“When it comes to filling prescriptions, consumers still prize the friendliness, courtesy, and expertise of the local drugstore,” writes Consumer Reports staff writer Lisa L. Gill. Her article, “Consumers Still Prefer Independent Pharmacies, CR’s Ratings Show,” illustrates what often sets independent pharmacies apart from big chain drugstores like CVS and Walgreens, and why customers prefer the community pharmacy experience.
Gill continues, “Independent pharmacies earned high scores on such measures as courtesy, helpfulness, and speed of checkout and filling prescriptions, as well as pharmacists’ knowledge and accuracy.”
For over 80 years, Consumer Reports has been an institution of America’s consumer culture. It is a trusted source of unbiased reviews on thousands of consumer products, read by nearly 4 million subscribers. So when they come out and say something like that, it’s worth noting.
Consumer Reports just gave every pharmacy owner out there a huge win. The article laid out exactly what customers want from their chosen pharmacy. They want courteous, helpful pharmacists and pharmacy techs. They want a quick prescription-filling and checkout experience. And they want to trust that their pharmacists know what they are doing and are dispensing medicine correctly.
Some Simple Traits Aren’t As Simple As They Sound
Looking at the list, the characteristics customers want in their pharmacies don’t sound like anything extraordinary. Courtesy, helpfulness, knowledge — these are all attributes that are generally expected of any business that serves the public.
But with a pharmacy, it’s not just about being courteous; it’s about greeting your customer by name and asking if they’re feeling better after that cold they had last week. A Consumer Reports survey of 78,000 subscribers revealed that 53% of independent pharmacies greeted their customers by name, compared to 14% of chain pharmacies.
It’s not just about being helpful; it’s about working with someone on a fixed income and figuring out ways to make their medication more affordable. According to that same survey, twice as many independent pharmacists were willing to suggest a less expensive drug compared to their big chain competition.
Finally, it’s not just about knowledge; it’s about being able to immediately recognize which of a patient’s medications might conflict with each other when the prescriptions are coming from different doctors with different care plans.
Most times, these traits make pharmacy visits more pleasant. But every now and then, these traits can save a life.
Time: The Elusive Key Component
Ask any pharmacist and they will tell you: the one thing they always want more of is time. They want more time to focus on helping their patients; more time to manage the day-to-day aspects of running their pharmacy; more time to consider new opportunities and ways to grow their business. Outside of the pharmacy, they want more time to spend with their families and participate in their communities. There’s just never enough time for everything.
To provide the kind of care and attention they know their patients deserve, many pharmacists put in hours that go far beyond opening and closing. Clarence Lea, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for FDS, stated that a typical pharmacy owner could easily work over 70 hours in a standard week. “And those were my short weeks!” he added, reflecting on his own time in the industry.
Suffice it to say, many pharmacists’ work-life balance is non-existent. When it comes to their time, the sacrifice they make often leads to better results and better relationships with their patients. But it’s still a sacrifice.
How Independent Pharmacies Can Get That Time Back
The best pharmacists are the ones who are able to put their patients first; the ones who make an extra effort to get to know each customer who walks through the door. These pharmacists don’t just fill a prescription and send their customers on their way; they make care recommendations, offer to sync up refills, and even make arrangements for customers who have trouble picking up their medicine.
But what if pharmacists didn’t have to put in extra time to do it?
With advances in integrated pharmacy technology, pharmacists now have the opportunity to provide the kind of care Consumer Reports applauded — only without the sacrifice. Claims reconciliation software can automatically track missing or partially paid claims and identify slow-paying third parties. Patient management software allows pharmacists to get proactive with their patients, increasing patient outreach and building clinical opportunities. Data analytics tools can help identify areas of the business that can be improved while also prioritizing business opportunities for the best results.
When pharmacists automate the health of their business, it gives them time to focus on the health of their patients.
