Specialty Drug Dispensing: Flexibility Is the Key to Success During A Crisis

Pharmacy Practice in Focus: OncologyAugust 2021
Volume 3
Issue 4

The pandemic taught the pharmacy to provide a deeper level of personalized care and communication than in the past.

“Bend, but don't break” became the fundamental operating principle at Biologics by McKesson during the COVID-19 pandemic. As an independent specialty pharmacy, Biologics by McKesson provides specialty drugs for patients who have complex diseases, require extra care, or have expensive therapies. It specializes in quick delivery, financial aid assistance, adverse effect management, and adherence support to get medications to patients.

Since COVID-19 emerged, Biologics by McKesson, like many other companies, had to become more flexible. It put aside traditional ways of doing business and found new approaches to respond to the evolving health care landscape. Because it deals with rare disease and oncolytic medications, Biologics by McKesson had to ensure any operational adjustments would not negatively affect patients. By thinking creatively, it found new ways to meet patients’ needs without circumventing quality or compliance.

Many adjustments were made along the way that not only improved the services provided, but also empowered operational resilience, helping the pharmacy anticipate, prevent, and recover from adversity. Several of the modifications ensured that the delivery model was better equipped to respond to unexpected challenges while enhancing patient services.

Keep Patients a Top Priority

Disruptions in national shipping infrastructures became 1 of the major difficulties following the emergence of COVID-19. Before the pandemic, patients could choose between second-day air shipping, with guaranteed arrival within 2 days, or overnight, arriving by the end of the day. However, as shipping channels were affected by the pandemic, reliably delivering therapies to patients became increasingly difficult and more expensive.

Biologics by McKesson did a bit of soul-searching because the best solution involved substantial cost increases for it, yet it was the right thing to do for patients to ensure continuity of care. The pharmacy instituted a new model that shipped everything from oncology medications to supplemental therapies overnight to patients, with guaranteed delivery the next morning. This sent a strong message to patients and biopharma customers that the specialty pharmacy was doing everything in its power to fulfill the commitment to get medications to patients as soon as possible, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. The flexibility built into the delivery system enabled the pharmacy to provide superior service to patients in a time of need, so they did not experience any gaps in care.

Now that many shipping delays have been corrected, Biologics by McKesson is evaluating whether to return to a standard delivery model. Of course, it will always have the option to return to overnight delivery if disruptions occur again.

Empower Flexibility With Reliable Solutions

Coordinating delivery and shipment for rare drugs is complex even in normal times. It is crucial for a specialty pharmacy to ship medications in ways that guarantee not only fast delivery, but also quality and safety. Adjustments are made in response to changing conditions to ensure this. Biologics by McKesson uses only certified vendors that can provide temperature mapping, refrigeration, shipment tracking, and intervention if necessary. This grants the ability to make modifications along the way without fear of losing track of the shipments or endangering their quality. These capabilities proved invaluable when the pandemic started and many flights were affected, causing shipments to be delayed and rerouted.

The deep expertise and advanced technologies of certified vendors provided the specialty pharmacy with reliable solutions to delivery and shipment challenges and have been well worth the expense. Although they may not be the most cost-effective option, these vendors are the best choices to protect the integrity of medications while empowering flexibility within the system. The guarantees these vendors offer remove the risk of quality concerns and ensure patients’ therapies are properly delivered if the pharmacy needs to reroute a shipment in everyday or in emergency situations.

As the transportation landscape was severely disrupted, the performance of delivery carriers became even more important. Early on, Biologics by McKesson realized vendors would face their own challenges as they tried to navigate the widespread service interruptions. Rather than stick with the standard operating procedures, the pharmacy implemented detailed processes and procedures for emergency. This offered the flexibility to better respond and adapt to the changing conditions, enabling a heightened level of coordination and communication with carriers and certified vendors.

Adjust Services to Meet Growing Patient Needs

The pandemic taught the pharmacy to provide a deeper level of personalized care and communication than in the past. Because many patients have compromised immune systems caused by cancer and other conditions, they face an increased risk for COVID-19. To lower their risk of exposure to the virus, many became more homebound and relied on health care services as a lifeline. The specialty pharmacy adapted its operations to become even more patient-centric, recognizing that many individuals could not visit in person with a pharmacist or nurse for guidance.

Biologics by McKesson's highly skilled pharmacy and patient support teams deliver personalized clinical care to help patients understand how to take their medications and manage adverse effects, empowering them to achieve the best outcomes possible. However, the pharmacy learned that patients needed a higher level of care during this unprecedented time. It provided enhanced counseling to calm their fears about the uncertainty surrounding them. The specialty pharmacy knew that its team was well prepared to take on this additional level of counseling, and patients were grateful and felt more supported than ever.

Meet the Challenges of the Moment With Flexible Solutions

As Biologics by McKesson reshaped its processes and priorities, the lessons learned along the way pointed in 1 direction; it’s critical to be flexible in a crisis. The specialty pharmacy was forced to change its thinking, processes, and services to meet the evolving needs of patients. As a result, patient outcomes improved and business thrived.

About the Author

Pavlos Pavlidis is vice president and chief operating officer for Biologics by McKesson.

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