Improving Care with Complete Medication Data: Pharmacy Webinar Recap

Three physicians and a pharmacist – all dedicated to making sure care teams have the information they need to improve health outcomes and protect patient safety – gathered to talk about the importance of complete medication data, the challenges of medication reconciliation, and how technology is making strides in this area.

Last week’s webinar “Improving Care with Complete Medication Data” began with a framing of the problem we’re trying to solve.

“The bottom line is that gaps in medication data lead to worse outcomes,” said moderator Avery Haller, MPH, Executive Director of Strategy & Partnerships at Health Gorilla.

Haller cited statistics, including the fact that non-adherence to medication causes 10% of all hospitalizations and adverse drug events cause 1.3 million emergency department visits annually.

Thanks to a recent partnership with DrFirst, she added, Health Gorilla can now facilitate access to medication data from virtually every pharmacy in the United States.

“Managing medications is pretty much the one thing that I better get right because when we get it wrong, that's how patients get hurt,” said Dr. Colin Banas, DrFirst’s Chief Medical Officer and former hospitalist for VCU Health at the Virginia Commonwealth University. “DrFirst is very proud to have a very complete medication history feed.”

“It's very challenging to put together an accurate complete up to date medication list and to keep that list accurate,” said Steven Lane, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer at Health Gorilla and practicing family physician. “And it’s only as good as the process that was used to collect that data.”

As a pharmacist and Executive Director of the Pharmacy HIT Collaborative, this is something Shelly Spiro, RPh, FASCP, knows all too well. In most cases, a patient’s medication list is “just a starting point” for medication reconciliation, she said. 

“Pharmacists are an integral part of the care team,” Spiro said. “We're not recognized by the Social Security Act as a provider, therefore we can't bill for clinical services like other providers can, and our comprehensive medication review services are bundled into the dispensing of the medications. But our reimbursement models are evolving and changing.”

“This is gonna sound slightly tongue in cheek but I mean it: thank God for pharmacists,” Dr. Banas said. “You know I'm gonna have a shirt created that says ‘pharmacists – saving my bacon since 2002.’”

Spiro thanked him for this sentiment. “This is music to my ears and to the CEOs of the professional organizations that I report to,” she said. 

Haller pointed out that pharmacists have increasingly been acting as providers, particularly in rural and underserved areas where pharmacy services can help close care gaps, and Dr. Lane said he supports the role pharmacists can play in the continuum of care for patients. But it is not without its challenges. 

“I'm very excited to think that there will be more caregivers available more conveniently to patients,” he said, “but for that care to be safe it has to be integrated through an interoperability solution set so that the pharmacists can get the data they need and then they can share back with all the other care team members the data that they produce.”

Jim Jirjis, MD, MBA, Chief Health Information Officer at HCA Healthcare, spoke of the need to serve patients first but to also look out for the people who are providing care to the patients.

“Everybody and their cousin right now is trying to figure out how to take workload off nurses and they're an important part of medicine reconciliation and clinics and the hospital,” said Jirjis, adding that clinicians can spend up to 45 minutes on med rec and clinician shortages lead to even more time constraints. 

“As we think about how we support those who support the patients, there's really two simple metrics that everything should follow,” Jirjis said. “One is: are we making our clinicians more efficient? And the second is: are we helping them make better decisions?”

To learn about Health Gorilla’s complete medication data solution, go to