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Using Technology to Improve Patient Relationships – After Covid

The results are in, and once again pharmacists are among the professions Americans give high marks for "honesty and ethics." According to the annual survey conducted by Gallup, most revered professions includes nurses, medical doctors. grade-school teachers, pharmacists, military officers and police officers.

Pharmacists can certainly feel proud to be included in such a prestigious group. Afterall, American consumers expect a lot from the professionals with whom they interact. The fact that pharmacists continually appear at-or-near-the-top of the annual Gallup listing speaks to the high regard they have for their patients, and pharmacists' commitment to service and care.

As with all relationships though, a periodic "checkup" can be beneficial. This is especially true in 2022 – as pharmacists and patients acclimate to the "new normal" of the post-pandemic world. The pandemic did much to reshape the pharmacist/patient relationship, with patients turning to their pharmacists for COVID-19-related information and supplies, as well as for testing and immunizations. During the long months of COVID uncertainty, pharmacists served their patients in critical ways including:

 • By remaining open and providing safe venues for consumers to shop for needed medications and OTC products, along with groceries, housewares, and even pet supplies.

 • By adapting their business models to introduce home delivery services, curbside pickups, and contactless payments, among other safety-focused initiatives.

 • By staying in touch. Pharmacists all over the country rose to the occasion and prioritized patient health and safety. Some made personal phone calls to check-in with elderly or infirm patients. Others stayed in touch with personalized emails and text messages, transmitted via their pharmacy technology system.

Many of these pandemic-induced accommodations in fact, were facilitated by technology, including PrimeRx™ from Micro Merchant Systems. Pharmacists were able to utilize their technology systems to expand point-of-sale options, offer mobile apps, manage delivery services, and keep the lines of communication open.

Now that we are (hopefully) moving on from the height of the pandemic, pharmacists can benefit from a review of the many ways in which technology can bolster their patient relationships. A few examples, specific to PrimeRx™ include:

 • Detailed Patient Records. PrimeRx™ allows pharmacies to capture detailed notes and observations about each patient. This information can be added to a patient's record and easily accessed during future encounters. A pharmacist who learns that a patient has just taken up yoga, for example, could make a note in the patient's record. A subtle, "how are you liking your yoga class?" at the next visit would undoubtedly please the patient, but also help the pharmacist track the patient's overall health.

 • Detailed medication and health histories. Pharmacies can also capture detailed prescription drug histories, along with background information about patient health. This includes information about the patient's living situation, activity level, smoking history, along with general observations about the patient's wellbeing.

 • Drug affordability. As patients continue to feel the sting of record high inflation rates, pharmacies can rely on PrimeRx™ to help with drug affordability.

Real-Time Prescription Benefit powered by Surescripts®. PrimeRx™ pharmacies can interface directly with this important solution which provides access to each patient's benefits information. This direct visibility lets pharmacy staff know if a prescribed medication is covered by a patient's plan, and what the out-of-pocket costs will be. The solution identifies therapeutic alternatives that are on the patient's plan formulary.

 • Information is King. In addition to drug costs, patients cite "lack of information" as a reason for becoming non-adherent with their medications. This is especially true among older patients who take multiple medications and have concerns about possible side effects and adverse interactions. PrimeRx™ allows pharmacies to address this concern by giving patients access to detailed drug information. Direct integration with Vuca Health's "Meds on Cue" allows patients immediate access to drug information sheets, medication guides, and short videos about their medications.

 • Immunizations. According to the 2020 NCPA Digest, more than 30 percent of all annual flu shots are administered in pharmacies. While this is certainly an impressive statistic, the fact remains that most Americans do not get vaccinated, leaving them at risk for preventable illnesses. Pharmacies can use their technology system to boost vaccination rates (and generate additional revenue in the process) with simple steps that include:

• Personalized messages. Pharmacies can use PrimeRx™ to identify "at risk" patients who would benefit from specific vaccinations. The system can automatically transmit emails and/or text messages, with a link to schedule a vaccination appointment. The message can be as simple as: "The CDC recommends a Shingles immunization for patients over the age of 50. Click here to schedule your vaccination."

• Immunization Reporting. PrimeRx™ automatically transmits all vaccine-related information to each state's reporting agency. This ensures the pharmacy is compliant with state regulations, and also ensures updated patient recordkeeping.

 • Medication Therapy Management Services. The 2021 NCPA Digest found 73 percent of independent pharmacies offer medication therapy management (MTM) services. MTM is required for eligible Medicare beneficiaries and has proven to be beneficial for patients with chronic conditions and multiple medications. Pharmacists can easily create and manage MTM plans directly within PrimeRx™ with capabilities that include:

• Medication Therapy Review. The system allows for capture of extensive patient information. This includes contact information and medical history, along with notes about lifestyle, social habits, family, living situation, and other factors that may affect health outcomes.

• Personal Medication Review. PrimeRx™ maintains a patient's comprehensive medication history, with all updates seamlessly recorded and stored.

• Medication Synchronization. Pharmacists can sync all refills to minimize the number of trips a patient needs to make to the pharmacy.

• Medication Action Plan. Pharmacists can create action plans within PrimeRx™, that can be shared electronically with the patient, along with members of the healthcare team. Plans can be customized to include timelines for various goals, and checklists of "action items." The plan becomes a living document, that can be easily updated or revised as the patient's condition warrants – and hopefully improves.

 • Automated communications. PrimeRx™ facilitates critical patient communication via automated texts, phone calls and/or emails. A pharmacy can automatically generate notifications to individual patients when a refill is due, or when a prescription is ready for pickup. PrimeRx™ can even be programmed to generate birthday greetings, or other types of personalized messages.

News that pharmacists had again received high marks for "honesty and ethics" was hardly surprising. All one has to do is spend a few minutes in a local pharmacy, and the staff's deep concern for their patients – and their professionalism and knowledge – becomes obvious. Pharmacy technology systems such as PrimeRx™ are a valuable tool in helping pharmacists better serve patients and build those critically important relationships.

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