How independent pharmacies can use specialty medications to increase profits and help their patients.
Specialty drugs open up the floodgates to a range of unique opportunities for independent pharmacies, particularly as net reimbursements for the long tail of drugs continue to shrink.
With the right processes and particular automation in place, specialty drugs become a quick revenue booster and, more importantly, deliver meaningful profitability long term. Utilizing a pharmacy’s existing capacity, the ability to fill high-value prescriptions presents a valuable opportunity-without significant upfront investments that typically arise.
Pharmacies also get access to a larger network of patients in need of specialty drugs, who will ultimately be more inclined to turn to your business to also fill their additional routine prescriptions.
While jumping on the specialty drug bandwagon isn’t always easy, these four tips will help pharmacists succeed when it comes to boosting profitability and expanding both your local and national patient network.
1. Get in With the Locals
The local prescribers who write specialty prescriptions are a major key to breaking into this channel. Focus on building relationships with them to give your network an automatic boost.
These prescribers are often going through the trials and tribulations of dealing with out-of-state specialty pharmacies, which immediately gives you the upper hand once you begin connecting with those in your own backyard. They will feel reassured and more comfortable knowing their patients are being served by a local pharmacy that’s rooted in the same community, rather than those whom they have never met nor spoken with much before.
The first step in building these relationships is to ensure local prescribers are aware that you are capable of dispensing specialty drugs. Then, both parties will be able to reap the benefits of your newly formed partnership.
2. Invest in Communication
Specialty drugs require extra coordination between the patient, provider, and payer, which opens up the door for more mishaps along the way. Many of the shortcomings that arise in the process of prescribing or filling a specialty prescription stem from poor communication-not a lack of effort on the pharmacy side, as some may believe. Prescribers must be informed about any steps they may need to take, such as a substitution for a cheaper alternative or any additional insurance processing, in a timely manner.
Similarly, patients need to be clearly informed on the top three questions regarding their medications:
Having a team member to communicate regularly with doctor’s offices and patients can vastly improve communication. Another option is to adopt a software solution that can take on this role, which are scalable and even more cost-effective in the long run.
3. Leverage Delivery
The majority of independent pharmacies have some form of local delivery system in place. This acts as a leg up for the local independent pharmacies, as out-of-state specialty pharmacies often take over a week to deliver such prescriptions. Leveraging various networks and digital services to aid in prescription delivery is a key factor to breaking into the specialty drug channels.
4. Lower out of pocket costs
Applying manufacturer coupons can immensely help to lower out of pocket costs for your patients. These significantly affect prices while still ensuring a healthy amount of profitability for the pharmacy itself. Investing in systems to file insurance prior authorizations will also lower the average out of pocket expense for the patients-a win-win for both parties.
Specialty drugs act as a significant economic opportunity for independent pharmacies, while simultaneously presenting an opportunity for the local community that capitalizes on the key strengths of these independents. With the right investments in strategy and overall execution, specialty prescriptions can be a fantastic revenue and margin booster, and also an incremental method of engaging more patients within your own community.
Deepak Thomas is CEO of Phil, Inc., a San Francisco-based software platform that connects patients who take specialty Rx with their prescribers and pharmacies.