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Patent: To Get Your Meds, To Get Your Correct Meds, and To Get Your Meds in Time.
Patent: To Get Your Meds, To Get Your Correct Meds, and To Get Your Meds in Time. | hou_txbz, Lindale, Tyl_txbz, James W. Moncrief, James J. Martin, Spring, patent, 8260632, pharmaceutical oerpations, long-term care, Tech Pharmacy Services,

James W. Moncrief of Lindale, Texas, and James J. Martin of Spring, Texas, recently received U.S. Patent 8,260,632 for “System and Software of Enhanced Pharmaceutical Operations in Long-Term Care Facilities and Related Methods.”

Texas Business reports:  Two Texas men have devised a way to prevent prescription mistakes in nursing homes.

James W. Moncrief of Lindale, Texas, and James J. Martin of Spring, Texas, recently received U.S. Patent 8,260,632 for “System and Software of Enhanced Pharmaceutical Operations in Long-Term Care Facilities and Related Methods.”

The two men filed for the patent more than five years ago on June 14, 2007.

The patent assignee is Tech Pharmacy Services Inc. of Dallas.

This invention relates to the nursing home, retirement home, assisted living facility, and other long-term care industries in general and, more particularly, to pharmaceutical operations within nursing homes, retirement homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care facilities. 

Over the years, pharmacies have been a backbone in providing prescription drugs and other medications to people and have been a convenience as retail pharmacies have expanded to locating close to most residential areas in our country. Recently, pharmacies also have been placed inside of facilities such as hospitals, physician offices, malls, nursing homes, retirement homes, assisted living facilities, and other locations to make it easier for people to get access to medications and to facilitate interaction with medical personnel.

Because of the numerous types of medications stored and dispensed by pharmacies, automation within the pharmacy industry has been desirable. Accordingly, numerous developments have been made to automate the pharmacy ordering, dispensing, and storage capabilities. For example, machines have been developed to store and dispense medication responsive to security codes or other identification from medical personnel or users. Also, electronic storage and dispensing carts have been developed which are often stored on each floor of a hospital to allow the carts to electronically receive dispensing instructions from a hospital pharmacy computer.

Additionally, machines have been developed to store several hundred different types of medications and to dispense the medications to medical personnel for distribution to patients. 

Nevertheless, little has been done to enhance storage and distribution of medications in nursing homes, retirement homes, Alzheimer's living facilities, senior communities, assisted living facilities, and other types of long term care facilities (hereinafter collectively "long-term care facilities") which are significantly different in operation, personnel structure, and physical structure than hospitals, physician offices, and home care. This is increasingly important as the baby boom generation ages and more and more people enter these long-term care facilities. Also, because more and more people are and will be entering these long-term care facilities and because medication costs have been rising over the years, attempting to help make pharmacies, providing services to these long term facilities, profitable can often be important in successfully operating a long-term care facility. Further, error can arise when dispensing medication, and a need still exists to reduce the risk of error in dispensing medication, especially in long-term care facilities. 

 In view of the foregoing, embodiments of the present invention advantageously provide a system, software and methods for enhancing pharmaceutical operations in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, retirement homes, and other long-term care facilities. Embodiments of the present invention also advantageously provide a system, software, and methods for enhanced pharmaceutical operations in long-term care facilities that substantially reduces medication shortages, reduces medication preparation time, reduces medication passing or dispensing time, reduces medication waste, enhances documentation, and enhances regulatory acceptance. Embodiments of the present invention additionally provide a system, software, and methods for enhanced pharmaceutical operations in long-term care facilities, which substantially reduce the risk of error associated with dispensing medications to patients in the homes or facilities. Embodiments of the present invention further provide a system, software, and methods for enhanced pharmaceutical operations in long-term care facilities, which enhance profitability of pharmacy business associated with the homes or facilities. Embodiments of the present invention still further provide a system, software, and methods for enhanced pharmaceutical operations, which streamline the medication dispensing procedures for medical personnel working with the long-term care facilities to help make the procedures more efficient and easier. 

