Jana Bennett, R.Ph., and her husband, Randy, have been owners of The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in Sherman, Texas, for about 18 years now. The pharmacy, located in a suburban area, fills around 90,000 prescriptions a year, and the Bennetts pride themselves on old-fashioned customer service.
What’s not old-fashioned about The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy is the technology the Bennetts have invested in. They’ve had two RxSafe 1800 towers for bulk medication storage and retrieval for about 10 years now. They added RapidPakRx adherence packaging automation in September 2020.
“There are pharmacy owners out there who think that because they are small they can’t afford technology like this,” says Jana Bennett. “But when you start looking at what it costs to have a person do the same work, it really makes a lot of sense.”
The Case for Investing in Pharmacy Technology
For example, the Bennetts decided to invest in the RxSafe 1800 after a period of growth. “We were considering hiring another technician and decided to look at technology,” says Bennett. “We realized that two RxSafe 1800s were actually less expensive per month than a technician would be and allowed our staff to keep up with our prescription-filling volume.”
More recently, Bennett found that The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy had reached an inflection point in its manual multidose blister card filing process, too. “We had about 75 patients on that,” says Jana Bennett. “But the cards were bulky. They also took a lot of labor for a technician to fill them and for the pharmacist to check them. So 75 patients was pretty much our maximum volume. We couldn’t continue to grow beyond that.” Once again, Bennett turned to technology for a solution. “We started looking at packaging technology,” she says, “and of course I looked at RxSafe first because I’d been so happy with our two RxSafe 1800s.”
Bennett was impressed by the RapidPakRx technology, which not only dispenses medications into strip packaging but has built-in image verification as well. Perhaps more importantly, in her opinion, she was also impressed by the support and advice RxSafe provided to help her understand the positive impact adherence packaging automation would have on the pharmacy’s operations and financials.
For example, Bennett learned that The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy could pay for the automation by adding 30 new packaging patients. “It turned out that getting patients who are totally new to our pharmacy is harder than we thought, though,” Bennett says. “But we found a ready solution to this problem with the support of RxSafe and a business transformation group they got us involved in.” It turned out that the Bennetts could simply use the cell phone numbers that The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy already had to market the packaging to existing patients using text messaging.
Getting existing patients using adherence packaging makes them more adherent, and that means more fills over the course of the year. In the end, Bennett reports seeing the expected return on investment.
Transforming Your Pharmacy Business
This is an excellent result, and one that depends not just on choosing the right technology, according to Bennett, but on developing a strong pharmacy-vendor partnership as well. “We’ve found that RxSafe’s interest in our pharmacy does not end with the sales contract and installation,” says Bennett. “We are really pleased that we’ve been able to get involved in one of RxSafe’s business transformation groups, which brings us together with other pharmacies using their technology. We got real-world advice from this group on launching our texting campaign to market the new strip packaging option to our existing patients. We put this advice into action and in five weeks we gained a hundred patients for the packaging.”
The business transformation group meets once a week online, according to Bennett. After chalking up a win with the texting campaign, Bennett says that she’s started focusing on other topics such as payroll and labor cost per prescription. “The group facilitator said, ‘Here’s your target for labor cost per rx. Where are you?’” she explains. “And we realized we have no idea what that number is for us. Now we’re taking a deep dive into that. Then the next thing we’re working on is increasing our supplement business, because that increases the health of our patients and it improves the pharmacy’s bottom line.”
Bennett appreciates that the topics she can work through with this group don’t just have to be related to packaging or other technology that RxSafe offers. “The awesome thing about RxSafe,” she says, “is that they want to grow our whole business. They understand that the stronger a pharmacy’s business, the better their products are going to perform in the business. It’s even been a lot of fun.”
A Positive Outlook for Adherence Packaging
While RapidPakRx is still new at The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, Bennett expects that it will have a continuing positive impact in a couple of ways. First, she sees it improving patient retention. “We believe that our patients who choose adherence packaging won’t ever want to go back to vials,” she says. “Even though a lot of them are already on our medication synchronization program, the packaging takes it to another level. Nothing falls through the cracks. They can just come in once a month, pick up their box, and go. I’m so excited to grow this service because people are so happy with it.”
Next, it creates time for Bennett and her staff to have more in-depth conversations with patients. “We’ve talked with patients, even ones who have been on med sync for years,” says Bennett, “and we’ve found out that they’ve been taking a drug at the wrong time of day all these years. That’s because we’re sitting down with them and helping work out how they’ll use the packaging to organize their meds. We’ve found that they feel special, because we’re taking the time to actually talk with them about their day and how they are taking their prescriptions.”
This higher level of engagement is ongoing, notes Bennett. When patients come in every month to pick up the box of adherence packaged prescriptions, staff members are able to ask questions such as: Have you had your shingles vaccine? Have you had your COVID-19 vaccine? Is it time for your flu shot? “We can layer on more services and really start taking care of our patients,” says Bennett. “So getting RapidPakRx really allows us to expand our services and to elevate how people see us beyond someone who counts pills and gives them a prescription vial”
Real-world Automation ROI
Bennett is generous enough to share some real numbers about the impact RapidPakRx is having on prescription fills and pharmacy finances. “When we started with RapidPakRx,” she says, “our average total profit on the 75 patients using the old adherence packaging was about $8,000 per month. We have now grown to 185 patients receiving the strip packaging boxes and $17,000 in profit. These patients are getting 12 fills on average per year, versus other patients who average seven. The average profit per patient not on adherence packaging is about $52 per month. For those using adherence packaging it’s about $99 a month. So it’s almost double the profit per patient for a package patient, and we’re seeing room to grow.” CT