Ketan Mehta, of Micro Merchant Systems in Syosset, N.Y., has a clear message for independent pharmacy owners: Pharmacists need to practice spending less time behind the computer filling scripts and more time on patient adherence and outcomes. Here, he shares how he works with his customers to get the most out of the PrimeRx system to support this shift in pharmacy practice.
ComputerTalk: Pharmacists feel the pressures of a changing business. But you feel they should embrace new practice models. How can they do this?
Ketan Mehta: Up until a few years ago, the prevalent pharmacy business model was, more or less, “fill and bill,” with some patient engagement. Now, with more focus on outcomes, pharmacists need to change their mindsets and incorporate creative thinking around how to effectuate desired outcomes for patient health. This entails embracing a pharmacy system that automates routine tasks as much as possible so that the pharmacist can concentrate on engaging with patients. For instance, managing refills is a big part of any pharmacy. Why not utilize technology to automate the entire refill process — from monitoring due refills, to getting authorization from patients, to refilling authorized prescriptions automatically. The idea is not to shy away from technology, but to take advantage of its expansive functions that will increase efficiency and give you more time to devote to running your business and creating revenue.
CT: What sort of time does a more streamlined workflow free up?
Mehta: We’re talking about saving between one to two hours a day that pharmacists can use and put into managing their business. They could spend more time reviewing inventory reports on products that are selling and move them to a more prominent part of the store. They might want to spend the extra time reviewing their most profitable patients, not just the ones with the most scripts, or set up a med sync program for the patients where it makes the biggest difference. Focus on reconciliation. Spend time on important decisions that will enhance the operations of your pharmacy.
CT: This is where you are coming from with “go beyond dispensing?”
Mehta: Pharmacists need to adjust their mindsets and look beyond just dispensing. Look to what your pharmacy system can do and combine its features together, from intake to dispensing, all throughout the process. Manage your pharmacy as a business, and you’ll find the money. When you invest in technology, you are adding the capacity to optimize your workflow by doing more with less, which will pay huge dividends in the long run. Pharmacists play an important role in the equation for success by bringing their own creativity in and determining how to spend their valuable time and focus.
CT: Do you have an example of a pharmacist who’s done this?
Mehta: I have plenty of examples. We have a pharmacy that had a straightforward goal — to improve its star ratings and reduce its DIR [direct and indirect remuneration] fees. We worked with the pharmacist to review high-risk patients, set up attainable goals, implement med sync, and apply an appointment-based model (ABM). This allowed the pharmacy to counsel patients in a more comprehensive manner, leading to better outcomes for the patients. We also walked them through various methods of documenting interventions that demonstrate how their actions are helping the patient move toward his or her set goal. We helped the pharmacy automate the refill process and customized workflow for them, enabling more communication and touch points with the patients through automated text messages for dose alerts, refill reminders, ready-for-pickup messages, appointment confirmations — the whole nine yards. This increased patient loyalty allowed the owner to better manage inventory and streamline workflow. Eventually, the pharmacy started seeing an improvement in business, better compliance, and reduced penalties through DIR fees and audits.
CT: Your message is one of being proactive and innovative.
Mehta: In my opinion, this is the time to invest in the right technology for your business. I always tell customers, instead of focusing on cost, invest in technology and automation. The resulting time saved, accuracy, and efficiency of operations will outweigh the money invested — it is as simple as that.
The entire healthcare industry is in a flux, which can be daunting, as you have to constantly change the way you work and operate. But this disruption can also have an upside if you are willing to embrace the change and innovate to stay ahead of the curve. We need to look ahead, beyond dispensing. CT