More particularly, embodiments of the present invention provide a system of enhanced pharmaceutical operation services for long-term care facilities. For example, in an embodiment of the present invention, a system includes a first data processing and management computer including a first memory to store data therein to thereby define a long-term care facility pharmacy group management server. Long-term care facility pharmacy management software stored in the first memory of the long-term care facility pharmacy group management server manages pharmaceutical operations in long-term care facilities. A plurality of pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing carts are each positioned in a separate long-term care facility remote from the long-term care facility pharmacy group management server and are in communication with the long-term care facility pharmacy group management server though a communication network to store pharmaceuticals therein and to dispense the pharmaceuticals to authorized healthcare personnel located at the long-term care facility. A second remote pharmacy group computer is positioned remote from and in communication with the long-term care facility pharmacy group management server, and is positioned remote from and in communication with the plurality of pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing carts. The second remote pharmacy group computer includes a second memory to store data therein to define a remote pharmacy group server. A plurality of pharmaceutical prescription document processors are each positioned in the long-term care facility where at least one of the plurality of pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing carts is located and are in communication with the remote pharmacy group server or the pharmacy group management server to process a pharmaceutical prescription order from the long-term care facility to be delivered to the long-term care facility for storage and dispensing through the at least one of the plurality of pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing carts. The system can also include a plurality of video input devices each separately positioned adjacent a respective one of the plurality of pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing carts remote from and in communication with at least one of the long-term care facility pharmacy group management server and the remote pharmacy group server. Each video input device is positionable to produce a video image of facility health care personnel and preferably is positionable to view visually accessible functional components of the adjacent pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing cart. This allows for the provision of visual feedback to pharmacy personnel to allow for enhanced training facility health-care personnel and for troubleshooting the pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing cart. The system also can include a pharmaceutical storage facility associated with the remote pharmacy group server and having a plurality of pharmaceuticals stored therein. The pharmaceutical storage facility has at least one vehicle to facilitate delivery of the pharmaceuticals at the storage facility to each of the plurality of pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing carts at the plurality of long-term care facilities responsive to the pharmaceutical prescription order. 

Also, for example, in an embodiment of the present invention, a system can include a pharmacy group management computer defining a long-term care facility pharmacy group management server, and long-term care facility pharmacy management software associated with the long-term care facility pharmacy group management server to manage pharmaceutical operations in a plurality of long-term care facilities. A plurality of pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing carts are each positioned in a long-term care facility separate and remote from the long-term care facility pharmacy group management server to store pharmaceuticals therein and to dispense the pharmaceuticals to authorized health care personnel located at the long-term care facility. The plurality of pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing carts and a plurality of pharmaceutical prescription document processors are each positioned in a long-term care facility remote separate from and in communication with the long-term care facility pharmacy group management server or a remote pharmacy group computer or server to process a pharmaceutical prescription order from the long-term care facility and to be delivered to the long-term care facility. 

Additionally, according to an embodiment of the present invention, a system can include a first pharmacy group management computer defining a long-term care facility pharmacy group management server and long-term care facility pharmacy management software associated with the long-term care facility pharmacy group management server to manage pharmaceutical operations in a plurality of long-term care facilities. A plurality of pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing carts are each positioned in one of the plurality of long-term care facilities remote from the long-term care facility pharmacy group management server and in communication with the long-term care facility pharmacy group management server to store a plurality of different pharmaceuticals, package a plurality of individual doses of pharmaceuticals, and dispense the plurality of individual doses of pharmaceuticals to authorized facility medical personnel located at one of the plurality of long-term care facilities. A remote pharmaceutical dispensing and storage facility is positioned remote from the plurality of pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing carts and is associated with a second remote pharmacy group computer defining a remote pharmacy group server which is also in communication with the long-term care facility pharmacy group management server and each of the plurality of pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing carts through the communication network. The remote pharmaceutical dispensing storage facility has a plurality of pharmaceuticals stored therein and has at least one vehicle positioned to deliver selected pharmaceuticals at the storage facility to each of the plurality of pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing carts. Delivery, preferably along a preplanned or preselected delivery route, is accomplished in response to a combination of individual facility patient pharmaceutical dispensing instructions and medication inventory for each of the plurality of pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing carts. 

Embodiments of the present invention provide long-term care facility pharmacy management software adapted to be stored on the storage media. For example, in an embodiment of the present invention, the software includes a patient prescription receiver which receives a digital image of a patient medication prescription order from a pharmaceutical prescription document processor associated with a remote medication dispensing apparatus, such as the above described pharmaceutical storage and dispensing device, to store the digital image of the patient medication prescription and to queue the digital image for prescription order processing. A queue receives the digital image and holds the digital image for prescription order requirements entry and release verification by a remote pharmacy pharmacist. A drug conflict analyzer, responsive to the prescription order requirements and data contained within the patient record, can analyze the prescription order requirements against a patient medication profile, a patient allergy profile, a patient diagnosis profile, a patient insurance profile, and a drug interaction profile, to determine if a conflict exists. If no conflict is found, a dispensing initiator positioned to receive the medication inventory for each of the pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing carts and responsive to the release verification performed by the remote pharmacy pharmacist, can transmit individual facility patient pharmaceutical dispensing instructions to the respective pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing cart over the communication network to thereby initiate patient medication dispensing. 

Also, for example, in an embodiment of the present invention, the software is adapted to be stored on a storage media associated with a pharmacy group management computer to manage pharmaceutical operations in a remote pharmaceutical dispensing and storage facility and a plurality of remotely positioned long-term care facilities each having a medication dispensing apparatus. The software is further adapted to accept prescriptions from a physician, patient identification information and pharmaceutical inventory from the medication dispensing apparatus, and insurance information from the patient's insurance company. This allows the software to control dispensing medication from the medication dispensing apparatus to an authorized health-care personnel in each of the long-term care facilities, to control inventory in the medication dispensing apparatus, to order delivery of pharmaceuticals from the remote pharmaceutical dispensing and storage facility to restock the medication dispensing apparatus or for individually tailored prescription delivery for those prescriptions not stocked in the medication dispensing apparatus, and to electronically process medication claims with a reimbursement provider. 

