Leveraging Technology for Pharmacy Success: Five Steps to Increase Revenue, Decrease Costs and Improve Outcomes
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 75 percent of physician office visits involve drug therapy, and more than 50 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription medicine, making pharmacies a key element in a patient’s care plan.1 As part of this newly integrated delivery model, pharmacies are taking a greater role in medication therapy management (MTM), medication adherence, preventative care services, point-of-service testing, educational and behavioral counseling and transitions of care.2
These expanding roles bring great opportunities for pharmacies to increase revenue. Unfortunately, existing technologies at many pharmacies may not be sufficient to support the new pharmacies and pharmacists of today.
1. Simplify Appointment Scheduling
According to Consumer Reports, more patients now receive their vaccinations from pharmacists than any other healthcare provider.3 While many pharmacies take walk-ins; more are turning to an appointment-based model (ABM) to manage additional wellness services. By combining monthly appointment reminders and notifications (requiring minor modification to existing workflow) with monthly prescription synchronization, pharmacies can dramatically improve both patient adherence to medication therapy and efficiency of pharmacy operations.
Patients enrolled in monthly prescription refill programs also benefit greatly from a technology-driven ABM. Pharmacists can notify patients electronically, and when appointment day arrives, they have another opportunity to communicate, provide consultation, answer questions and deliver comprehensive medication reviews or other MTM services.
These interactions build strong relationships between pharmacists and patients, driving up patient adherence, satisfaction and loyalty.
Adopting an ABM into your existing workflow delivers operational benefits and increases revenue, too. A recent American Pharmacists Association® study showed implementing the ABM led to increased medication adherence and prescription volume, meaning a potential increase in revenue of $260 per non-adherent patient per year for the pharmacy.4
When researching appointment-scheduling technology, look for solutions that:
- Provide secure communication between patients and pharmacists and pharmacists and providers
- Enable patients to confirm, cancel or reschedule appointments from any device
- Improve medication synchronization processes
- Increase opportunities for face-to-face patient engagement
- Expand abilities to add health and wellness services
2. Engage Patients Online
Patient portals do more than provide a proactive patient engagement platform. They also motivate patients to be more engaged in self-care.5 Patients can send messages to their pharmacist, schedule appointments, fill out forms, see clinical documents and update insurance and personal information − all of which streamline pharmacy workflow and enable staff to spend time on more productive tasks. The result is reduced staff time spent on manual, time-consuming processes.
Pharmacies should seek patient-portal technology that provides:
- Personalized home page and web address
- Interactive and customizable forms for collecting patient data
- Real-time appointment scheduling, including automated reminders
- Secure messaging
- Online bill pay
3. Make it Easier for Patients to Pay
While opportunities for new revenue are expanding, existing revenue streams are shrinking. The National Community Pharmacists Association reports the move from name brand to generic prescriptions reduces the costs of prescription drugs overall, which negatively impacts the 90 percent of pharmacy revenue that comes from prescriptions.6 Additional revenue pressure comes from increased patient payment responsibility. With the popularity of high deductible health plans, patients find themselves responsible for a greater percentage of their healthcare costs, including prescriptions.
Pharmacies need a way to capture every penny they’re owed. One proven method is to enable patients to pay healthcare bills the same way they pay other bills – online. Becker’s ASC Review stated that nine out of 10 patients want to pay their healthcare bills online.7 Providing patients with the convenience of online bill pay improves the likelihood of payment on time and in full, reduces the cost of collections and lessens the need to write off uncollectable bills.
The impact of online bill pay is substantial. An additional $200 in patient payments collected per day equates to $50,000 in additional revenue each year. Reduction in costs to collect is substantial as well, amounting to $50,000 annually. The result is a total value of $128,500 on an investment of less than $1,000 (to integrate patient pay) – an 80+ percent return on investment.8
An online patient payment offering should include:
- Secure website with easy-to-use patient interface
- Opt-in credit card on file, reducing the need to re-enter card numbers with subsequent payments
- Ability to purchase products, services or memberships online
4. Improve Medication Adherence
According to Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America® (PhRMA), nearly 75 percent of patients don’t take medications as prescribed, resulting in increased costs of care and poor clinical outcomes.9 MTM and medication adherence programs are key benefits pharmacists provide to reduce this staggering number.
Collaboration with care-team members is vital for identifying and acting on therapy non-compliance. However, from multiple phone calls and callbacks to paper faxing and handwritten notes, the processes typically used to exchange information with prescribers can be time-consuming, inefficient and unsecure.
