A 2016 Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) Survey showed that nearly half (51 percent) of U.S. workers were members of health insurance plans that required a minimum out of pocket expense of $1,000 before coverage began. This survey also revealed price hikes of 19 percent in single-coverage premiums and 63 percent in single-coverage deductibles. Compare that to a weak 11 percent rise in workers’ wages over the past five years and it becomes clear why many Americans are looking to trim costs wherever possible (1).
Pharmacists already offer an extensive range of services directly related to medication and its management, including medication review, pharmacotherapy consultations, and drug interactions – to name just a few. These services also play dual roles in assisting with better outcomes and lowering costs. But, there’s one area where the independent and community pharmacies already have the upper hand over larger box stores and retail pharmacy chains: they’re way ahead of the curve when it comes to building customer relationships!
Communication is Key
Communication is the cornerstone on which MTM is built. MTM encourages patients to take a more active and participatory role in managing their conditions and medications. When patients have an equal voice in their treatment, and are seen as partners in their healthcare — who are being advised of best practices for success and not ‘told’ what to do, medication adherence is more likely. Medication adherence can directly improve patient outcomes which, in turn, has the positive effect of lowering healthcare costs by decreasing hospital readmissions — a win-win for both the healthcare community and the patients they serve.
This is all made possible through an open line of communication — something independent pharmacies have been utilizing for decades.
Through Necessity Comes Wisdom
Customer relationships can be considered one of the strongest foundations on which to build successful independent and community pharmacies.
As it now stands, more people have access to prescription coverage, and copayments are largely the same across the board — whether that prescription is filled at a large chain, or an independent pharmacy (1). But it hasn’t always been that way. When up against larger box stores, independent pharmacies historically relied on their extensive customer relationship skills and personal service to bring in customers, while the retail chains could count on non-prescription items such as health and beauty aids, household cleaners, and paper-goods to comprise the bulk of their sales.
Where local pharmacies once struggled against the larger chain’s ability to offer lower pricing, now both of these pharmacies are competing to obtain a larger portion of pharmacy sales. This is where the customer relationship and the ability to offer strong, localized, hyper-targeted communications, and a more intimate level of personal care, will help boost the independent pharmacy’s ability to stand out from the crowd.
Are Stronger Relationships the Only Thing an MTM Can Offer an Independent Pharmacy?
A stronger patient/provider relationship is just a sampling of the value optimizing an MTM can offer the independent and community pharmacist. Other benefits include:
- Medication and therapy reviews
- Personalized medical records
- Medication-related action plans
- Better Medication Adherence
- Disease management and coaching support
- Medication safety surveillance
- Increased health and wellness awareness (2)
Of course, implementing any new service or system in an efficient and effective manner can be challenging. Below is an outline of some best practices utilized by independent pharmacies currently using MTMs successfully:
- Pharmacy training: Be sure to train your entire staff on your chosen MTM and the services you’re going to offer to your customers. Know the best practices, keep them on hand. Stay up-to-date on education and professional opportunities.
- A well-utilized staff: Use your entire clinical team. Everyone can play a part in making the implementation of an MTM successful, from technicians to pharmacists to cashiers. One example could be the assignment of MTM portal monitoring by non-pharmacy staff. By using every team member, the pharmacist has more free time to work one-on-one with patients.
- Direct Patient Interaction: Comprehensive medication reviews (CMRs) and targeted medication reviews (TMRs) are only useful if the information obtained through communication is effective. Ask open-ended questions, speak in your patient’s primary language (use a certified medical interpreter) if at all possible, maneuver the patient into compliance by listening to their concerns and finding motivation they can use, and employ empathy in your words, body language, and facial expressions. Patients want to feel like they have some say in their healthcare – show them that they do, then give them the tools (3).
What it All Means
Medication therapy management (MTM) is increasingly being considered an effective tactic for independent pharmacies to grow their businesses. With its impressive list of benefits and strong push toward building customer relationships, MTM services are tailor-made tools for the independent pharmacy to continue its success.
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