Maximizing Adherence Packaging for Patient Health and Pharmacy Growth

August 17, 2020

Is adherence packaging technology a big investment for a community or independent pharmacy?

Independent and community pharmacists can now invest in technologies that result in more efficient practices, improved quality of care, and increased margins. The environment may be right for your pharmacy. In the last few years, competitors in e-commerce have entered the health care market by offering clinical and non-clinical products and services, including medication adherence packaging and free delivery.

Despite the increasing competition, there are bigger reasons to invest in adherence packaging from reputable vendors. Patients and health care providers alike are attracted to the convenience and safety of adherence packaging to support accurate and consistent dosing as well as more peace of mind for their families.

Is adherence packaging technology a big investment for a community or independent pharmacy? It depends. There are ways to manage and recover upfront costs in the following ways.

Choose buying or leasing options.

Reputable adherence packaging vendors such as RxSafe or Parata provide options to pharmacies for either a cash purchase or a capital lease to buy (use) the necessary equipment.

With a capital lease, the pharmacy maintains cash flow while building up a patient base to pay for the new service. A cash purchase and a capital lease option both provide the pharmacy 100% depreciation options in the tax year that the technology is placed in service.

Maximize adherence packaging services.

Typically, community pharmacists can market adherence packaging services to a broad customer base such as senior living and nursing homes, group homes, mental health care facilities and even correctional facilities in their market. These customers recognize the advantages of packaged meds with a time and date stamp specific to each patient. The style of packaging or dispensing can also be tailored to the patient’s needs, such as blister packs for patients with arthritis.

Such contracts, even when paired with free delivery services, can quickly cover upfront equipment costs while serving a broader community. The pharmacy can serve hundreds of patients in just one facility.

Offer OTC or supplement options. 

According to adherence packaging vendors, patients who take 7 or 8 regular prescriptions will provide a more immediate return for the investment than patients who only take one or two medications regularly.

However, patients with fewer medications could choose from recommended nutritional supplements or OTC medications, such as low-dose aspirin, in their packaging. This approach helps pharmacies introduce patient preventative care and wellness as part of the service.

Right-size your staffing with automation.

Automated, adherence packaging is also recommended for increasing pharmacy efficiency. A robotic process can reduce staffing and related benefits expenses, or it can allow existing staff allocation to top-line cash clinical and non-clinical services.

When determining your pharmacy’s ability to invest in new equipment and technologies, take time to calculate the cost savings on staffing or the ability to launch new services with the same number of staff. This is a good discussion to have with a CPA knowledgeable in pharmacy accounting and operations.

Improve STAR Ratings and reduce DIR fees.

The intended outcome of regular fills and adherence is high quality patient care. By directly providing adherence packaging, the pharmacy maintains a vital, direct link to patients for confidential and knowledgeable consultations. 

On the business side, a pharmacy can also improve Star Ratings, reduce potential DIR fees and, therefore, improve pharmacy bottom-line revenue. This is a long game, to be sure, so it will be important to seek guidance from your knowledgeable CPA to determine when and how to bring an adherence packaging service in-house.

For example, if your pharmacy business has more than one location, your advisor may suggest purchasing equipment for one store as the central fill for adherence packaging — but offering this service at all locations.

Adherence packaging is a clear technology disruptor, but consumer awareness is still fairly low. They will be attracted to the convenience and ease, but pharmacies can help them realize the long-term health care benefits through local access and attention.

Ollin Sykes is founder of Sykes & Company, P.A., and Bonnie Bond, CPA, is a partner in the firm. Along with a knowledgeable team of advisors and counselors, they help independent and community pharmacies across the U.S. manage industry and business challenges — and thrive. https://www.sykes-cpa.com/ask-sykes/