This has certainly been a strange time as we all learn new ways to work. In some ways it feels as if time is standing still – yet, specialty and mail order pharmacies may find they are busier than ever. Either way, summer will be here before we know it, making now a good time to take a step back and plan ahead for your biannual package performance qualification (PPQ) testing, especially if you are working toward or looking to renew URAC accreditation.

URAC 4.0 and PQ Testing

In late 2019, URAC revised its standards for specialty and mail-order pharmacies, including new requirements around PPQ testing. PPQ testing must now be conducted:

  • On frozen and room temperature products in addition to refrigerated products
  • At least twice a year for each:
    • Packout size, type and shipment method
    • Geographic distribution and seasonal temperature profile

Internal vs Third-Party PPQ Testing

URAC has no specific requirements on who conducts testing. That means specialty and mail-order pharmacies can choose to use internal resources, following URAC protocols, or hire a third-party vendor. The question is, which is best for your organization?

According to Katie Kraverath, Business Development Manager for Zebra Technologies, some pharmacies prefer to keep testing in-house because it can be less expensive. “They also feel like they have more flexibility,” Katie says. “They can test as much as they want with tweaks to packout design, process or shipping dates and locations so they can compare results.”

For others, outsourcing PPQ testing to a third-party is the right answer for a variety of reasons. “Pharmacies seeking URAC accreditation for the first time might be new to PPQ testing,” explains Katie. “Using an expert third-party eliminates the need for them to develop their own testing regime while giving them insight into an established PPQ testing process.” An experienced third-party can also help with packout reconfiguration and the development of successful SOPs should the initial packout perform poorly in testing. Using an external provider also frees up internal resources, allowing pharmacies to redirect staff to other important projects. “Some pharmacy networks are now requiring that specialty pharmacies conduct third-party PPQ testing in order to qualify for participation,” Katie adds.

How Third-Party PPQ Testing Works

Phase 1: Packout Evaluation

In Phase 1, two sizes of medication packouts with wireless sensors enclosed are shipped to the third party for evaluation. The third party then provides packout configuration recommendations to the pharmacy.

Flow diagram of Option 1: TransTracker®

Phase 2: PQ Testing Evaluation

In Phase 2, the pharmacy prepares packouts based on the third party recommendations, again including wireless sensors.  The packouts are shipped to different locations, based on factors such as geography, transportation mode and excursion time. The time-temperature data is sent to mobile devices and uploaded for evaluation by the third party, and used to create the PPQ Validation Report.

Flow diagram of Option 2: S-400 Wireless Sensor

Why Zebra for PQ Testing

In addition to delivering a complete PPQ Validation Report that details the results of your third-party PPQ testing – Zebra works closely with you throughout the process to custom design a program that’s specific to your pharmacy. That’s because we do not believe in a one size fits all approach, and tailor your PPQ testing based on a number of factors, including:

  • Modes of transportation by which medication is sent – ground or air (or both)
  • Various shipping durations – for example, 24, 48 and/or 72 hours
  • Other excursion allowances, for example +/- 0.5Cº and +/- 1Cº
  • Different temperature profiles such as refrigerated, room temperature (CRT) and/or frozen packouts
  • Specific testing for each unique geographic service area

Learn More

You can learn more about Zebra's third-party PPQ testing process in this Case Study where AON Pharmacy shared their experiences with PPQ testing packouts going from their Florida location for delivery to Florida, New Jersey and Indiana.

For those interested in conducting their own PPQ testing, read "Safeguarding the Integrity of Medications: Shipping Matters,” by US Specialty Care (USSC). Here you’ll find a comprehensive overview of their testing including best practices and a details section “What You Need to Know about Testing”.

Related Products: