The Future of Pharmaceutical Care: Using Unique Patient Care Services to Drive Traffic and Outcomes
Four examples of patient care services that pharmacies can implement and why they can be beneficial to a pharmacy’s business model.
At the onset of the pandemic, pharmacies were suddenly front and center when it came to health care services and vaccinations, playing a critical role in their communities. This was particularly important in rural communities where pharmacies are usually closer and easier to reach than primary health care providers.
For many patients, it was their first exposure to just how much more a pharmacy can do.
And, because this fact became even more apparent during the pandemic, many independent pharmacies are now exploring how they can offer even more unique patient care services. It's the perfect time to springboard from short-term COVID-19 outreach into expanded services that play a longer-term role in patients’ health.
Not only can these services drive traffic to a pharmacy and increase revenue, but they can also improve the overall health outcomes of the communities they serve.
Offering care services can help both patients and pharmacies
Why should an independent pharmacy expand its services? The simple answer is a 2-pronged benefit: improving patient outcomes and increasing revenue.
As the cost of care keeps increasing, both patients and providers are seeking ways to improve patient health outcomes while decreasing costs. Adding pharmacies to the provider mix can help achieve this goal.
Patients tend to visit pharmacies far more frequently than they visit their own physicians. As a result, pharmacies are better equipped to frequently monitor vitals, such as blood pressure readings or A1C levels.
Pharmacists can capture these vitals, monitor them, send the information back to the prescriber, and engage with the patient. This means important health information can be caught more quickly right at the pharmacy counter, allowing for earlier intervention and improved health care outcomes.
On top of improved patient outcomes, independent pharmacies will also benefit from the increased traffic. It’s an opportunity to attract new customers by offering more health care services, which improves revenue streams. The more services a pharmacy offers beyond dispensing medication, the more revenue it can put back into the business in the form of additional staff and even more clinical services.
Examples of patient care services pharmacies can provide
There are numerous patient care services that pharmacies can implement. Here's a look at 4 examples and why they can be beneficial to a pharmacy’s business model.
1. Point-of-care testing
With the traditional testing setup, patients spend a lot of time in the physician’s office. But often, getting an appointment in the first place can be difficult.
Then traveling to the physician’s office or going to a secondary location for lab testing can create even more barriers to treatment. When pharmacies offer point-of-care testing, they can expand patients' access to health care, improve health outcomes in their community, and simultaneously increase their own revenue flow.
First, point-of-care testing decreases barriers to entry, since often it's easier for a patient to visit a pharmacy for a test than a physician’s office or lab. In addition, pharmacists can often take more time to chat with patients and answer their questions than a primary care physician can.
It's also easier for patients to follow up on their test results. Sometimes, follow-up is as simple as having a prescription filled at the same pharmacy where they had the test. In some states, a pharmacy can even assess the test results and prescribe what's needed in a one-stop shop format.
Right now, many pharmacies offer basic point-of-care testing such as flu tests, strep tests, and COVID-19 tests. But depending on a state's regulations, pharmacies may be able to offer testing that goes beyond these basics.
2. Immunization expansion
Vaccinations are a service that pharmacies are known to provide. But many independent community pharmacies can expand beyond their current offerings of flu vaccines and COVID-19 immunizations. Consider providing travel vaccines and other immunization services year-round to complement point-of-care testing and reach more patients in the community.
3. Pharmacy discount cards
Prescription savings cards are another service pharmacies can offer that improves patients' access to care. It’s recommended to look for a savings card that is customizable to a pharmacy's needs. Seek cards that offer transparent and fair fees, have the ability to easily look up prescription costs online, and work with a wide range of prescriptions.
4. Compliance packaging
Another service independent pharmacies like to offer is compliance packaging that helps patients stay on top of their medications. Some patients have complex medication regimens that need extra attention and care. Look into offering packaging that simplifies dosing according to what the patient needs to take at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for example, and help patients easily identify late or missed doses
The future of pharmaceutical care is expanding: How to get started?
More opportunities for patient care services will likely be added in the coming years. States such as Washington are already allowing pharmacists to prescribe certain medications, such as birth control.
These states are beginning to forge the future of pharmaceutical care, changing the landscape of what the pharmacy profession will look like in the coming years. Independent pharmacies should be aware of changing guidelines so they're ready to jump onto new opportunities as they arise.
So, where to start? The first and best step is to get help from a business coach. Another option is joining local pharmacy associations to keep abreast of new state regulations that might expand the services pharmacies can offer.
Now, ready to add a new service? Remember to take things one step at a time.
If a pharmacy isn't offering immunizations yet, for example, then take it step by step: get a collaborative practice agreement in place, ensure staff has the training it needs, and add new technicians as needed.
Don't add another program until immunizations are fully implemented. Trying to add multiple programs at once can be overwhelming.
In summary, it's vital for independent pharmacies to start introducing patient care services at their locations now as well as continue to advocate to provide more in the future. Not only can these services make a pharmacy more competitive and increase customer loyalty, but it’ll also help improve the health of the surrounding community with every new service offered.
About the Authors
Phyllis Houston, MSOL, vice president, Pharmacy Enablement and Performance, AmerisourceBergen.
Gold Eneyo, PharmD, director of Clinical Pharmacy Services, AmerisourceBergen.