Independents get new business management tools

September 3, 2007

New tools are available for independent pharmacies for better business management.

Independent pharmacies, however, do have places to turn. A growing number of services-some free, others for a fee-now are focused on improving the business outlook for independent pharmacies. "We feel independents play a key role in the health care of this country," said Steve Lawrence, senior VP retail marketing and product development at Cardinal Health. "We want to make sure they continue to thrive."

Earlier this year, NCPA brought all the business tools on its Web sites to the OwnershipRx portal ( http://www.ncpanet.org/ownership/rx/), though the group still maintains its separate Pharmacist e-Link site ( http://www.pharmacistelink.com/). According to Stacey Swartz, senior director of pharmacy affairs, the on-line tools for the OwnershipRx site were revamped following the implementation of the Medicare Part D program and NCPA will make more revisions with expected changes to the Medicaid program. The Pharmacist e-Link site includes a "Virtual Mentor for Pharmacy Ownership" tool, which offers answers to common pharmacy ownership problems written by members of the NCPA Management Committee. The committee members posted answers to questions such as "How do I know a good or bad [wholesaler] deal when I see it?" and "What kind of insurance do I need for the business?" Another tool provides prescription pricing data for every zip code.

Cardinal Health has developed various programs and applications aimed directly at independent pharmacists. In July, the company introduced a third-party claim management program that will now be offered at a flat monthly rate. The claims management service performs a series of edits that include average wholesaler pricing updates, enhanced dispense-as-written (DAW) code validation, formulary compliance, and discontinued product alerts. According to Lawrence, by automating financial, administrative, and legal compliance reviews on Rxs prior to sending them to processors, the offering should help prevent auditing errors and underpaid claims.

Other services are also popping up in less likely places. Warner Concept System is a marketing company that focuses on the needs of small businesses and helps them advertise in local newspapers and on radio stations. "Ninety percent of small businesses are very frustrated with marketing services," argued Van Coker of Warner Concept System. "Most can't afford agencies. I've worked with several successful pharmacies. They were very effective because they emphasized value."