Consumer Reports praised independent pharmacies for giving their customers what they wanted most: courtesy, helpfulness, convenience, and knowledge. To do this, many pharmacists have to put in far more time than they should. But thanks to integrated pharmacy technology, they can get some of that time back without sacrificing the wellness or well-being of their customers. They can take care of their patients and keep the doors open. And, honestly, we think it’s about time they had that peace of mind.
For retail pharmacy owners, growth and increasing revenue are always top of mind. Retail is a fickle business and in pharmacy you are also at the mercy PBMs. Though the transaction of filling prescriptions is part and parcel of a thriving pharmacy business, pharmacies are put into the precarious position of striking a balance between increasing prescriptions and expanding their portfolio of patient care and other value-based offerings. Here are 3 trends and challenges in retail pharmacy management:
1) Value of “All-in-One” Pharmacy
You cannot downplay the increasing value of the ability of retail pharmacies, especially local ones, to really get to know their patients. Not only does this provide them the upper hand in improving medication adherence which translates to higher payer performance, but it also allows for clinical upsell opportunities, such as point-of-care testing, vaccines, telehealth, wellness screenings, and both medication therapy and chronic care management. As Rich Bukovinsky, executive vice president of business development at Fort Worth, Texas-based FDS says, “As the industry continues to evolve towards a focus on patient care and clinical outcomes, leveraging solutions that helps improve financial growth while delivering exceptional care at lower costs is a prerequisite.”
2) Med-Sync is a Mega-Opportunity
Med-sync (medication synchronization) has dominated the pharmacy marketplace, especially with the mega-pharmacy conglomerates, including CVS/Aetna and Amazon. However, there are small retail pharmacies that are taking this same cue in order to improve medication adherence and to increase revenue. For example, Love Oak Pharmacy based in Eastland, Texas, has grown their small-town business by offering a med-sync program through a presorted pill box that consolidates and packages medications and OTC products into one box for one simple pick-up. This has been made possible by medication synchronization software that captures all medication and dosage data for each patient in one place. This offering rivals Amazon’s Pillpack and other similar partnerships between PBMs (Pharmacy Benefit Managers), insurance providers, and pharmacy chains, and it’s an example of a key area that smaller pharmacies need to embrace in order to compete with the mega-pharmacies.
3) The Race for Star Ratings
It is a stark reality that CMS Star Ratings impact pharmacies. The criteria for participating in many Medicare Part D networks has become more rigorous for retail pharmacies to attain, especially in the area of Star Ratings. While tied to reimbursements and DIR fees, these scores also impact a pharmacy’s continued access to insurer plans and their customer bases. This is why it’s increasingly critical for pharmacies to quickly identify patients that are negatively impacting their Medicare Star Ratings and take action. The results are beneficial to the pharmacy by maintaining a steady stream of prescription revenue and to their patients as they experience improved healthcare outcomes.
FDS provides innovative technology that enables pharmacies to thrive and successfully transition to a provider of community and population health. With solutions like, MYDATAMART, that offers comprehensive business intelligence and the analytics for complete transparency into your operations and consumer-base, FDS is driving next-gen pharmacy initiatives.
Take a look at how MYDATAMART can provide the insights to increase revenue and offer more non-dispensing services, streamline operations, and improve patient care. Learn why more pharmacies are implementing FDS solutions to grow their business.
Data is power in today’s pharmacy marketplace. Patient data, prescription transaction data, clinical data, insurance data, financial data, adherence data … so much data in so many places – your pharmacy system, POS, claims processor, etc. Trying to gather all these data points from different programs and sources can be like herding cats for a pharmacy and even more difficult for multi-store pharmacy operators. Privacy and security concerns further complicate the process.
Business Intelligence (BI) is necessary to compete in today’s data-driven marketplace. BI can provide you with meaningful reporting and actionable data that can help your pharmacies grow, improve efficiency, and deliver better patient outcomes, as well as positively impacting your bottom line. Identifying and prioritizing key opportunities is necessary to maximize your financial goals and positively impacting patient health.