To improve collaboration with prescribers, pharmacists need technology that gives them direct access to physicians. It should provide:
- A single inbox to consolidate all communications
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant platform for proper handling of protected health information (PHI)
- Ability to receive transitions of care
5. Reduce Dependence on Paper
Besides the increased security risk, faxes are time-consuming and costly. Health IT Exchange reported fax machines pose serious risks when it comes to PHI. Faxing to incorrect numbers can lead to hefty penalties for a pharmacy, and having fax machines in an unsecured area can expose PHI to staff or even to the public.10
In addition to security issues, fax machines have unnecessary costs and operational inefficiencies. Every 5,000 fax pages sent or received costs $155 in supplies and 55 staff hours.11 By reducing reliance on fax machines, pharmacies can save $7,000 a year.
Pharmacies need to look for a solution that allows them to:
- Access all electronic faxes, messages and documents from any computer
- Annotate and sign documents electronically
- Import select pages, or an entire document, into the electronic health record or other pharmacy systems
- Create unlimited fax numbers
- Assign fax numbers to individual offices, employees or work queues
- View a trail of all sent or received electronic faxes
Putting it All Together
With skyrocketing healthcare costs and a shrinking pool of primary care physicians, patients are turning to pharmacies for more clinical care, especially preventative services, such as vaccinations and health screenings. While this presents opportunities for additional revenue streams, pharmacies must first acquire the technology necessary to make it happen.
As pharmacies increase their role in patient care, everyone wins. Technology investments can be challenging for independent pharmacies that have limited IT resources and tight budgets. But, by researching and embracing technology that is quick to implement, easy to use, fits seamlessly into existing workflows and doesn’t break the budget, pharmacies are well positioned for increasing success in our new healthcare ecosystem.
Updox for QS/1: New Interface Partner
Updox Pharmacy Connect is a web-based care coordination suite that interfaces with QS/1 to help pharmacists exchange secure messages, receive transitions of care and engage patients to provide better care, take advantage of new revenue opportunities and lower costs. The suite allows pharmacies to manage all types of communication, such as direct secure messaging, paperless faxing, notifications and patient interactions via a portal where patients can send messages, complete forms and self-schedule for vaccines, screenings or point-of-care testing. To learn more about Updox Pharmacy Connect for QS/1, visit www.updox.com/qs/1 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a personalized demonstration.
1 Therapeutic Drug Use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 3, 2017. Web. 28 July 2017 www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/drug-use-therapeutic.htm
2 Exploring Pharmacists’ Role in a Changing Healthcare Environment. National Association of Chain Drug Stores. May 2014. Web. 28 July 2017. www.nacds.org/pdfs/comm/2014/pharmacist-role.pdf
3 Carr, Teresa. Should You Get Vaccinated at the Pharmacy? Consumer Reports. April 29, 2017. Web. 28 July 2017. www.consumerreports.org/vaccines/vaccinations-at-the-pharmacy/
4 Jolloh, Mohamed, Pharm.D. Vaccinations: Pharmacists Shot at Improving Community Health. Pharmacy Times. Nov. 17, 2017. Web. 1 Aug. 2017. www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2016/november2016/vaccinations-pharmacists-shot-at-improving-community-health
5 Quinn, Frank. Engaging patients through patient portals. MedCityNews. July 17, 2013. Web. 1 Aug. 2017. medcitynews.com/2013/07/engaging-patients-through-patient-portals/
6 Independent Pharmacy Economics: Profits Steady, but Sales Down (Maybe). Drug Channels. Nov. 17, 2015. Web. 1 Aug. 2017. www.drugchannels.net/2015/11/independent-pharmacy-economics-profits.html
7 Wood, Meagan. 20 key insights into the world of independent physicians; 33% of US physicians are independent. Becker’s Healthcare. Oct. 19, 2016. Web. 1 Aug. 2017. www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-physician-relationships/20-key-insights-into-the-world-of-independent-physicians-33-of-us-physicians-are-independent.html
8,11 Updox. n.d. Web. 1 Aug. 2017. https://www.updox.com
9 Improving Prescription Medicine Adherence is Key to Better Health Care. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Jan. 2011. Web. 1 Aug. 2017. phrma-docs.phrma.org/sites/default/files/pdf/PhRMA_Improving%20Medication%20Adherence_Issue%20Brief.pdf
10 Li, Yvonne. The slow disappearance of the fax machine in healthcare. Dec. 3, 2014. Web. 1 Aug. 2017. searchhealthit.techtarget.com/healthitexchange/CommunityBlog/the-slow-disappearance-of-the-fax-machine-in-healthcare/