When it comes to patient care, the bar is set higher than ever for independent pharmacies. Patients are finding it harder to schedule appointments with overbooked physicians. Complex medical conditions require extra counseling. Disease care management continues to climb in importance. And all the while, value-based care models mean the care you give your patients affects not just their health, but your financial security as well.

All of this may seem overwhelming. But there are ways to offer better patient care and address these challenges along the way. Focus on the simple things you can do to improve their health and gain their trust. Offer more one-on-one counseling. Make your services more convenient. These are the big-picture strategies.

But let’s get more granular. What actions can you take to start doing more for your patients? Here are four tangible ways your independent pharmacy can deliver better patient care today.

1. Switch to med sync and an appointment-based model

Medication adherence is a challenge for both independent pharmacists and patients. When a patient stops taking their medication, it can disrupt treatment. It also makes it harder for you to provide quality care. Your patient’s condition may worsen and they may experience side effects. Luckily, making a few changes to your independent pharmacy’s strategy can address this. In The Value of Medication Synchronization to Independent Pharmacies,” we discuss how med sync and an appointment-based model can help non-adherence.

Med sync should be standard practice at your independent pharmacy. It’s when you plan for all of a patient’s prescriptions to be refilled at the same time. This eliminates the need for you to make separate phone calls and for them to make multiple trips to the pharmacy. Patients are more likely to refill their prescriptions when everything is ready at once.

You can also switch to an appointment-based model of care. This means patients make appointments to pick up all their medications. During this time, you also review their current drug list and provide counseling. This guidance can address other adherence barriers such as side-effect concerns, interaction questions and more.

2. Spend time on medication therapy management

Medication therapy management, or MTM, is a way to focus on a patient’s concerns about their prescriptions or their overall health. As we cover in “Leveraging Medication Therapy Management for Independent Pharmacies,” there are three main types of MTM:

  • Targeted interventions. These are brief consultations focusing on a single prescription.
  • Comprehensive medication reviews. CMRs are scheduled appointments that last up to an hour. This is also one of the Star Rating performance measures.
  • Targeted medication reviews. These are brief 15-minute follow-ups every few months after a patient’s annual CMR.

Taking extra time to counsel patients helps with medication adherence, outcomes and the patient-pharmacist relationship. Your patient may have only seen a doctor once before getting their prescription. When they picked it up, the pharmacist asked them if they had any questions about the medication. This is good practice, of course, but what’s the reality? Patients don’t usually have questions until after they’ve started taking a new medication. They might want to ask their doctor a question, but they might not be able to get an appointment soon enough.

That’s where your independent pharmacy can step in. Offering MTM bridges the gap between that initial doctor’s appointment and a patient’s daily care.

3. Use technology to find patients who need extra guidance

We’ve covered ways to provide extra care, but how do you know which patients could use some extra help? Look to data. Data can help you see which patients will benefit most from counseling and other interventions. In “Leveraging Technology for Medication Adherence,” we outline ways you can use data to help patients stick to their medication regimens.

Your first step is to tap into your pharmacy management system. Identify drug categories that offer the most opportunity for adherence improvement. (For many pharmacies, that includes diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol medications.)

Next, focus on patients who are moderately adherent. This includes patients who have a medication supply that covers 60-80% of the time they’re scheduled to be on their prescription. Build profiles for these patients. Fill in the blanks of their drug history and any unique risks. Reach out to these patients based on their individual needs and discuss extra counseling, MTM, or other services that may help them. The goal is to find patients whose medication adherence you can quickly improve with counseling or other interventions. Reach out to them before they become non-adherent.

4. Don’t forget about diabetes care

Expanding your pharmacy’s disease management care is crucial—especially when it comes to diabetes. Diabetes affect millions of Americans. It can beget other health issues like heart disease, circulatory problems, blindness and more. In “How Independent Pharmacies Can Expand Diabetes Care for Patients,” Laurie Jamieson discusses how you can better serve this market. Jamieson is Director of Manufacturer Marketing Strategy for McKesson’s U.S. Pharma division. She believes the first step is choosing the best product mix for your diabetes patients.

Here's how to decide which diabetes products and services to offer:

  • Look at sales data. Dig into your own data and national sales data to see which products diabetes patients prefer.
  • Determine patient and physician preference. What’s working in the real world? Older patients may prefer glucose meters with large screens and easy-to-handle test strips. Younger patients may want ones that sync to a mobile app. Talk to your patients and their physicians to glean insight here.
  • Be mindful of insurance coverage. Keep your eye on which products are covered on a patient’s plan. If a product you carry is not covered by their insurance, that will be a huge barrier to their care.

Now stock the best products that fit these factors. Figuring out what diabetes offerings to have helps you better serve these patients and show them you care.

Patient care may be more of a pharmacist’s responsibility now than ever, but there are simple ways to get started on raising the bar. Provide extra counseling. Tap into data. Expand your disease care offerings. All of these steps help you give better care and strengthen your relationships to community members. And they give you the chance to do what you do best: Make a difference in the life of each patient walking through your door.

Related: Learn more about McKesson’s patient medication adherence programs for independent pharmacies

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McKesson editorial staff is committed to sharing innovative approaches and insights so our customers can get the most out of their business solutions and identify areas for operational improvement and revenue growth.

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