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Increasing Pharmacy Profitability Through Diabetes Care Programs

Dan Ramirez, PharmD
Published Online: Wednesday, October 1, 2003   [ Request Print ]

 

    With National Diabetes Month coming in November, the subject of parlaying diabetes management into profits is a timely? albeit delicate?issue. It also is a topic that pharmacists should not ignore.

    A 2002 study by Wilson Health Information, a pharmacy satisfaction research firm, found that more than 25% of existing diabetes patients do not successfully control their condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetics continue to miss on average nearly 5 times as many workdays as employees who do not have diabetes.

    The World Health Organization projects that, by the year 2025, at least 300 million people will suffer from diabetes worldwide. In 1985, only an estimated 30 million people had the disease. That staggering 10-fold increase should have everyone concerned, committed to regular exercise, and eager to change their diet. In a ?super-sized? world, however, the chances of patients curbing the diabetes epidemic on their own are slim to none.

    That is why an increasing number of diabetes management programs will be provided by pharmacies nationwide. Not only can diabetes management programs offer pharmacies another source of profit, but they also can provide pharmacists the opportunity to enhance their relationships with patients. Ultimately, such programs can allow pharmacists to do what they do best: improve the health of people in their communities.

    Yet, not all management programs are the same. The products and services provided to pharmacists set the most successful diabetes care programs apart from the less robust programs. Above-average programs offer pharmacists home study guides for continued learning, collateral materials to help staff members market the program to patients, and ongoing support for both pharmacists and customers. Most important, good diabetes care programs offer pharmacists 2 features in particular:

? Certified training?A diabetes management program should provide information concerning the basics of the condition, its complications, and treatments as well as guidance about how a pharmacist can be instrumental in helping patients lead healthier lives. Consider programs that partner with professional pharmacy associations and offer the most up-to-date and comprehensive data.

? Flexibility?A diabetes care program should be able to grow as a pharmacy grows. A pharmacy may serve 500 patients today. What about 5 years from now? Will it still serve 500 patients or 5 times that number?

    Pharmacists also should consider the growing number of groups that are at high risk for developing diabetes. For example, Hispanics are at high risk. They also are the nation?s fastest-growing minority group?up 58% from a decade ago. Tomorrow?s pharmacists may serve a significantly higher number of Spanish-speaking diabetic patients. Therefore, pharmacists may benefit from a diabetes management program that they can customize for their particular surrounding community, and they should look for programs that offer foreign- language or bilingual materials.

    Other at-risk groups that are experiencing a rise in diabetes cases include African Americans, women, and children. Overall, pharmacists should look for diabetes care programs that provide the latest information for today while staying abreast of the coming trends for tomorrow.

Patient Benefits

    Patients with diabetes need more than insulin alone to live and enjoy a long, healthy life. Research shows that they also require proper education, management, and professional care. Successful diabetes care programs offer specialty items to help patients manage their conditions, including sugarfree foods and ?nutritionals,? blood glucose meters, and foot care products. Programs also can provide newsletters and other literature mailed directly to patients? homes.

    For patients who are pressed for time and are ?Web-savvy,? online diabetes care programs offer a range of innovative, interactive features to help them monitor their conditions. Patients can use ?virtual? diabetes care support systems, track their blood glucose and A1c levels, and check and graph their dietary intake, exercise, and medications. Patients also may have the option to generate and print reports to use when consulting with their physicians or pharmacists.

Pharmacy Benefits

    Management programs can position the independent pharmacy as a leader within the community by making it the ?go to? source for diabetes care. Such a program, however, involves much more than just selling diabetes care products. A diabetes management program drives to the heart of a pharmacy?s operations: prescription dispensing.

    The diabetic patient uses 3 to 4 times the number of prescription medications that the average patient uses due to the host of chronic conditions associated with diabetes. These conditions include heart disease, high cholesterol, and hypertension. A diabetes management program can help pharmacies realize the growth potential in prescription fulfillment by helping to educate diabetic patients about the risks of all the conditions associated with their disease. Lastly, such a program may provide the chance for more face time with patients through increased store traffic?something every pharmacist can appreciate.

Conclusion

    Diabetes management programs make it easier for pharmacists to achieve 2 important goals: improving the health of patients in their community and increasing the profitability of their business. Diabetes is currently among the leading causes of death by disease. Pharmacies never have been in a better position to help reverse that trend.

    For further information about disease state management for diabetes or other chronic conditions, visit the AmerisourceBergen web site at www.amerisourcebergen.com

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