Medication synchronization, or med sync, has revolutionized the pharmacy industry. It’s been a blessing to both patients and pharmacies. Patients with multiple medications can pick up all their monthly refills in one visit instead of making several trips per month. Pharmacies can add a level of predictability to their business that gives them a better handle on inventory control and profitability. Plus, improved medication adherence is good for patients and for star ratings. But starting a med sync program doesn’t come without its challenges.
Med Sync Challenges: How to Overcome the Most Common Hurdles of Medication Synchronization Programs
You have the best of intentions. You know how beneficial a med sync program will be not only for your pharmacy, but also for your patients. Unfortunately, it’s not always as easy as:
- Step 1: Find Program.
- Step 2: Enter Patient Data.
- Step 3: Profit.
Challenges always come up. Some of them are easily handled; others aren’t. But remember: You’re not the first to implement a program like this. Thousands of other pharmacies out there are running med sync programs, and they’ve experienced many of the same challenges you’re facing now. Today, we’re looking at some of the most common med sync challenges we’ve run into, as well as potential solutions for each.
Challenge #1: Starting a Med Sync Program Takes Time & Effort
There’s no real way around this. When you start any new program, there’s going to be a learning curve. It may seem overwhelming at first. There’s so much to do, and you won’t really know where to start. Many pharmacists struggle when starting a med sync program because they try to do too much too quickly. But you don’t have to.
Start by making a list of your high-volume patients — the ones who pick up the most prescriptions per month. Once you have your list, select a handful for a pilot program. Make sure the handful is from the lower end of the list — patients with only 3 or 4 prescriptions — to keep you and your staff from getting overwhelmed. As your pharmacists and technicians get used to the new workflow, slowly expand your list. Don’t move too quickly; start slowly and aim to enroll just five patients per day at first.
Challenge #2: Some Patients Might Be Hesitant to Enroll
Once you have the program going, you might find it hard to get your patients to sign up. Maybe they have an established routine for picking up their prescriptions, and they don’t want to change it. Maybe they don’t see the benefit in enrolling. Maybe they like having control over when and how often they pick up their refills.
Everyone will have a different reason for why they don’t want to enroll in the program. In this case, the best thing you can do is use your data. The patients that will benefit the most from a med sync program are the ones who are on multiple medications (think 3 or more) and who are experiencing adherence issues. Once you’ve identified the ones who can benefit the most from it, show them how med sync could help them stay on their medication plan — and stay healthier while they’re at it.
For the ones who aren’t necessarily having adherence issues, make sure you illustrate how much time they could get back in their week by only visiting your store once a month. Those two or three trips to the pharmacy every week add up, particularly for patients with limited mobility.
Challenge #3: Maintaining a Med Sync Program Also Takes Time & Effort
No matter how automated a program is, it still can’t run itself. It needs to be set up, and it needs to be maintained. With something this important, you may be tempted to take on implementing and managing your med sync program all by yourself. We wouldn’t suggest that.
Alternatively, you may want everyone on your team to know your med sync platform inside and out. Maybe you’re thinking of training each employee under your roof on how to manage the program, enroll patients, and run reports. We wouldn’t advise that, either.
While you need to know its ins and outs, maintaining the program is a task best suited for your pharmacy technicians. Dedicate one or two pharmacy technicians to your medication synchronization program. They’re the ones who should be in it every day, making calls to patients, and adjusting schedules. Your pharmacists should spend their time with patients, not programs.
Challenge #4: Patients Can’t Always Afford to Pick Up All Their Medications
In a perfect world, patients would be able to get the medications they need without having to worry about whether they can afford them. But that’s not the world we live in. Many patients can’t afford to pick up all their prescriptions, and they’re forced to choose which meds to refill and which ones will have to wait. For these patients, putting their medications on a med sync schedule wouldn’t make anything easier.
But you can still help them.
To encourage enrollment with lower income patients, look at coupon programs and discount programs that can help them afford their medications. If a prescription would be less without insurance, you can advise your patient to purchase their meds without it. (Pharmacists were previously not allowed to disclose that information, but the Patient Right To Know Drug Prices Act changed that when it was signed into law in October 2018.)
Med sync programs have had a lasting impact on pharmacies and their patients. Once a pharmacy goes live with med sync, they often don’t know how they got along without it. But it doesn’t come without its challenges. The trick is to not let those challenges overwhelm you. The benefits med sync can offer you and your patients are more than worth the challenges that can pop up.