By Robert J. Dudzinski, Pharm.D., Executive Vice President, West Corporation
Retail pharmacies today have unprecedented opportunities to deepen their role as front-line healthcare providers, but in order to succeed they’ll need to scale some major hurdles. We set out to discover retail pharmacies’ five biggest headaches.
Medication Non-Adherence 1
Simply put, if patients don’t take their medications properly, their health outcomes and pharmacies’ bottom lines will suffer. Drug regimens have become more complex due to the rise in the number of patients with multiple comorbidities and the growth of complex specialty drugs. Patients worried about drug interactions are less likely to take their medicine as prescribed, so pharmacies must take a leadership role in ongoing patient education. Research shows that patients who feel informed about their health and have a personal connection with pharmacy staff are more likely to adhere to their medication schedules.
Consolidations and Gaps in Care 2
Hospitals, healthcare systems, and even healthcare payers continue to merge at a fast clip. In 2015, nearly $400 billion in agreements were announced, and expectations for 2016 are even higher. These consolidations can create gaps in continuity of care as patients struggle to find a new in-network physician or decide to drive to a facility farther away to receive care. Pharmacies must work to establish one-on-one connections with patients to retain customers even when their doctors change. A recent Human Resources Institute consumer survey found that Americans are still willing to drive further to receive care from a well-known healthcare brand. Pharmacies must work to be considered a trusted brand.
Cost and Regulation Increases 3
Consumers often struggle to afford their medications. For instance, 17% of American adults have asked their doctors for cheaper prescriptions, according to a 2015 HRI “Money matters” consumer survey. Also, regulators and consumers are putting increasing pressure on pharmacies for more transparency on payments. For instance, in 2015 Kmart paid $1.4 million to settle accusations of illegal coupon acceptance and prescription incentives – neither of which are allowed by Medicaid.4 Pharmacies must innovate to provide price transparency and find legitimate means for lowering patients’ drug costs.
Retail Clinic Saturation and Competition
The number of retail clinics in the United States will exceed 2,800 in just two years, according to new Accenture research. The company projects some 2,805 clinics will be open by 2017, with the capacity for 25 million patient visits.5 But 50% market share belongs to CVS MinuteClinic, making it a challenge for other retail pharmacy chains to educate patients about their retail clinic offerings.6
Highly Personalized Services
Pharmacies must not simply maintain, but extend the level of personalized services, even as volumes grow. The best retail pharmacy chains are launching new ways to connect with patients around both acute care and long-term chronic conditions. Some are also providing individualized metrics back to physicians and/or healthcare payers to guide future care.
Pharmacies have the opportunity to be the healthcare nexus for patients in an ecosystem that can feel impersonal and fragmented. However, it is challenging to simultaneously contend with increasing patient volume and a broadening array of offered services. Many forward-thinking pharmacy chains are looking to technology to offload routine operations, such as prescription reminders, refilling prescriptions, and reporting data. This leaves more time for pharmacists to connect with patients in more meaningful ways.
Going to NACDS Total Store Expo in Boston?
Schedule a meeting or drop by booth 2619 to see how West combines automation with personalization for effective medication adherence by customizing communications to a patient’s channel of choice (phone, text, email, web, device).