Independent Pharmacy: Using Technology to Improve Medication Adherence

Nov 20, 2017Pharmacy Insights, Technology

One of the most vital components to public health is patient medication adherence. If patients do not take their medications properly, the ramifications can be disastrous, leading to poor health, worsening of disease states, and increased hospitalizations. In addition to patient consequences, non-adherence can be equally damaging to healthcare systems. For example, the healthcare community in the United States spends between $100 and $290 billion per year in additional healthcare and treatment costs as a direct result of patient medication non-adherence (1).

Independent pharmacies are leaders in building and maintaining customer relationships and are highly regarded for their individualized, customer-centric approach to business. However, they also need to ensure longevity in a healthcare system that has shown unpredictability and instability over the past decade. Fortunately, a customer-focused business model does not have to come at the expense of state-of-the-art technology, especially when that technology has the capacity to both aid with medication adherence and help place independent pharmacies in increasingly competitive positions.

Technology and the Independent Pharmacy

The healthcare marketplace is fluid and always evolving. More recent changes have seen provider reimbursement shift toward a pay-for-performance model. This shift encourages pharmacies to play a more active role in positive healthcare outcomes. It also provides the pharmacy with a unique opportunity to compare new technologies against historical practices, and analyze which approach can better improve their:

  • Impact on customer satisfaction and health
  • Ability to remain relevant and profitable in the constantly-shifting healthcare marketplace
  • Development of strategies to meet – and exceed – healthcare (and patient) expectations

There are several technologies available to independent pharmacies that can help increase adherence, improve customer outcomes, and boost profit:

Adherence Packaging

Whether it’s something as simple as customizable medication blister cards or as advanced as in-pharmacy semi-automatic medication strip packaging – providing pre-sorted medications to customers in easy-to-access packaging is a proven game-changer in medication adherence. In fact, recent studies show that adherence packaging has demonstrated statistically significant and relevant positive results for adherence and clinical outcomes (2).

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Mobile Technology

Nearly one third (33 percent) of all prescriptions never get filled (3). This puts the high prescription volume that pharmacies must maintain in order to remain profitable at risk.

Historically, pharmacists have notified customers by phone when their prescriptions were coming due. However, pharmacies who have used interactive voice response systems (IVR) and mobile technology such as text messages, in tandem with traditional phone calls and in-person reminders, have seen an uptick in prescription fill rates – which has the potential to lead to improved patient medication adherence and more positive healthcare outcomes (4).

Medication Therapy Management (MTM)

We’ve already acknowledged that medication adherence can result in better clinical outcomes and lower health care costs. Medication therapy management (MTM) is not only an effective tactic to improve adherence, it is also effective at helping independent pharmacies to grow their business.

There are three types of MTM:

Targeted interventions – consist of brief in-person or phone consultations between pharmacists and patients, average approximately 15 minutes in length, usually focus on a single prescription, address proper usage, side effects, and challenges to staying adherent.

Targeted Medication Reviews (TMRs) – consist of brief (15 minutes or less) follow-up consultations, done over the phone or in-person, on a quarterly basis. These follow up reviews are performed following yearly comprehensive medication reviews (CMRs).

Comprehensive medication reviews (CMRs) – in-person consultations between pharmacists and patients, average approximately 1 hour in length, collect patient clinical info such as medication history, over-the-counter medications being used, and medication-related side effects, create plans to address any medication-related issues with patients, their caregivers, or providers. This MTM is also one of the Star Rating measures for 2017 that pharmacies are evaluated on.

The challenge independent pharmacies face with MTMs is how to add them in an efficient enough manner where they produce the best possible clinical results for their customers, and business results for the pharmacy.

There are several strategies that can be employed to help drive MTM efficiency:

  • Set hard stop limits on CMR consultations at 45 to 60 minutes
  • Review the patient’s medication history before the scheduled consultation
  • Schedule specific days/times when CMRs can be the focus
  • Have an agenda mapped out for CMRs including time to conduct:
  • ○ Patient interview
    ○ Drug review
    ○ Drug therapy problems (DTPs)
    ○ Develop plan for DTPs
    ○ Document CMR session

Closing Thoughts

Technology-based tools run the gambit in their ability to help improve medication adherence. Whether your pharmacy uses smart-packaging, mobile technology, pharmaceutical databases/reporting, or any other tech-based tool, when combined with a strong customer service approach, you are increasing your customer’s chance at experiencing positive clinical effects through better medication adherence.

Does your pharmacy currently employ any of these technologies? Which tools do you use and how have they impacted your pharmacy’s position in the healthcare market and/or patient satisfaction? Do you use any technologies that we haven’t covered here? What are they and what effect have they had on your business?

We’d love to know and may even use those experiences in future topics. If you’d like to add your experience, please contact

Be sure to follow this blog for more tips, insights and bulletins that can help grow your pharmacy and save you money – all from your partners at AlliantRx.