Patient satisfaction surveys have been a common part of community pharmacy assessments for decades. The surveys have been, and continue to be, used by both chain and independent pharmacies, which aid their organizations in identifying strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement.
 
However, specialty pharmacies have not used patient satisfaction surveys for as long as community pharmacies, in part due to the model of care provided and the length of their existence. Yet, a budding trend occurring within the specialty pharmacy industry is a greater emphasis on understanding the patient journey and defining specialty pharmacy excellence. 
 
The paradigm shift in thinking has led specialty pharmacies on their own journey in an effort to understand the key drivers of patient satisfaction. In order for a survey to be recognized as validated, it should be conducted by an independent third party on behalf of the specialty pharmacy. 
 
Validated surveys are questionnaires that have undergone rigorous tests to ensure that the questions are posed in the correct manner to measure the desired metrics. Moreover, the data collected from the surveys is appropriately examined using the correct statistical analyses. Failure to use validated surveys may compromise the data collected, lead to inappropriate analyses, and ultimately risk drawing incorrect conclusions.
 
Certainly there are a number of reasons why specialty pharmacies have chosen to complete validated surveys. First, satisfaction surveys are extremely helpful in assessing pharmacy operations. 
 
By conducting surveys, specialty pharmacies can garner valuable information, such as how patients perceive their ability to offer financial assistance programs, provide patient counseling, perform routine refills, or provide adequate updates to keep patients informed during the prior authorization process. Additionally, specialty pharmacies can use survey data to determine why patients have chosen to begin using their services or transfer their business to competitors.  
 
There are a number of reasons why patients may leave their specialty pharmacy, including insurance changes, physician recommendations, or dissatisfaction with the specialty pharmacy’s level of service. Using survey results, specialty pharmacies can even tailor their approach to patient care, based upon disease state or therapy type, to provide the highest quality of care. Arguably, this would be difficult to accomplish without thorough market research.
 
Second, specialty pharmacies can use the data to meet accreditation standards. Highly regarded accrediting bodies for specialty pharmacies, such as URAC, ACHC, and CPPA, have placed emphasis on patient safety and satisfaction, as well as effective and appropriate patient management. Conducting third party surveys is an important part of maintaining accreditation and the data collected from surveys can serve as a means to document performance.
 
Moreover, specialty pharmacies can use positive patient satisfaction surveys as strategic marketing material for their business. There are numerous stakeholders in the specialty pharmacy industry who would be interested in the results of satisfaction surveys.  
 
These include patients, payers, and manufacturers. Patients seek specialty pharmacies that are knowledgeable and can offer quality care for their conditions. With the extremely high expense associated with specialty therapies, payers want to contract with specialty pharmacies that have been able to demonstrate their ability to improve adherence, manage side effects appropriately, and report positive outcomes from pharmacologic therapy. 
 
Manufacturers want to enter into contracts with specialty pharmacies that will support their patients and be experts in dispensing their products. More specifically, pharmaceutical manufacturers may use patient surveys to facilitate a successful launch of a new product.  
 
Survey answers may guide patient communication and inform channel strategy. They may direct key decisions for the manufacturer, such as the need for hub services, co-pay card programs, or specific clinical education that should be provided during the initiation of therapy. For existing brands, manufacturers may also use surveys to evaluate their current specialty pharmacy network. 
 
Using the results, manufacturers could expand or contract a network, educate payers on poorly performing specialty pharmacies, supplement specialty pharmacy scorecards used during quarterly business reviews, or look for ways to improve the overall patient journey. Well-constructed surveys are able to elucidate a specialty pharmacy’s capacity to meet these goals.
 
Where specialty pharmacies may be able to derive the most value from surveys is through the use of the longitudinal data that they can provide. A snapshot in time of a specialty pharmacy is helpful, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture.  
 
By analyzing multiple surveys over time, specialty pharmacies can demonstrate improvements in their ability to serve all stakeholders. Specialty pharmacies must continually invest in understanding how they are perceived by patients, payers, manufacturers, and providers.  
 
In the coming months and years, surveys will become a critical benchmark component for comparing specialty pharmacies as the industry continues to become more competitive. Specialty pharmacies that begin to understand strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, now can take proactive corrective action and become leaders in the industry.
 
About the Author
Justin Smerker earned his PharmD degree in 2009 and his Masters of Science in Pharmacy Business Administration (MSPBA) degree, an executive-style graduate education program designed for working professionals striving to be tomorrow’s leaders in the business of medicines, in 2016 from the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently a National Account Manager for PANTHERx Specialty Pharmacy. In this role, Justin conducts RFP submissions, assesses channel strategy, participates in contract negotiations, evaluates the FDA pipeline, and prepares financial models for high cost specialty therapies. His experiences include leadership roles in account management for neurology and rare/orphan disease therapies. He is experienced in the implementation and delivery of high-touch patient care services as well as in clinical management, persistency, and adherence programs. Justin has also participated in the successful launch of newly FDA approved medications. Additionally, he has served as an adjunct clinical instructor for experiential education at Duquesne University. Prior to working in the specialty pharmacy sector, Justin successfully managed high volume retail pharmacies. To connect go to https://www.linkedin.com/in/justin-smerker-pharmd-86a950101.