Analysis by ExpressScripts found patient/pharmacist consultations in a “traditional” pharmacy tend to last an average of about two minutes. But in a specialty pharmacy, clinical consultations average 15 to 18 minutes for patients with serious diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis C and cancer.
That’s a significant chunk of time, even for a specialty pharmacy, which is typically staffed by knowledgeable professionals who are trained on the intricacies of the complex medications they dispense, and the diseases and chronic conditions their patients confront. Demands on specialty pharmacy staff are only going to worsen though, as the number of specialty drugs brought to market continues to increase, opening new doors and bringing new hope for treatment of serious diseases and chronic ailments.
To put the growth of specialty drugs in perspective, CoverMyMeds notes that during the mid-1990’s, the market consisted of about 30 approved medications. Flash forward to 2019, and the market now includes more than 400 drugs – an increase of more than 1,200 percent.
As specialty pharmacy staff members continue to serve on the front lines in educating and counseling patients who have been prescribed these important medications, something has got to give on the backend.
In a recent article published in SpecialtyPharmacy Times, clinical pharmacist Jacqueline Hanna wrote about the significant role technology has in specialty pharmacy management, and in improving patient outcomes. “Internally, the use of technology can help to streamline workflow and eliminate monotonous tasks, giving us more time to spend with patients,” Hanna wrote. “Externally, technology can boost our ability to reach patients and providers through multiple platforms and beyond the traditional means of manual phone calls. Behind the scenes, capturing and sorting through mountains of data and tracking trends can help us to evolve into better business models and deliver unique services to patients.”
Providing this type of process efficiency and patient experience management is precisely the objective of the many pharmacy technology solutions currently available. While no two systems are exactly alike, most share an underlying objective of automating and integrating systems. This allows the pharmacy to become more efficient and manageable, which in turn allows pharmacy staff more time to spend on critically important matters including patient consultations.
A new white paper from Micro Merchant Systems, “The Role of Technology in Specialty Pharmacy Efficiency,” delves into the specific ways in which technology is helping today’s specialty pharmacies become more streamlined and integrated. From ensuring “front end” capabilities including seamless patient record management, insurance verification and adjudication records, to facilitating seamless transfer of patient records among care teams, technology has kept pace with the needs of the evolving specialty pharmacy industry.
However, as the paper points out, not all technology solutions have the same functionality, and not all prioritize user-friendliness. Which means it’s necessary for a pharmacy manager to spend time analyzing a potential technology solution before making any commitments. Take the time to actually use the system, ask questions, and make sure the system has the functionality that will meet the pharmacy’s precise needs.
As specialty medications become increasingly important to patient wellbeing, the pharmacies that provide these critical medications will need to find new levels of efficiency, and new ways to manage patient experiences. Technology will be the logical way forward.