Avoiding the Doctor? 4 Easy Ways to Start Collaborating

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As a saying goes, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” Could you be avoiding fruitful collaboration with physicians because you’re just – umm – uncomfortable about how to start?

From enhanced services bootcamps from the NCPA, to CPESN member services, there’s consensus that providing clinical care is a promising way forward for independent pharmacies. And we know that when healthcare providers work together, it’s better for patients than when different medical touchpoints are treating them in parallel or even contradiction.

You know you can help with issues of contraindications, over-prescription, and non-adherence, and that your patients’ doctors would benefit from your perspective. Likewise, your pharmacy can benefit from close working relationships with medical practices that trust you with their patients.

There are lots of examples of pharmacists not only being “good neighbors” to their patients’ physicians, but also being compensated for it. In fact, John Pugh, Pharm.D., R.Ph., owner of Prosperity Drug Company in SC, is doing a session at our customer conference in May about how he implemented a collaborative practice in his pharmacy.

On a larger scale, Medicare’s Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), as they gain more experience, are increasingly adopting medication management initiatives and putting pharmacists – including independent pharmacists – into their structures. The fact that outcomes-based payment models are still emerging and changing might actually be to community pharmacists’ advantage. Remember, you can be flexible and tailored in a way large chains usually can’t.

When pharmacists who’ve been successful in establishing physician collaboration talk about it, some common themes emerge. They should be reassuring if you’re contemplating pushing your pharmacy’s business model in that direction. The best approaches are organic to the way you’re probably already operating.

  1. Recognize the potential of existing conversations. Start with doctors you’ve talked to, those who have already sent prescriptions your way. Capitalize on conversations your staff is having; for example, their routine phone calls to verify a patient’s med list. Maybe make a quick call to let the prescriber know your pharmacy is happy to provide a Personal Medication Record (PMR) anytime.
  2. Use non-adherence and med sync as a place to start. Break the ice by alerting a doctor to a patient’s non-adherence. You have knowledge about the frequency of refills and the entirety of drugs prescribed that is useful to their doctor. Asking for other clinical information like lab work or previous prescriptions then becomes a natural escalation of the conversation. By listening and asking questions, you can uncover other ways your pharmacy might improve outcomes.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the relevant tools in your software. Make sure you’re using the Patient Chart in QS/1’s systems to its full advantage to document non-prescription medications, store lab values, and create SOAP notes for customer visits. Our eCare Plan functionality and MTM features and interfaces are also important; some can notify you of MTM opportunities from directly within the application.
  4. Be the kind of partner you’d want. There aren’t many people who like a cold call or a hard sell. Just focus your thinking on ways you could help. Start simply, by offering something you already do within your existing workflow – such as passing along information from your system’s Patient Medication Therapy Review window on the Patient Chart. When you’ve established some trust, other ways to collaborate should come more naturally.

No, it’s not easy to jump straight into a new way of doing things. That’s why most experts on change recommend small, sustainable steps. Small steps still carry us outside our comfort zone, and that’s where our pharmacies can thrive.

Have you found ways to work better with prescribers? Are there other barriers to collaboration (aside from the discomforts of change)? Comment below so your fellow pharmacists can hear what you’ve learned.

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