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4 Reasons Doctors are Taking a Fresh Look at In-Office Dispensing

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

medication heartMore than ever, medical practices throughout the US are motivated to look (again) at ancillary services to bolster shrinking income and to further differentiate their marketing message.

As we enter the “rollout year” for healthcare reform, few practices are operating the same way they did last year…and the coming months only promise further change. Many primary care physicians, as well as some specialty providers, are taking a fresh look at in-office dispensing.

In office medication dispensing is the practice of preparing and delivering prescription drugs to patients in a physician's office or some other medical setting. New technologies which manage inventory and dosing allow for medication dispensing at the point-of-care to serve as safe, efficient, and cost-effective method of helping patients manage their treatment.

Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have published supportive positions on the idea of doctor’s offices filling prescriptions for their own patients. But there’s much to be considered in approaching the decision and establishing an in-office dispensing pharmacy.

Capturing Revenue

Declining reimbursements, increased competition, rising costs and other factors—many of them financial—are some of the reasons that some doctors don’t want to be doctors any longer. Many other practices are re-thinking their business model and services.

Primary care physicians, as well as some specialty practices such as cardiology, find themselves candidates for in-house dispensing as a new revenue stream and improve compliance and outcomes. Scriptdispense, a Florida-based firm that provides a turnkey solution for physicians to setup in-house dispensing, suggests that a medical practice can realize $5,000 to $10,000 additional monthly revenue.

Marketing Differentiation

In-office dispensing is relatively unique; a value-added service for patients that distinguishes the practice from the competition. Some estimates have it that only three to five percent of all prescriptions are dispensed at the point of treatment. But that small slice likely includes hospitals and other medical facilities. It's a value-added service that can bolster patient satisfaction and the practice marketing message

“The vast majority of patients have never experience ‘live adjudicated’ dispensing where they can use their insurance and pick up their medication at physician’s office,” according to Chuck Willen of Scriptdispense. [Real-time adjudication of the insurance claim assures the office of reimbursement and provides the patient and the office with immediate and accurate payment/co-payment information.]

Patient Convenience and Retention

The most immediate—and perhaps most widely appreciated—patient benefits are the added service and convenience of receiving the prescribed medications immediately, and thus eliminating the need for a second trip to a pharmacy. (Especially helpful for patients being driven to the doctor’s office.)

Convenience factors and patient experience tend to inspire both retention and referrals. And the cost of the medications to the patient is the same as at a traditional pharmacy.

Further, in office dispensing systems aid physicians in building a barrier against medication errors by pairing pharmacist know-how with the correct medication in the correct dosage.

Improved Compliance and Outcomes

More than 20 percent of first-time patient prescriptions are never filled, according to a Harvard Medical School study. But when patients receive the medication at the time of their office visit, the medical staff can provide instructions and encouragement. As a result, personal compliance, patient adherence with medication regimens—and ultimately better outcomes—can be expected.

Prescribed medications can then be offered directly to patients at the point-of-care. With in office dispensing your own office spends less time speaking to pharmacies to place the prescription and more time meeting the clients' needs.

Many practices are taking a fresh look at dispensing medications as a potential business and marketing opportunity. With a few exceptions, most states allow physician dispensing. It is, however, a valuable point of differentiation that patients appreciate.

RELATED POSTS: Meet Dr. Walgreens. Pharmacy-run ACO Redefines Doctor Marketing Competition and Doctor-to-Doctor Advice: Marketing Your Ancillary Services.

Lonnie Hirsch


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