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Lewis pharmacy project manager shows technical savvy.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- When Else Umbreit was studying chemistry at South Dakota State University she had an epiphany while taking inorganic chem and approaching graduation. She remembers thinking, "I can't sit in the lab anymore. I need to get out and talk to people."

An aunt who was a pharmacist in Minneapolis raised the possibility of pharmacy school. Umbreit figured she was going to graduate school in any event, and that becoming a pharmacist would give her a chance to use chemistry, as well as math and biology. Above all she would get a chance to make a difference in peoples' lives.

She has done just that for 16 years at Lewis Drug, for much of that time as a store pharmacy manager in Sioux Falls, and currently as the retailer's pharmacy project manager. In that role she is focused on getting the company's new PioneerRx pharmacy system installed chainwide.

She is interacting with new people every day in different practice settings, and getting to share her learnings. While she liked having longtime customers and established relationships with her store staff, she enjoys being in new environments, such as the outlet in Jackson, Minn, that Lewis just acquired in April.

"I'm getting to see different ways of doing things with a chance to come back to corporate and consider introducing them elsewhere," she says.

The PioneerRx system is Windows-based, making it familiar to younger pharmacists and easy to pick up, she notes. The software has increased capacity for medication therapy management documentation, along with features for medication synchronization and cyclical refills to boost compliance.

"Generally it frees up pharmacists from busywork so that they can spend more time talking to patients, which is great," Umbreit says.

She always had an interest in the technical side of pharmacy, but never had the opportunity to pursue it before. Having seen systems on rotations in hospitals and at National Community Pharmacists Association and American Pharmacists Association conferences, she knew "there were other options out there."

When Lewis piloted PioneerRx at four stores last November and saw what the conversion was going to entail, it asked Umbreit to coordinate training and installation. "Thankfully we still have heavy input from the IT department," she notes.

As much as she is concentrating on technology, she still enjoys the human side of pharmacy --namely talking to patients. Being licensed to practice in both South Dakota and Minnesota, she can do so at all of Lewis' stores. "The job has given me a lot of opportunity to form new connections," she says.

And when she explains the new system to pharmacists, she emphasizes how it can enhance patient interaction. A new iPad app, for example, can document counseling.

She has fond memories of the familiar faces among her customers at the Sioux Falls store, and she knows that she will periodically return. "The store has a great staff that I depended on and trusted," she says. "I miss the crew there, but it will still be my home base."

Another enjoyable aspect of the job was working with students, including high school "shadows" who were introduced to pharmacy.

Umbreit's dedication to the profession was perhaps most evident in her seven years on the executive board of the South Dakota Pharmacy Association, including a year as president. Her service put her in touch with practitioners in various settings, and let her see what she says has been an evolution of pharmacy into a more prominent role in health care.

She has seen pharmacists running anticoagulant clinics and working in pediatrics. "They're a lot of times working almost autonomously under protocol in different settings, and doctors are a lot more receptive to pharmacist input," she notes. "Physicians and nurses are starting to recognize that we can be a huge resource."

Her former IT supervisor went on to work in IT at Avera, and a former student does consulting for a health plan, she notes. "So there's a lot of opportunity for pharmacy versus the old routine tasks. It's expanding so much. Even what I'm doing now I didn't anticipate would be possible five years ago."

Lewis is helping propel the change, she adds, with one store starting a community residency program with South Dakota State, and the chain also providing nursing home consulting.

The company also fully backed her commitment to the state association. It never once raised a conflict when she had to leave her store for an association function.

Looking ahead, Umbreit will never want to be in an office or cubicle full time. "I'll need time to be out in stores talking with people from the community and making sure our pharmacists have everything they need."
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Title Annotation:Excellence in Pharmacy Practice
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Oct 27, 2014
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