PHARMACY

New patient relationship tool helps pharmacists find savings for customers who need it most

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN DIEGO — One of the biggest challenges to patient adherence is that patients can’t take their medications if they can’t afford them. In December, McKesson developed a solution for its customers to help their patients stay adherent with their prescriptions.

Since then, almost 14,000 pharmacies have taken advantage of McKesson Patient Relationship Solutions’ LoyaltyScript@Retail program, a resource tool designed to boost adherence by providing pharmacists in-store, online, searchable access to medication financial assistance.

“Both sides of the equation, manufacturers and pharmacy operators, are really embracing pharmacy as a channel to access co-pay support for patients,” Stacey Irving, VP Channel Marketing MPRS, told Drug Store News. “And patients are increasingly looking to the pharmacy as a resource to help them address financial barriers they’re facing with their medication adherence,” she said. “It’s important for customer retention because it’s as competitive as ever out there. Pharmacies are genuinely focused on retaining patients and providing them value.”

According to McKesson research, more than one-third of patients ask their pharmacist about lower cost medications and 71% would be more likely to fill their prescription if the pharmacist could help deliver those savings.

LoyaltyScript@Retail can help pharmacists add value to their patient relationships, Irving added. “It’s a catalyst to start a dialogue and a way to strengthen that relationship,” she said. “Pharmacy has an opportunity to truly transform the cost and convenience of health care,” Irving added. “By providing patients the timely and relevant support they need, pharmacy is a critical part of the  solution,” she said.

“The macro trend of pharmacies really engaging in adherence solutions and looking at different ways to alleviate barriers with their patients, that’s where LoyaltyScript@Retail is relevant,” Irving said. “Pharmacists enjoy being able to directly help patients, and they  are using this solution as a way to engage patients in impactful conversations about adherence and the importance of their medications.”

Programs designed to help improve adherence were a major focus among the solutions on display at McKesson ideaShare 2015. The reason is simple, and the benefits go beyond helping to improve top-line sales with more prescriptions filled. Improving, and more importantly tracking, adherence will be a fundamental component of reimbursement as health care continues to shift from a fee-for-service to a quality care model. And pharmacies that can improve patient adherence and provide measured outcomes data will be attractive partners to all health systems and employers.

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Continuing education sessions highlight diabetes care, changing pharmaceutical market

BY David Salazar

SAN DIEGO — The focus on education at McKesson’s ideaShare 2015 didn’t stop when the exhibit hall opened Thursday evening. Friday and Saturday in San Diego saw a robust lineup of Continuing Education and Lunch & Learn sessions that aimed to keep independent pharmacy owners and pharmacists apprised of the latest developments in patient care and the current state of the business. Three topics that drew a great deal of attention revolved around new techniques in insulin injection therapy, managing diabetes patients and a look ahead at some of the biggest changes expected to occur in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry.

Updates in insulin injection techniques
Thursday’s Lunch & Learn session featured Thomas Fillman, senior medical science liaison for BD Medical Diabetes Care, who talked about some of the biggest changes in insulin injection techniques and the ways BD is attempting to prevent common practices that pose daily challenges for the 6 million patients who have to inject their own insulin. Fillman utilized the McKesson ideaShare 2015 mobile app to engage attendees and to gauge their knowledge of best practices for demonstrating injection therapy to patients — an area in which many pharmacists need more education, Fillman noted.

Fillman also addressed recent advancements in injection technology that were helping to address patient concerns regarding the pain of injecting insulin and how best to avoid leakage. One best practice Fillman shared was the importance of rotating injection sites, which helps prevent the formation of extra fat deposits or lumps in a preferred injection site that can affect insulin absorption and decrease the efficacy of the medication. BD’s single-use pen needles can help patients’ practice better injection technique, particularly for those who are prone to re-using needles, Fillman said.

“Because this product is single-use, it forces really good technique and behavior in your patients. It’s a great teaching tool for patients who are new to insulin, as well as those who perhaps have bad reuse habits,” Fillman said.

Managing diabetes patients
Stacey Irving, VP Channel Marketing, introduced Bill Polonsky, co-founder and president of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute and presenter of Friday’s McKesson ideaShare Lunch & Learn, sponsored by McKesson Patient Relationship Solutions. “As we’ve heard all throughout the conference thus far, we are facing unprecedented changes in the U.S. healthcare system,” Irving said. “And it is this focus on controlling cost and improving quality that’s all happening at once that’s really pushing pharmacy to the forefront of caring for patients in a new and differentiated way.”

McKesson’s Behavioral Coaching program gets to the heart of that issue, driving up to a 40% increase in adherence over a 24-month period with 1.5 interventions per patient. Polonsky explored the behavioral profile of the diabetes patient to help pharmacists better counsel their diabetes patients more effectively. “Living well with diabetes is a balancing act,” Polonsky said. “And it is a balancing act that takes effort and requires a certain amount of vigilance all the time.”

The U.S. Pharmaceutical Market: Looking back and looking forward
IMS Health VP industry relations Doug Long was on hand at McKesson ideaShare 2015, providing attendees an overview of the current state of the U.S. pharmacy market. Long looked back at some of the more significant developments in the past year and looked forward to some of the big changes expected in the months ahead.