Pharmacy management systems have offered reports for decades for sales, regulatory requirements, dispensing history, and more. These legacy reports remain essential to operating your business. As the role of the pharmacist continues to evolve, more data is available in more places. New reporting and analysis is typically a requirement as with Star Rating measures. Star Ratings are an example of ancillary information that is vital to your pharmacy practice but often maintained in various systems and locations.
The goal for a successful BI service is locating, collecting, securely storing and aggregating the necessary data elements in a central location, typically the ‘cloud’ today, and then performing analytics to provide reporting promptly to meet changing marketplace dynamics and patient care needs.
What can BI do for your pharmacy business?
BI can give pharmacies the ability to simultaneously address poor patient medication adherence, Star Rating measures, med sync enrollment which in turn may boost profitability, prescription volume and so much more. The ability to provide Trending Analysis of Key Performance measures including Refills On Time, Gross Profit Margins, New Patients and, PDC Measures are just a few examples of meaningful reporting that can assist you in managing your business. Trending KPIs can provide a clear picture of your business health.
Patient Behavior Identifying refills that are overdue or missed has become somewhat common. But what about the impact of Early or Late Refills on staffing, inventory and refill volume? BI reports these events for immediate action by your staff which can have a direct impact on adherence, drive refill volume and produces more revenue.
Measure Success “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”, is a famous quote of Peter Drucker, considered one of the founders of modern business management. With BI, you can readily measure almost any variable you have the data elements for tailored to your specific needs. For example, identifying and tracking New Patients is essential to the growth of your business. Marketing and advertising get them in the door but understanding who they are and what they want is important to retain their patronage.
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From medication synchronization and medication therapy management (MTM) to a robust immunization program that includes yellow fever vaccinations, Balls Food Stores (BFS) has maximized clinical services and outcomes with the help of ENGAGE from FDS, Inc. On the operations side, FDS’s MYDATAMART enables BFS to monitor and measure pharmacy performance to ensure each of its 21 locations is operating at peak efficiency for maximum profitability.
“Data drives pharmacy services in today’s patient-centric healthcare environment. But there is little value to even the most robust database if pharmacists cannot act upon the information promptly,” said Mike Halliwell, Director of Pharmacy & Whole Health, Balls Food Stores. “By integrating ENGAGE directly into the clinical workflow, pharmacists can access the real-time data needed to identify and close medication gaps and determine patients who would benefit from medication synchronization or other patient-focused services, thereby optimizing patient engagement and clinical outcomes.”
ENGAGE is an interactive platform for pharmacists and technicians to manage patient-focused activities and to meet the growing demands of Star Ratings, adherence, and pay-for-performance measures while strengthening patient relationships. With ENGAGE, pharmacists are empowered to create and manage medication synchronization plans easily, take advantage of additional revenue from MTM and immunization opportunities, and extend patient relationships with automated patient messaging by phone and text. The patient management platform also streamlines Star rating management.
BFS also utilizes MYDATAMART, a comprehensive business intelligence tool that enables a deeper understanding of performance across the chain and delivers insights to increase profits and enhance patient care. It features interactive dashboards and easy-to-use, customizable reports for monitoring a variety of performance metrics, including the most frequently dispensed medications and the best National Drug Codes (NDCs) for dispensing. Other metrics include the overall financial impact of each NDC on the pharmacy and fills returned to stock by patient or drug. MYDATAMART also tracks patients and helps identify questionable claims, and features compliance reports to identify Star Ratings and non-adherent patients.
“We expend a tremendous amount of energy and talent to help build non-dispensing functions to differentiate ourselves, such as our travel clinics and pharmacogenomics programs. As we integrate these programs with the dispensing side of the house, it is imperative that data not be siloed. That’s why it has been so important to have ENGAGE and MYDATAMART, to enable us to continue to evolve with the industry and our patient populations while maintaining our high standards of care,” said Halliwell.
To learn more about ENGAGE and MYDATAMART …