Twenty minutes. That's how long it used to take staff members in Priyank Patel's New York City-area pharmacies to address instances in which a patient's medication was either not covered by a benefits plan, or was prohibitively expense. But now that his pharmacies are operating the Surescripts Real-Time Prescription Benefit Solution, processing time has been cut to just five minutes.
"Twenty minutes is an eternity in our business, where literally every second counts" says Patel, who owns three pharmacies, one in the Bronx and two in Yonkers. "The Real-Time Prescription Benefit solution has essentially solved this problem for us while at the same time, providing a much better experience for patients."
Patel's trio of pharmacies include the Bronx's Felicity Pharmacy, which he bought four years ago; Getty Square Pharmacy in Yonkers which he opened from scratch about 1 year ago; and Health RX Pharmacy, also in Yonkers, which he purchased about 2 years ago. Both Felicity and Getty Square serve patients who rely mostly on Medicare and Medicaid. Health Rx patients include members of multiple payer plans.
Patel says his road to pharmacy ownership was sort of inevitable. "I've always wanted to help people, and I've always had an interest in health care."
Which is why instances of patients having to leave the pharmacy without their medications was especially heartbreaking. "This was happening multiple times per day, to maybe 20 percent of our patients, and the logical result was an increase in non-adherence."
As a trained pharmacist, Patel has the knowledge to offer alternatives to high cost medications, or when prescribed medications are not on a patient's formulary. But even with that knowledge, a pharmacist still had to go through the arduous process of typing in the prescription, going through the payer's billing process, determining a viable alternative, calling the doctor's office to make the switch, and then running each claim through the system.
"It was a terribly inefficient system," Patel says, and that inefficiency was exacerbated for technicians, who may not have the same knowledge of medication alternatives as a pharmacist.
As a technology enthusiast, Patel says he pays attention to new solutions as they are developed for potential use in pharmacy settings. He uses the PrimeRx™ pharmacy management system as the core operating system in his three pharmacies, and he is quick to praise the system's "continual upgrades," which he says really capture the needs of today's pharmacies. Among PrimeRx™ capabilities, are direct interfaces with several leading third-party technology providers.
Patel had become aware of the Surescripts Real-Time Prescription Benefit solution and was thrilled when PrimeRx™ also recognized its potential. In fact, Patel's Felicity Pharmacy signed on to pilot the PrimeRx™ integration with Real-Time Prescription Benefit, making Patel one of the earliest users. Patel received training from the PrimeRx™ team, and subsequently trained employees at his three pharmacies. The training process was quite simple, requiring just 15-20 minutes.
"We saw an immediate benefit," Patel says. "With the push of a single button, our staff now has immediate access to each patient's benefit information. Information that used to require multiple steps and several minutes to gather now just appears right away.
"Our Bronx location processes 450-500 prescriptions each day, so every second we can save is critical. And in that respect, Real-Time prescription Benefit has truly been a gift to our team," Patel added.
And for customers? There have been two main benefits: Time and Adherence.
Patients can now have confidence that when they arrive at the pharmacy, they will leave with an affordable, appropriate medication. There is no longer fear that a trip to the pharmacy will be a waste of time, or that the start of their medication therapy might be delayed.
This in turn has increased medication adherence. "Real-Time Prescription Benefit ensures patients have ready access to their medications. And since affordability is a key reason for non-adherence, that obstacle has been removed," Patel notes.
In fact, Patel proudly notes, adherence rates among his pharmacy's patients is almost 90 percent now, whereas it used to hover in the 60-70 percent range. He is quick to cite the multiple technology tools he now has access to through PrimeRx™, including Surescripts Real-Time Prescription Benefit.
Real-Time Prescription Benefit allows Patel and his staff to better serve patients while improving efficiency across all three pharmacy locations.
As someone who got into the pharmacy business to help people, Patel is grateful for the extra time this efficiency allows – time that can be spent helping patients in other ways. Among other things, Patel says he'd like to pursue additional vaccination opportunities for his pharmacies, along with additional educational initiatives.
Patel takes his role as a community pharmacist seriously, and with Real-Time Prescription Benefit, believes he has a valuable tool in his arsenal.