Feb 16 2022

When Life Gives You Lemons – PrimeRx™ Can Help You Make Lemonade

Last November, the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) released an "economic health report," which assessed the financial standing of the nation's community pharmacies. The results, according to NCPA, reflect an industry "struggling to survive" as pharmacies face challenges ranging from staffing shortages, supply disruptions, small business taxes and inflation. These factors, of course, are in addition to unprecedented increases in direct and indirect renumeration (DIR) fees.

The NCPA's analysis is based on input from almost 320 community pharmacies located across the country. Key findings include:

  • 97 percent are "significantly concerned" by the impact of DIR fees on their business, with 26 percent saying they might have to close their pharmacy if DIR fees are not reformed.
  • 96 percent are "significantly concerned" about the implications of PBM consolidation and vertical integration.
  • 41 percent said that they current overall financial health of their pharmacy is "somewhat poor  or very poor."
    • 88 percent said that pharmacy technicians are in short supply.
    • 68 percent said that staffing shortages have resulted in increased prescription dispensing times.
    • 20 percent have had to reduce pharmacy operating hours due to staff shortages.
  • 60 percent have been impacted by supply chain shortages.
  • 64 percent are "significantly concerned," and 26 percent are "moderately concerned" about the impact of inflation on their business.
  • 76 percent are "significantly concerned," and 16 percent are "moderately concerned" about the threat of Congress increasing  taxes on small businesses.

Clearly, these are challenging times for community pharmacy owners. NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, in releasing the report, noted that pharmacies are struggling despite "having worked heroically throughout the pandemic." At a time when "patients need them more than over," Hoey added, pharmacists are now pushed to the edge by payers and regulators.

Hoey called on federal and state legislators to correct many of the factors adding to pharmacies' economic burdens. "Policymakers in Congress, the Biden administration, and states should keep this is mind. There are important changes they can make to lower drug prices for seniors and protect small businesses, like eliminating pharmacy DIR fees."

In the meantime, technology systems such as PrimeRx™ can help ease some of the burden. PrimeRx™ offers extensive functionality with capabilities that include:

Automated workflows. PrimeRx™ automates several processes, thereby freeing up valuable staff time. For example, PrimeRx™ offers direct integration with he Real-Time Prescription Bebefit solution powered by Surescripts. The solution automatically determines if a prescribed medication is on a patient's formulary, along with the patient's out-of-pocket costs. If warranted, alternative medications are automatically identified, with seamless management of communication between prescribers and payers. These tasks, which took up an inordinate amount of staff members' time, are no accomplished in a matter of seconds.

DIR Fee Management. While PrimeRx™ certainly can't eliminate DIR fees, the system can help a pharmacy manage their impact. PrimeRx™ seamlessly tracks each plan's historical rate of fee assessments and uses that information to estimate future fees. This helps avoid the "sticker shock" many pharmacies experience when the fees are assessed. In addition, PrimeRx™ monitors pharmacy performance in key categories targeted by PBMs.

Improved Adherence/Refill Rates. PrimeRx™ includes a highly automated refill process that addresses the chronic problem of medication non-adherence. The system identifies all outstanding refills, along with patients who have become non-adherent. Pharmacists can automatically contact patients with refill reminders, with repeat messages sent at pre-set frequencies. This automated process results in improved refill rates, improved patient adherence, and increased sales.

Reporting/Visibility. PrimeRx™ allows pharmacy managers to have real-time visibility into all pharmacy operation – everything from employee performance to OTC product sales to accounts payable/receivable. This high degree of insight can be especially helpful for multiple store owners. Pharmacy owners can use the vast amounts of data captured by PrimeRx™ to generate customized reports. PrimeRx™ can create reports on a wide array of topics, based on a pharmacy's manager's specific needs. Reports can be programmed to run at a specific date and time, at a pre-set frequency.

Community pharmacists can certainly be excused for feeling that they are taking economic hits from all sides. Regulators, legislators, and payers all seem to have pharmacists in their sights – at a time when these small businesses continue to feel the effects of inflation and supply chain challenges.

As pharmacists look for relief, PrimeRx™ will do its part by adding efficiency, and freeing up precious staff time.