Pharmacists: Don’t be afraid to spread the news of what you do
Monday, April 11, 2016
I recently had the privilege of speaking to a local group of physicians about the services we are implementing in our pharmacy. Their appreciation of this talk compels me to share our story with others.
Just to give you some background, I manage an outpatient pharmacy inside a medium-sized hospital. Our business model, however, is not merely focused on helping patients transition to home — though this is a critical piece of our plan.
We have a bigger vision. We want to do our part at reducing hospitalizations in the first place and prevent unnecessary readmissions for our recovering patients. What we do, however, is not unique to our location and is a strategy that can be implemented by any community pharmacy.
The heart of the message I shared with this great group of local, mostly family-practice, physicians was this: "Send us your hard ones." By "hard ones" I am referring to those patients who often consume the most time for the physician staff and possibly are at the greatest risk for not actually getting their prescriptions for a variety of reasons.
To be clear: We aren't claiming to do anything another pharmacy couldn't do. What I was sharing is our passion to take individually difficult patients and prescriptions and to work with their offices for better outcomes.
For example, take the patient who is having difficulty affording his/her medications due to high copays and deductibles. Our pharmacy has networked with dozens of pharmaceutical companies to be sure we have the latest information on copay-reduction programs, coupons and company-sponsored financial assistance. When necessary, we will engage the patient and physician in conversations about clinically similar alternatives to ensure they have affordable options available to help them manage their conditions.
Another example is the area of prior authorizations. For many providers, this process is becoming increasingly burdensome on the valuable time of their medical assistants and office staff.
The pharmacy again is in a unique position to manage these prior authorization opportunities in a way that improves the efficiency of submitting them to the patient's health plan. By tracking these prescriptions, helping out in obtaining the proper forms, filling in some of the basic information on their behalf and maintaining communication with the office and patient, pharmacies can increase the chances of patients getting the medications they need.
Finally, there are other services such as med-synchronization, custom packaging and delivery that help improve patient quality of life and reduce missed doses and medication abandonment. We take what we hope is a holistic view of the patient and provider needs, and seek to do our part to promote the health of our patients and build a teamwork mentality with our local practices.
Accomplishing these things also takes great teamwork within the pharmacy. We seek to promote an atmosphere of continual education by sharing knowledge and our vision with all our staff, viewing each team member as critical to providing the highest level of service.
When local continuing-education opportunities arise, we invite the whole team to attend. When new information about savings-programs is released, our staff uses this knowledge to help benefit our patients when possible.
I want to emphasize again that this article isn't about "Wow, look at what we do." Frankly, many pharmacies are doing exactly the same thing. Countless pharmacists care deeply about these very same issues as we do.
What I mostly wanted to share was the fact that it is possible to be doing all these things — yet not really communicating this message effectively to local physicians, medical assistants and office staff. The appreciation, and in some respects the surprise, reminded me that providing great services also involves taking some time to creatively share them with others.
There are plenty of negative things going on in healthcare to point out. There are many ways in which our communication between providers of care is pathetic. But there are good things going on too — lots of them.
The services, passion and commitment to excellence that is going on in your pharmacy is worth talking about. Share your stories. Talk about your strategies. Spread the news.
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