Innovation develops multifaceted partnership with School of Pharmacy

Partnership includes donation of equipment and software plus clinical training for students

Phil Samples, vice president for professional services for Innovation, demonstrates one of the firm's dispensing units that takes a prescription through all of the steps necessary to dispense it.
Phil Samples, vice president for professional services for Innovation, demonstrates one of the firm's dispensing units that takes a prescription through all of the steps necessary to dispense it.
Phil Samples, vice president for professional services for Innovation, demonstrates one of the firm's dispensing units that takes a prescription through all of the steps necessary to dispense it.

Phil Samples is vice president for professional services for Innovation, a pharmacy automation and process optimization firm in Johnson City, N.Y.

The firm’s website notes that it is ‘helping pharmacies increase efficiency, enhance patient safety and deliver patient-facing care’ – and that message comes across loud and clear from Samples, who serves on the Advisory Board for the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (SOPPS) and its Communications and Marketing Committee. He is also a preceptor for the school.

With a PharmD from the University of Georgia, as well as a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and two master’s degrees, Samples joined Innovation five years ago after nearly four decades as a pharmacist, much of that with the U.S. Air Force.

“I love my profession of pharmacy. I’ve been a pharmacist for 38 years and have never been bored. It has always presented challenges that are fun and rewarding and have spanned all areas – inpatient, outpatient, and teaching hospital clinical coordination,” he said. “I’ve walked all the different aspects of pharmacy that you can walk and this is where I ended up because of my understanding across the board. This company was innovative enough to say we’ve not hired a pharmacist before, so they did and that’s part of the professional services piece of the puzzle we provide.”

Samples and Innovation are strong proponents of SOPPS, and believe they can bring something different to the school – training in an area that pharmacists, to this point, have not received.

“Part of the reason we’re pursuing this partnership with SOPPS is because of what I had to learn on the job,” Samples said. “Nobody in pharmacy today is teaching what we can provide in the advanced pharmacy practice rotation that we’ve set up. That is, how to run large central fill and mail order pharmacies, which process prescriptions for large groups of retail, outpatient, or government pharmacies, depending on which market segment.”

“For example, the Veterans Administration has consolidated its mail order pharmacies, but nobody in pharmacy school was ever educated on how to operate something so large,” Samples said. “We’re going to expose students to this growing model to help them understand the myriad processes and technologies that go into it, from concept to operations and all the components that comprise it that will make them successful. We’re not going to make the students experts, but we’re going to make them aware of how these sites are changing the face of pharmacy and if they choose to pursue it, they can.”

As the partnership between SOPPS developed, the school needed an option for its dispensing lab, and Innovation said, “We can handle this,” Samples said. “We’ve been able to work with the school in the temporary location for the first phase, providing computers and the necessary software. Our system handles all the steps to process prescriptions, so they’ll have the total experience prior to encountering patients.” In all, Innovation is providing more than $40K in equipment for SOPPS.

With the PharmASSIST® system provided by Innovation, SOPPS students will gain experience with the pharmacy workflow of filling a prescription on the outpatient side of the prescription process, from intake to dispensing to delivering to patients, and all of the steps in between, Samples said. The software, called PharmASSIST Symphony®, will be coupled with the cabinet-based automation with dispensers that will be loaded with dummy capsules. “When the school opens in its new location, we’ll add the counting technology so the system will count for the students. The technology allows pharmacists to be more efficient and have time to spend face-to-face with patients, and that’s our goal as a pharmacist: ‘What can we do to increase the amount of time we spend educating the patient?’ Each part of the process is vitally important,” Samples said, “but if we can create the technology, we can increase the amount of direct patient care.”

The scalability of the solution to fit any level of need is the key differentiator that sets Innovation apart from competitors, but another fits into Binghamton University’s focus on interdisciplinary education.

“We have, at any given time, up to a half dozen engineering master’s or PhD students from the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science working for us,” Samples said. “When we do get our first group of SOPPS students in their third or fourth year in the program, the likelihood they’ll get transdisciplinary education with engineering is high.”

Samples said he will be just like any other preceptor when students are on site. “They’ll have reading assignments, work to be done and hopefully a project with the engineering students to get them together. It will depend on the projects we have going at that time.”

Samples is looking forward to working with the students who choose the Innovation site for their program. “They need to get all their required rotations taken care of, those are fundamental and this is an elective, but this is a great opportunity.

“I love to teach and challenge the students. It’s a great investment in time and it’s fun.”

Posted in: Campus News, Pharmacy