Community pharmacies are evolving. In his webinar “Care Planning: The Key to Thriving and Surviving,” Mark McCurdy, RPh, said “Don’t try to fit clinical care into your dispensing schedule. Fit dispensing into your clinical care schedule.” Why would he put so much emphasis on clinical care? Because that’s the future of pharmacy.
Diversifying to Survive
With profit margins shrinking due to lower reimbursement rates and other issues like DIR fees, independent and community pharmacies must look for other revenue streams to stay afloat, much less prosper. With solutions like Amazon’s PillPack on the rise, pharmacies need to prove to their communities why a community drug store is still relevant in today’s on-demand, straight-to-your-door culture. One of the best ways to do that is to diversify what your store offers. Offering clinical care to your patients introduces a revenue stream that mail-order services simply can’t touch.
Better, More Convenient Care for Patients
Most patients are closer to their pharmacists than their physicians — both personally and geographically. They see their pharmacists an average of 35 times per year, versus just four for their primary care physician. When given the choice, we think most people would rather see their pharmacist. So make that happen.
Which would be better — getting your flu shot while you’re at the pharmacy, or waiting in a doctor’s office for an hour before being moved to an exam room for another hour before finally getting your shot? We’re thinking most people would choose the first option.
Also, since your pharmacy is statistically closer to your patients than their doctor, you’re actually making health care more convenient for them when you offer clinical care services.
How Pharmacies Can Shift Their Focus
We’ve discussed some of the Why’s — now let’s get to the How. You can’t just shift your focus from filling-and-billing to more clinical care services by flipping a switch. It’s going to take some planning and some work, but it will be more than worth it. When Mark’s Pharmacy in Cambridge, Nebraska switched to med sync with FDS ENGAGE, they were able to free-up an entire full-time pharmacist to focus on patient care.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Take inventory: How many pharmacists do you have on staff? How many technicians? How much floor space do you have to spare for dedicated patient care? In order to make a plan for the future, you need to know what you’re working with now.
- Build a firm financial foundation: Use business intelligence and analytics software solutions to make sure you’re not leaving any money on the table. Check which drugs you’re selling at a loss, which patients aren’t refilling drugs on time, and which patients have disappeared entirely. Once you resolve those issues, you’ll have more revenue to work with.
- Give yourself the gift of time: Two different programs can give you more time to devote to patient care. Medication synchronization, particularly when integrated into your pharmacy workflow, can save hours of technician time. And claims reconciliation services (particularly those with dedicated analysts) can take that arduous and tedious work off your plate entirely. Both are an investment, but they reap time rewards quickly.
- Set up your medical billing practice: Pharmacy billing and medical billing are two totally different worlds. Flatten the learning curve by signing up with a pharmacy-centered medical billing service. Let it handle the ins and outs of billing third-party payers under the medical benefit.
The pharmacy industry, like pharmacies themselves, continues to evolve. Years ago, pharmacies were simply where you went to pick up prescription medications and other home remedies you might need. Today, they have become so much more — and they only have room to grow.