the Epic ecosystem varies, requiring significant IT investment from customers, who would like both Epic and the hardware vendors to partner better around interfaces. Data such as order returns, controlled substance inventories, and sizing conversions may not carry over from carousels and cabinets, making it difficult to set accurate par levels. These issues also disrupt the ordering process, which itself is an area for improvement—customers would like more seamless functionality for things such as purchase tracking, 340B ordering, and pricing data. Additionally, they would like interfacing with additional pharmaceutical wholesalers beyond the big three (AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal, McKesson). Despite these gaps and the additional cost of the solution, customers feel Willow Inventory improves efficiency and tracking enough that they rate its value on par with or higher than customers of the traditional MIM solutions.

quality of interfaces between willow inventory and other pharmacy technology

† This chart does not represent an exhaustive list of third-party interfaces. It includes only those vendors identified by customers interviewed for this research.

IV Workflow Management (IV Dispense Prep)

IV Dispense Prep Meets Core Needs; Lacks More Advanced Capabilities Out of the Box

Early adopters of IV Dispense Prep have worked through many of the system’s initial challenges. Enterprise Epic customers do not have to pay extra for the software (Epic does charge for interfaces), and users report above-average satisfaction with outcomes and value. Customers say the system meets many needs for barcode scanning, remote verification, and, now, photo-capture verification (interface for the latter requires a joint build with Epic). In addition, Epic has recently released a compounding and repackaging module, enabling customers to do batch medication preparations. However, organizations wishing to advance patient safety to the next level via things like gravimetric verification, guided workflows, hard stops for dose-error reduction, recommended substitutions, and custom reporting will need to wait for further development from Epic or leverage their own resources to build those capabilities. Gravimetric verification is of particular interest to customers, and interfaces for this are on Epic’s development road map. Customers point out that it will likely have similar challenges as the photo-capture verification (i.e., customers will have to find their own hardware). Additional gaps mentioned by customers include Epic’s lack of deep expertise in clean-room safety and lack of hardware (which precludes customers from being able to completely consolidate vendors).

iv workflow management capabilities

† This table does not represent an exhaustive list of third-party vendors. It includes only those vendors identified by customers interviewed for this research. For more information on vendors that offer gravimetric verification, see KLAS’ 2019 IV compounding report.

perceived importance of additional verification methods

IV Dispense Prep Customers Report Capabilities for All Types of Compounding

Customers report that IV Dispense Prep enables them to do almost all types of compounding, including hazardous medications, patient-specific doses, and batch doses. Gaps include TPN medications and preparations needing gravimetric verification.

types of drugs being compounded with iv dispense prep

Epic Pharmacy Ecosystem

Epic’s Pharmacy Functionality Delivers Breadth but Not Depth

Years of customer requests and steady development from Epic have led to a wide breadth of pharmacy capabilities. In many core pharmacy areas, Epic now provides essential functionality, either as a separate product (e.g., Willow Inventory) or as functionality within the broader Willow platform (e.g., antimicrobial stewardship). The chart below summarizes the status of Epic’s pharmacy portfolio.

epic offerings within the pharmacy ecosystem

About This Report

Each year, KLAS interviews thousands of healthcare professionals about the IT products and services their organizations use. These interviews are conducted using a standard quantitative evaluation, and the scores and commentary collected are shared online in real time so that other providers and IT professionals can benefit from their peers’ experiences.

To supplement the data gathered with this standard evaluation, KLAS also creates various supplemental evaluations that target a subset of KLAS’ overall sampling and delve deeper into the most pressing questions facing healthcare technology today.

The data in this report comes from a supplemental evaluation that was used to gather feedback from users of Epic’s Willow Inventory and IV Dispense Prep solutions regarding the current state of the systems’ functionality and customer satisfaction with things like integration and Epic’s pharmacy expertise. The data was collected over the last 12 months; the number of unique responding organizations for each solution is given in the table below.

supplemental evaluations
author - Elizabeth Pew
Elizabeth Pew
author - Madison Moniz
Madison Moniz
author - Mary Brown
Project Manager
Mary Brown
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This material is copyrighted. Any organization gaining unauthorized access to this report will be liable to compensate KLAS for the full retail price. Please see the KLAS DATA USE POLICY for information regarding use of this report. © 2024 KLAS Research, LLC. All Rights Reserved. NOTE: Performance scores may change significantly when including newly interviewed provider organizations, especially when added to a smaller sample size like in emerging markets with a small number of live clients. The findings presented are not meant to be conclusive data for an entire client base.