The message was clear during the QS/1 panel at the PDS Super Conference featuring customers Jason Turner and John Pugh: Scaling up programs that support a patient-centric pharmacy practice is not only doable, it’s the best way to guarantee that independent pharmacy will succeed in the future.

John Pugh, Pharm.D., owner of Prosperity Drug, Prosperity, S.C.

“It’s something we all have to get onboard with,” John Pugh, owner of Prosperity Drug in Prosperity, S.C., said during the panel discussion (you watch it here). “Independents have the capability to offer med sync and adherence programs, and we have to do it the best. We can be ahead of the curve and be the experts.”

Pugh and Turner were sharing their experiences in ramping up med sync and collaborative-care practices during the panel “Level Up: Essential Game Plans for a Success Pharmacy” at the PDS conference. The two owners were joined by QS/1’s Ed Vess, director of pharmacy professional affairs, who gave an overview of the Community Pharmacy Foundation’s Flip the Pharmacy (FtP), a six-step program to move from dispensing-focused pharmacy practice to appointment-based, patient-focused pharmacy. Maggie Lockwood, director of production at ComputerTalk, served as moderator.

Listen to a panel wrap up at QS/1’s podcast QCompass

While the discussion began with an overview of how both Pugh and Turner got started with med sync, it then went into specific examples and tips on how to go from dipping your toe in the water, to ramping up a program that defines the pharmacy.

Jason Turner, owner of Moundsville Pharmacy, Moundsville, W.V.

Turner, owner of Moundsville Pharmacy in Moundsville, W.V., who started his med sync program in 2013, emphasized the importance of training staff to handle difficult patients, because it’s those patients who most need an adherence program. “Eighty percent to 90% of your patients are going to be successful,” he points out, “and when you see those 10% to 20% who aren’t successful, it’s time to ask questions, not to drop them out of the program. Med sync is a customer service program as much as an adherence program. He adds: “This is about engaging with your patients.”

Pugh agrees, highlighting the importance of communication. “When you talk with your patients, you can come up with a solution,” he says.

For Pugh, communication developed into a collaborative care relationship with doctors and the local hospital. As he moved his pharmacy to adherence packaging, the staff would call for a med list from doctors. This piece of information became a valuable tool in managing patient care, and area providers have come to rely on the pharmacy’s expertise in medication management. It’s led to referrals and growth in the patient med sync program enrollment.

Attendees were interested to know if Turner and Pugh used software to manage the sync program. While they both said they use their pharmacy systems to document patient engagement and adherence packaging software, they both feel a paper-and-pencil process is best. “It allows staff to think through what’s best for the patient,” says Turner. Pugh has also used Medicine-On-Time and QS/1’s Health-Minder to manage the adherence program.

Of course, the key is the value in doing this, since pharmacy has to be paid for this important work. Both pharmacists have seen operational efficiencies with the med sync and adherence packaging programs. In his busiest store, Turner says he’s recovered all the DIR (direct and indirect remuneration) fees and received a bonus in two out of four pharmacies — the largest being most important because of dollars. Pugh has seen more volume as doctors refer more patients to the pharmacy, as well as increased scores in his networks.

Pugh points out that programs like CPESN (Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network) and Flip the Pharmacy are paving the way for reimbursement for pharmacy-based services. And both feel their stories are examples that it’s essential for pharmacy to have these programs in place and ready so that when payment programs are in place, pharmacy is ready to go.

“Counseling and documentation will turn into real dollars, and we will already be doing this when it does happen,” says Turner. “We’ll just have to figure out how to get a check into your account.”

Ed Vess, R.Ph., Director of Pharmacy Professional Affairs for RedSail Technologies
Ed Vess, R.Ph., Director of Pharmacy Professional Affairs for RedSail Technologies

This is where Flip the Pharmacy dovetails with what Pugh and Turner were illustrating with their pharmacy experience. Scalability is key to putting independent pharmacy at the forefront of patient-focused practice. Vess gave an overview of the program, which has grants to fund coaches who can guide pharmacy owners through the process of moving to an appointment-based model in their pharmacy. From there, they train staff for new roles in the workflow, use technology like adherence packaging and eCare plans to document patient interactions, develop relationships with care providers, and finally, express value for this work.

Vess says that pharmacy owners can download the program to implement on their own, and look to peers like Turner and Pugh for advice and tips. NCPA (National Community Pharmacists Association) and QS/1 will both offer Flip the Pharmacy boot camps. “Independent pharmacies are all about patient care,” says Vess. “FLIP the Pharmacy lets independents do that, and do it well.”

Learn more about Flip the Pharmacy. Have questions or experiences with patient-centric pharmacy practices? Share them in the comments box below.