Tip of the Week: Medication Synchronization Works Best When Properly Planned for Sustainability

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Medication synchronization may be beneficial, but understanding how to integrate the service into operations is just as important as offering the service itself.

Appointment-based model (ABM) medication synchronization is a system that streamlines the delivery of prescription medications by aligning patients’ medications so that they can be easily picked up once or twice per month. In addition to being associated with improved adherence for patients on multiple medications, synchronization also provides better convenience for patients with limited transportation and mobility.

Organization and careful planning are essential in order to have successful and sustained implementation of ABM medication synchronization. If the appropriate systems, software, processes, procedures, and staff do not support the new service, then ultimately neither pharmacy performance nor patient outcomes will benefit, and both may actually suffer. Medication synchronization may be beneficial but understanding how to integrate the service into operations is just as important as offering the service itself.

A study of 155 community pharmacies aimed to examine characteristics associated with adoption of medication synchronization programs as well as the impact of this service on patient adherence outcomes and pharmacy performance. The findings of the study indicated that pharmacies which adopted medication synchronization were not significantly associated with total medication adherence performance.1 The study examined the effect of medication synchronization on total performance score (e.g., costs, utilization, adherence) and on medication adherence measures specifically (e.g., diabetes, statins, antihypertensives) and did not find an effect regardless of how performance was measured.1

The study also found that a prevailing characteristic was the presence of a clinical pharmacist on staff, which significantly increased adoption of the medication synchronization program, but yet still did not establish a specific role that the clinical pharmacist played in supporting the program.1 The results of the study suggest that a standard process needs to be developed for these interventions to be successful in practice.

Furthermore, the findings of the study are meaningful because they demonstrate that although medication synchronization may have a positive effect on patient adherence when examined at the individual level, the benefits are not as readily apparent when examined at the pharmacy’s performance level, thus highlighting the need to evaluate successful implementation strategies and sustained execution within the pharmacy.

Pharmacy managers can be integral to the success of medication synchronization programs. They must confront any misconceptions that merely adopting a program alone will lead to improved pharmacy performance. As with any new service being offered in the pharmacy, careful consideration must be given to the appropriate support systems in place.Pharmacy managers can approach integrating the service as they would with other potential new service offerings, by establishing the appropriate systems software, workflow procedures, manuals, staff training, and feedback mechanisms to allow for modifications. Pharmacy managers can also leverage pharmacy technicians in implementing ABM medication synchronization as their role continues to expand.

Ultimately, medication synchronization is an important tool because it can benefit the pharmacy in a variety of ways, including through increased prescriptions fills which translate into more revenue, reduced inventory due to anticipated and reliable prescription refill frequency patterns, and decreased number of patient calls regarding refill questions and requests. Medication synchronization programs will also likely result in greater patient satisfaction and could perhaps facilitate customer loyalty. The pharmacy manager, though, cannot just assume that the program will work and be optimized without proper planning for long-term sustainability, incorporating it into strategic planning, and managing its operation in conjunction with other services being offered.

More information on Managing Value-Added Services and Managing Operations can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.

Valerie Wasem is a PharmD candidate at Touro University California.

Shane P. Desselle, PhD, is a professor of social and behavioral pharmacy at Touro University California.

REFERENCE

Renfro CP, Turner K, Seeto J, & Ferrari SP. Medication synchronization adoption and pharmacy performance. Res Social Admin Pharm. 2020;17:1496-1500.