In 2014, the U.S. pharmaceutical market saw a 13.9% increase, Long told attendees, and more of the same is anticipated for 2015. While dollars were up considerably, prescription growth was a bit more conservative, up some 3% last year, with 1.9% growth predicted for this year.

Looking ahead, Long pointed to specialty drugs as a segment that will continue to deliver the greatest proportion of the growth, despite the smaller patient populations. Beyond that, diabetes, statin therapy and anticoagulants, as well as specialty cholesterol medications — PCSK9 inhibitors — will be areas to watch as 2015 wears on. While the long-standing issue of nonadherence is one that will persist as a major contributor to spiraling healthcare costs and unnecessary upstream medical spending, Long also noted that the new trend of collaborations between primary care providers and community pharmacists, as well patients and payers, is a growing trend that by 2020 will likely be the norm.

“Everybody’s role in the future, no matter where you are in the healthcare continuum, is going to be: Can you demonstrate outcomes?” Long said. “Outcomes equals income, no outcomes equals no income — I think that is going to be the watch word.”

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Quality measures, leadership skills and best practice exchange headlines Health Mart University Live! curriculum at ideaShare 2015

BY David Salazar

SAN DIEGO — Class was in session here at McKesson ideaShare 2015 on Friday with a series of Health Mart University Live! sessions focused on building leadership skills, gearing up for quality measures and a business-building workshop where owners shared best practices and opportunities to grow the business.

Leadership + Team engagement = Sustained results    
Presenters Kelley Babcock, COO of Pharmacy Development Services (PDS), and Terri Norvell, PDS’ leadership coach, literally had attendees on their feet, making them stretch and warm up their minds at the outset of the session. The two presenters focused on the best ways for owners and pharmacists to lead a team that functions well and provides the highest level of care to patients.

One of the areas that Norvell emphasized was the importance of values in outlining to a team what is required and expected of members. Norvell asked attendees to write down and share the values that drive their businesses and urged them to make sure that those values shine through in how they deal with team members.

“Values drive behavior, and tell your employees, ‘This is what’s acceptable around here,’” Norvell said. “They don’t really need to just hang on the wall, that’s old school. Values in today’s age are alive in action.”

In particular, Norvell pointed out that outlining the rules of the workplace is a way to make the values more concrete — if an owner makes their expectations clear, employees can’t plead ignorance. This is an example of the type of action, however small, that co-presenter Babcock urged, rather than using empty words.

“One of our very favorite things to say is: ‘Words are just vibrations of air,’” Babcock said. “They are really meaningless unless they are coupled with action.”

Pharmacy quality measures
One of the biggest threads running through McKesson ideaShare 2015 was the pressure placed on independent pharmacists to drive improved patient outcomes. Tim Davis, pharmacist and owner of Brighton and Beaver Falls Health Mart Pharmacies, helped attendees navigate the maze of pharmacy quality measures, and to think about how to develop their pharmacy teams so that each member understands the importance of delivering on these measures and does their part to ensure quality.

Davis talked about the importance of consulting with patients one-to-one to drive quality and how his pharmacy is leveraging technology solutions like McKesson’s EQuIPP platform to track quality performance and plan ways to keep improving it. Proving that these solutions are not just for the new generation of pharmacists, Davis noted that his father, a pharmacist for more than 40 years, waits at his computer for new EQuIPP data because he understands its utility and the impact it has on patient care in his pharmacy.

“That’s the reason we got into pharmacy — to make sure that our patients felt good and that we felt that we were doing good in our community,” Davis said.

Marketing ideaExchange
Elizabeth Estes, chief ideas officer for Ebus Innovation, stepped out of the presenter role and acted as facilitator for a session whose core emphasis was in the very spirit of McKesson ideaShare 2015 — the sharing of ideas. Participants broke up into small roundtable-working groups, with no two people from the same pharmacy seated at the same table. Groups used McKesson’s ideaShare 2015 mobile app to share their findings with the room. The goal of the exercise was for independent pharmacy owners to share best thinking in marketing and promotion, and exchange ideas among peers that could be implemented immediately after the conference to help attract and keep more customers.

One hot idea revolved around using events as marketing opportunities, including customer appreciation events, flu shot fairs and other health fairs. One participant noted that a health fair that once started in his pharmacy’s parking lot had since expanded into a bigger event and spread out all the way down the block over the years.

Applauding these grassroots-type efforts, Estes also talked about the value of targeted digital marketing, and the role the medium can play in augmenting traditional marketing and improving attendance.

“If you think about what you’re doing in events, one of the best things you can do is not look at your marketing in silos — traditional and digital — but bring them together,” Estes said. “If you’re having a health fair, if you’re having a flu event, use Facebook to target customers in your zip code to drive more people there. That’s a way you can try to bring these marketing tools together.”

Estes, like Babcock and Norvell, urged action on the part of owners.

“I hope you heard some ideas today that you can take back to your markets, but try to make them your own,” Estes said. “I think the biggest thing is to give yourself a reason to try something new and try something different, and I know that’s why you’re all here.”

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