The novel COVID-19 virus has now infiltrated our communities on a global scale, forcing pharmacies to quickly adapt in order to sustain operations in the new normal. Community pharmacies in particular top the list of “essential businesses” as they remain on the front lines of public health by serving as the direct point of access for their patients. As a result, pharmacies everywhere are experiencing a dramatic influx in demand, but dwindling supply of resources and staffing.
In fact, while pharmacies are increasingly busy, a recent study conducted by the National Community Pharmacists Association indicates nearly 90% of community pharmacies are applying for small business federal aid under the CARES Act to assist them through the COVID-19 storm. Additionally, 66% are experiencing negative cash flow issues as pharmacy direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees, decreasing reimbursement, and COVID-19-related expenses make it difficult to stay in business.
As the pandemic increasingly strains resources, pharmacists are seeking alternative strategies to help navigate these murky waters. Thankfully, in a world increasingly influenced by technology, there is ample opportunity to leverage automation within pharmacies that can not only improve operations and maximize efficiency, but support patient wellness while growing their business and profits.
Adherence Pouch Packaging
A key component of a pharmacy operation consists of its packaging processes. Packaging, in general, affects many aspects of your daily productivity and, with that, your business growth. If we think about the fact that 80% of prescriptions filled are refills, that indicates a majority of patients simply need to pick up their medications without any further assistance. Instead of performing the manual count-and-pour method, a 2002 study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association showed that unit-of-use packaging alone saved more than 46.5 minutes per 100 prescriptions filled compared to count-and-pour dispensing. If less time is required to package medications, that means you can adjust your staffing accordingly and have more time available to consult with your customers and alleviate their worry during the COVID-19 crisis.
Medication Synchronization and Adherence
While COVID-19 is currently top of mind, medication nonadherence is severe, and it continues to grow across the nation. According to the American Medical Association, nearly 50% of patients with chronic diseases do not take their medications correctly. This in turn costs the United States health care system almost $300 billion each year. To combat this ongoing issue, as well as help improve efficiency during these trying times, pharmacies can adopt medication synchronization (med sync), meaning all of a patient’s prescriptions are synchronized to be refilled on the exact same day of the month, eliminating the need for separate call-ins and pickups. Utilizing multidose pouch packaging is a great way to make sure your customers stay synchronized every month.
In fact, med sync has the ability to lead to two to three and a half additional prescription refills per participating customer over the course of a year. If you had an additional 100 customers on med sync, taking five to seven medications per month, this would be up to an additional 2,450 prescriptions that you could fill each year. This could generate an additional $24,500 in additional gross profit.
Other Business Opportunities
Pharmacies that are offering multidose adherence pouch packaging have demonstrated that they can attract a minimum of 10 new customers per month. If you do the math, that could equate to an additional 120 new customers per year. Again, using the average customer taking five to seven medications per month, this could generate over $100,000 in new annual gross profit.
With an improved adherence program, your pharmacy’s Star Rating will also increase and your DIR fee pullbacks will decrease, which for some pharmacies can equate to up to $72,000 per year.
Finding simple additions to pharmacy operations will not only ease worried customers, but prepare your pharmacy for the uncertain future. Automation can significantly increase efficiency and productivity and simplify tasks for pharmacists during the influx of demand. The best part is that most pharmacies can show a positive ROI (return on investment) in the first year of purchasing, or leasing, a new multidose adherence pouch packaging machine.
Kevin Copsey is business unit director at Euclid Medical Products, a leading provider of pharmacy automation equipment with a focus on helping pharmacies, long-term-care facilities and third-party repackagers improve operations and overall patient health.