Your chain pharmacy just installed a new pharmacy management system (PMS) or upgraded its existing one. Now what? Unless you learn how to take advantage of all its functionalities, it’s no more than an expensive computer system that slows down your pharmacists and your technicians.

As a pharmacist, Steve Petrozzi knows what buttons you should push. In this edition of Pharmacist to Pharmacist, we asked Petrozzi, Senior Director of Account Management for McKesson Pharmacy Systems, to talk about how your pharmacy can use its PMS to improve medication adherence and health outcomes for your patients and business results for yourself.

What are you responsible for in your role at McKesson?

Petrozzi: I oversee a team that works with chain pharmacies that use EnterpriseRx, which is our hosted pharmacy management system (PMS). We’re responsible for making sure that our customers are getting the most value that they can from our PMS. That means identifying a pharmacy’s specific challenge and then helping the pharmacy use the functionality in its PMS that addresses its issue.

What are some operational challenges that you’re hearing about from chain pharmacies?

Petrozzi: The big one is always direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees. We hear that right when we walk in the front door. Some are just figuring it out. Others have figured it out and are trying to make it work. And all of them are doing that while trying to go about their daily jobs. The other two things we hear about are revenue and efficiencies. Keeping revenues up is getting harder and harder. And that makes it much more important to be as efficient as possible.

What functionality in a pharmacy management system will help chain pharmacies manage their DIR fees?

Petrozzi: Health plans and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) base the DIR fees that they charge to your pharmacy on how well you’re meeting their performance measures. A common measure is medication adherence. You should take advantage of functionality in your PMS that will help you improve adherence rates. That could be alerting you to patients who aren’t taking their drugs and prompting your pharmacists to ask the right questions to find out why. Is it the drug’s availability? Is it the complexity of the drug regimen? Is it the drug’s side effects? Is it the drug’s cost? Then you can take steps to overcome those barriers, whether it’s switching to another drug, working with a manufacturer to get a discount coupon or enrolling them in a medication synchronization program.

What functionality in a pharmacy management system will help chain pharmacies increase their revenues?

Petrozzi: When you’re working with your patients to make them more adherent, you’re going to fill more prescriptions. It’s just that simple. You’re helping your patients, and you’re driving more revenue from prescription volume. You’re also keeping more of that revenue because as adherence goes up, your DIR fees go down. But your PMS can help you generate revenue in other ways. It can flag patients who may need other things that you offer. Maybe they need an age-based vaccine. Maybe they need their blood pressure checked or other point-of-care testing. If they’re diabetic, maybe they need over-the-counter diabetes or related health products and nutritional counseling. These are reimbursable services that can add to your top line, all because your PMS alerted you to the potential.

What functionality in a pharmacy management system will help chain pharmacies improve their operational efficiency?

Petrozzi: Efficiency is all about workflow. Inefficiency comes from all the stops and starts in a typical day at your sites. Functionalities in your PMS can even out your workflow and reduce the time your staff wastes pivoting back and forth from one task to another. Your PMS can do that by integrating tasks like claim adjudication or prior authorization into the workflow of filling a prescription. Inefficiency can also come from doing tasks manually. You need to automate as many of those tasks as possible through your PMS. The big one is filling prescriptions. You can make that more efficient by auto-filling. You fill them automatically and alert patients when they’re ready. Patients don’t have to come in each time they need a refill. You can take that a step further by having a central fill facility do your prescriptions. Machines automate all that manual work offsite. So it’s a double win when you get more efficient. Your cost to fill is lower, and your potential revenue is higher.

How does a pharmacy management system help chain pharmacies improve the quality and safety of care to patients?

Petrozzi: The first way is the most obvious. Your PMS is matching the right patient to the right drug for the right condition in the right dosage. You’re reducing the chances of human error. The second way is less obvious but perhaps even more important. By automating manual tasks, your staff spends more time with patients. Those are opportunities to find out about other things that may be affecting their drug usage and health status. Has a provider prescribed another drug that you didn’t know about? Are they taking a supplement that makes their prescription medication less effective or even dangerous? Are they engaging in other behaviors or lifestyle choices that negatively affect their health? You need to surround yourself with high-tech so you can provide high-touch.

Do you think pharmacists at chain pharmacies are ready to move out from behind the counter?

Petrozzi: Absolutely. Pharmacists train for that. It’s what they want to do. It’s what they’re able to do. They want to practice at the top of their license and continue the shift from pharmacist to provider. They want to be caregivers, not pill pushers. You can make that happen by embracing the technological advancements that are out there. They will let your pharmacists have those conversations with your patients.

What other industry trends should chain pharmacies stay on top of?

Petrozzi: You need to understand how patients’ service expectations are changing. They use technology everywhere else in their lives to see when a retailer will deliver a package to their house or how many minutes they have to wait before a car service picks them up. They walk into your pharmacy and wonder why technologies like that aren’t in place at your pharmacy. They wonder why a prescription isn’t ready when they walk in. They wonder why a drug that they need is out of stock. They wonder why what should take minutes ends up taking hours. You need to match those service expectations as soon as possible to remain competitive.

As a pharmacist, what do you enjoy most about working with other pharmacists through McKesson?

Petrozzi: I know why they became pharmacists in the first place, and that’s to take care of patients. I get a thrill when I see them learn how to use all these different tools and technologies at their disposal that make it easier and faster to do their administrative tasks so they can talk to their patients. I can see the smiles on their faces when that happens, and that’s what makes me smile.

Editor’s note: If you have a question for one of our pharmacists, please leave a comment and let us know. We’ll be sure to cover it in a future edition of Pharmacist to Pharmacist.

Related: Learn more about McKesson’s pharmacy management systems for chain 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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