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How Independent Pharmacies Can Help Patients Save Money


October 25, 2018


Inside: Connecting patients with money-saving tools and strategies helps their health and your business. Learn how to get your patients the best deal on their medication.

Many of your patients are struggling to keep up with soaring drug costs. Especially those who need medication the most.

Forty-three percent of patients in fair or poor health find it difficult to afford their medications, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. Thirty-seven percent have skipped filling a prescription entirely because of cost.

Although you run a business to make money, you’re in pharmacy to improve patients’ lives.

When you save patients money at the pharmacy, they’re less likely to have to make tough choices between their medications and other necessities like food and rent.

Making medication affordable can also increase medication adherence, which leads to better health outcomes. It may also help reduce a patient’s stress levels, which is good for overall health.

And you don’t have to lose to help patients save—in fact, helping patients save money actually helps your pharmacy business.

How Helping Patients Save Money Helps Your Pharmacy Business
Increases loyalty

While a variety of factors influence purchasing decisions, price is still the most important factor for consumers, according to a 2014 study. So, when you help patients get the lowest price on their prescriptions, they’ll want to stick with you.

Builds trust

When you sacrifice profit for patients or go out of your way for individual patients, they notice.

Personal attention sets independent community pharmacies apart from national chain and big box stores. Just as you remember names and personal details about your regular patients, going out of your way to make lives easier shows patients their well-being is your priority.

Boosts script count

Affordability is a major cause of prescription abandonment. A 2017 health poll found that 67 percent of patients who failed to fill their prescriptions in the last 90 days reported high costs as their reason. By making meds affordable, you increase the likelihood that patients will pick up their prescriptions.

In addition to selling more scripts, you’ll also waste less time and effort returning abandoned prescriptions to stock and avoid inventory control headaches.

Attracts new patients

Saving patients money will earn you more patients. A 2018 national survey revealed some startling statistics about the influence of cost on patients’ choice of pharmacy.

According to the survey, 73 percent of consumers would change pharmacies if they knew it would save them money on a prescription. Just $10 in savings would motivate 38 percent to switch pharmacies, and  $11 to $25 in savings would motivate nearly 70 percent of them to switch.

How to Help Your Patients Save Money on Medication

The numbers don’t lie: In the last five years alone, prices of most commonly prescribed brand-name drugs for seniors have risen nearly 10 times more than the annual rate of inflation. And the average price of the 50 most popular generic drugs increased 373 percent between 2010 and 2014.

With prices at an all-time high, independent pharmacies are in an excellent position to save their patients money. You already make a habit of being in tune with your patients’ needs. And you’re in the best position to bridge the gap between healthcare consumers and the complicated world of pharmaceuticals.

Ways to help patients save include:

 

Generic drugs

Swapping a brand-name for a generic is your best bet for reducing patient spending.

Time magazine reported that patients on employer plans could have spent as much as 80 percent less in co-pays in 2015 by switching from to a generic. The average copay for a generic drug is $6.06, while average copay of a brand drug is more than $40.

And researchers have found that patients who were prescribed higher-priced brand drugs were two-to-three times more likely to abandon their prescriptions than those prescribed a generic.

Let patients know when generic options are available, and make sure you keep an appropriate stock of generic drugs. If you run out of the generic and only have a higher-priced brand name medicine to offer, most patients will opt to fill their prescription somewhere else–and they may not come back to your business with their next prescription.

Manufacturer discounts

Most drug manufacturers provide discounts on certain drugs for patients. But most patients have no idea these discounts exist.

Inform patients about manufacturer discounts and rebates, especially for medications that don’t have a generic on the market.

If your drug reps bring coupons when they stop by for sales visits, hang on to those. Familiarize yourself and your staff with what you have on hand.

Also make sure to visit the manufacturer websites where many discounts and assistance forms are located. Make the process easy for your patients by taking the time to find and apply discount or print the rebate for them. Your patients will appreciate the extra effort and the extra savings.

Assistance programs

Brush up on federal or state assistance programs that may help low-income or disabled people cover costs. For example, the Patient Access Network Foundation (PAN) helps insured people at specific income levels who can’t afford their prescriptions. Patients can apply online for a PAN monetary grant.

 Other resources include:

 

These services are run by nonprofits and are all free. Some patients will need your help filling out paperwork. Highlight your pharmacy’s superior customer service by lending a hand.

Manufacturer assistance programs like Shire Cares or Astra Zeneca’s AZ&Me can also help those who qualify fill their prescriptions at no out-of-pocket cost. These programs are typically restricted to certain drugs, and eligibility is tied to income and household size. These programs can be either in place of or in addition to the promotional discount programs that are open to everyone.

Additionally, some online discount programs like Blink Health make it easier for patients to secure discounts for a wide variety of generics.

Payment plans

Payment plans are commonly used in other healthcare fields when consumers struggle to pay. But that solution isn’t well-known in pharmacy.

Many patients assume prescription costs are all-or-nothing. That’s especially bad news for time-sensitive treatments needed on Tuesday when payday isn’t until Friday.

A payment plan can bridge that gap. It provides a way for patients to take their medications on time and gives your pharmacy a chance to make money you’d be leaving on the table if you let a patient walk out without their prescription.

Payment plans do pose a risk to your business. Here are some important things to consider:

 

Even with these safeguards, there’s a chance you could lose money if patients are unable to meet their payments.

Make sure the potential loss is an amount your business could withstand. If you have access to a financial professional, ask how much risk is appropriate for your business.

Education

Many patients don’t realize they could find a more affordable drug plan. For example, 60 percent of Medicare beneficiaries find choosing a Medicare Part D plan confusing.

For many patients, their independent pharmacy is the most accessible link to the world of medical insurance. Offer to help patients navigate health insurance plans, including Medicare Part D. Tools like iMedicare and the CMS Plan Finder can help you compare plans quickly.

Patients with Health Savings Accounts also might not understand how to use their account to save money. And they may have questions about which products are HSA eligible.

Understanding HSAs can help you educate patients on how to make smarter decisions to maximize savings through the HSA benefits. Have educational brochures on hand to give out to patients who need help understanding them.

Cash payment

Recent legislation banning so-called gag clauses could be a game-changer when it comes to saving patients money.

Pharmacists are now free to tell patients when paying out-of-pocket costs less than using insurance.

This transparency is a win for patients and a win for pharmacy, since cash goes straight into your account and bypasses third-party reimbursements.

Medication reviews

Medication reviews provide an opportunity for pharmacists to eliminate unnecessary medications, combine medications, or lower dosage, all of which will save the patient money.

The consultation will also allow you to identify patients who could benefit from assistance.

Saving patients money is a win for your patients and your pharmacy business.


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