Optimizing Patient Outcomes with Prescription Discount Programs - Episode 7

Prescription Discount Programs: Additional Services

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A discussion on some additional services available that could be beneficial for patients, including telemedicine, lab work, and monthly membership programs.

Suzanne Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS: In terms of additional services for patients that could be available, what do you think could be beneficial in terms of different services that might work?

Lisa King, RPh: Telemedicine comes to mind. You do not have to use gas money to go to the doctor’s office; it saves time and money to use telemedicine. I was just involved in a study promoting bladder health for women, and they were finding that through telemedicine, which has become so prominent during the pandemic, women are talking to their doctors about really embarrassing subjects, such as bladder issues. That is really helpful. Getting laboratory work done, making sure the medications you are taking are needed, and staying on top of your doctor visits, even though it’s been a little challenging in the last year or so, is all important. Patients need to make sure the medication that was originally prescribed is something that they truly need. Those are some things that come to mind when it comes to other ways to save money on medication.

Suzanne Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS: I do think lab work at home is the big one. I have personally done this as well, where I have had the lab kit mailed to the house. Then, I can do a finger stick test. I did it for food allergies and sensitivities, and I thought it was a really customized lab test to do at home, but I do think those are things that could be beneficial, and save time. You are right; I did not have to drive to a lab. I did not have to go somewhere to do the test. The test came straight to my door, and I was able to do it. It was like a COVID-19 test; right now with traveling, some of the airlines have been mailing the COVID-19 tests directly to houses, and you can send them back.

I think any type of lab testing you could do in that way will save not only gas money, but time, and you just have to mail it back and get your results. For me, that is very beneficial as a patient, not just as a pharmacist, because I think you are more adherent to getting your labs tested. You do not have to take a day off of work or leave work to go have all the testing done. I think that is important as well. What do you think about monthly membership programs in terms of savings in general, whether it is a combination with the physician office and the pharmacy, or different things? I have been seeing a lot of that circling, about these membership programs. What are your thoughts on that?

Lisa King, RPh: I think, if there is a good price on your medication and it is something helpful for you, then definitely that is the way to go. I think every situation has to be balanced out. As we talked about earlier, sometimes patients think prescriptions are more expensive than they may actually be. You may be thinking, “I have to join this prescription savings program in order to get the best rate,” where they may have a card you can use, and that is going to be just as beneficial. I think it is something to weigh out, but it is great. Anything you can do to have that affordability of prescriptions, different medical services, is fantastic. I know a lot of doctors are providing the concierge service where they have that 1-on-1 care. I think that has been very beneficial to a lot of my patients. They like that a lot.

Suzanne Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS: I think, even in terms of the telehealth, making sure that the system you are using is HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] compliant is important.I know that, even with COVID-19, some of the physicians—my kids were sick during it, and then they had to go to the pediatrician, and she said, “We can’t FaceTime,” even though we have her number to FaceTime. She said, “We have to use this HIPAA-compliant program in order to conduct the visit.” I think the same goes with these PDP [prescription discount programs] cards, that some of themare HIPAA compliant. I think, when talking about fraudulent programs that might not be legitimate, looking at how compliant they are and if they follow HIPAA is a critical thing.

Lisa King, RPh: Yes, absolutely.

Suzanne Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS: What about price, medication price comparisons, going onto a website and Googling to try to find the best price? Do you encourage or discourage that for patients?

Lisa King, RPh: As I said, the only thing I really discourage about that is it results in patients sometimes going into multiple pharmacies. I would just stay with the trusted pharmacist, and I think that is one of the things the prescription discount program brings about. If you offer them to your patients and know which have the best prices, it gives that patient a sense of loyalty, and the patient feels that you are looking out for their best interests. I do not encourage patients to go from pharmacy to pharmacy. I become worried about them, to be honest, worried that they are going to have an interaction, or like you said, a duplicate medication, or something like that. I like to keep my patients in 1 spot. I was always happy I was able to do that most of the time.

Suzanne Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS: Definitely. What about if you do not have a printer and you’re trying to print the card? Do you take it off the cell phone or…?

Lisa King, RPh: We looked at a lot of different phones. People would take a screenshot or just take a picture of the card. My pharmacy, we were lucky, on the price comparison we were often at the lower end. We had several big chains near us, and they would send their patients to us. They would say, “We hate to say it, but you can go down here and get it for much less.” We were grateful for that.

Suzanne Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS: That is great. That is important. I think digital cards are the way to go because even my own insurance cards now are digital. I was thinking it might be easier to have it on your phone to begin with.

Transcript edited for clarity.