Further, embodiments of the present invention also can include a computer readable medium that is readable by a computer to manage pharmaceutical operations in a remote pharmaceutical dispensing and storage facility defining a remote pharmacy and in a plurality of remotely positioned long-term care facilities each having at least one remote pharmaceutical dispensing and storing apparatus in communication with the computer and having a memory and a plurality of medication dispensing cartridges associated therewith. In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the computer readable medium includes a set of instructions that, when executed by the computer, cause the computer to perform the following operations: establishing remote communications between each pharmaceutical storage and dispensing apparatus and the remote pharmacy, registering at least one patient for each of the plurality of long-term care facilities in a database of residents for the long-term care facility associated with a pharmaceutical storage and dispensing apparatus located at that long-term care facility, storing in memory of each pharmaceutical storage and dispensing apparatus at least one medication type, an amount of medication to be dispensed, and a medication dispensing time, dispensing medication responsive to patient prescription requirements for each patient registered to the pharmaceutical storage and dispensing apparatus located at each respective long-term care facility, and maintaining a record of medication dispensed and an inventory of medication remaining in each cartridge of each pharmaceutical storage and dispensing apparatus. 

Embodiments of the present invention also include methods of providing pharmaceutical services to long-term care facilities. A method includes providing a pharmacy remote from a plurality of long-term care facilities to define an long-term care facility pharmacy, restructuring long-term care facility staff procedures for communication between long-term care facility staff and the long-term care facility pharmacy, restructuring medication procurement and resident medication distribution procedures within the plurality of long-term care facilities, installing a pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing cart at each of the plurality of the long-term care facilities to be used by the long-term care facility staff, and visiting each of the plurality of long-term care facilities on a preselected frequency by pharmacy staff from the remote pharmacy to assess performance and enhance communication. 

By restructuring long-term care facility staff communication procedures and medication procurement and patient distribution procedures, embodiments of the present invention advantageously enhance pharmaceutical operations by allowing an individual long-term care facility to participate in a broader network of a plurality of long-term care facilities to thereby participate in costing and delivery benefits of the plurality or group of long-term care facilities. Such group participation streamlines operational procedures and communication and enhances profitability of the individual long-term care facilities. 

Embodiments of the present invention also include methods for generating revenue from a plurality of long-term care facilities each devoid of an on-location pharmacy.

For example, in an embodiment of the present invention, a method includes reducing management overhead costs and reducing pharmaceutical delivery costs. Management overhead costs can be reduced by assigning each of the plurality of long-term care facilities at least one automated pharmaceutical storage and dispensing cart to reduce workload of facility staff members, assigning a plurality of the long-term care facilities to each of at least one long-term care facility remote pharmacy, and assigning the at least one long-term care facility remote pharmacy to a single long-term care facility pharmacy group manager, to thereby continuously monitor multiple long-term care facilities.

Pharmaceutical delivery costs can be reduced by delivering pharmaceuticals by long-term care facility remote pharmacy vehicle to replenish, in a single delivery iteration, each of a plurality of the automated pharmaceutical storage and dispensing carts and to provide those pharmaceuticals according to the patient prescription requirements and not provided by each respective pharmaceutical storage and electronic dispensing cart. 

Still further, in an embodiment of the present invention, a method includes providing a pharmacy remote from a plurality of long-term care facilities to define a long-term care facility remote pharmacy, positioning at least one pharmaceutical storage and dispensing apparatus having at least one removable medicine cartridge in each of the plurality of long-term care facilities to store and dispense pharmaceuticals to a patient living therein, and establishing remote communications between each pharmaceutical storage and dispensing apparatus and the remote pharmacy.

This results in a generation of revenue due to cost savings for both the pharmacy and the long-term care facilities and secures a stable level of sales. Patients for each of the plurality of long-term care facilities are then registered in a database of residents for the long-term care facility associated with a respective pharmaceutical storage and dispensing apparatus located at that long-term care facility, the database stored in memory of a data processing and management computer.

At least one medication type, amount to be dispensed, and a medication dispensing time is then remotely programmed into each pharmaceutical storage and dispensing apparatus, and medication is dispensed according to patient prescription requirements for each associated registered patient. An inventory of medication dispensed and medication remaining can be maintained in the pharmaceutical storage and dispensing apparatus and transmitted directly or indirectly to the remote pharmacy to allow for just-in-time type resupply of the pharmaceutical storage and dispensing apparatus.

Further, separate billing records along with consolidated billing data can be supplied for each plurality of registered patients at each of the plurality of long-term care facilities. The methodology allows for the consolidated billing data to be organized by patient, facility, remote pharmacy, and reimbursement provider. This again reduces overhead to the pharmacy and the facility and can allow for batch-type processing by a reimbursement provider.