Twenty minutes. That’s how long it used to take staff members in Priyank Patel’s New York City-area pharmacies to address instances in which a patient’s medication was either not covered by a plan’s benefit, or was prohibitively expensive. Now that his pharmacies are operating the real-time prescription benefit from Surescripts, processing time has been cut to just five minutes.
“Twenty minutes is an eternity in our business, where literally every second counts,” says Patel, who owns three pharmacies. “The real-time prescription benefit solution has essentially solved this problem for us, while at the same time providing a much better experience for patients.”
Patel’s trio of pharmacies includes the Bronx’s Felicity Pharmacy, which he bought four years ago; Getty Square Pharmacy in Yonkers, which he opened from scratch about one year ago; and HealthRx Pharmacy, also in Yonkers, which he purchased about two years ago. Both Felicity and Getty Square serve patients who rely mostly on Medicare and Medicaid. HealthRx patients include members of multiple payer plans.
Patel says his road to pharmacy ownership was sort of inevitable. “I’ve always wanted to help people, and I’ve always had an interest in health care,” he says.
Which is why instances of patients having to leave the pharmacy without their medications was especially heartbreaking. “This was happening multiple times per day, to maybe 20% of our patients, and the logical result was an increase in nonadherence,” Patel says.
Patel has the knowledge to offer alternatives to high-cost medications, or when prescribed medications are not on a patient’s formulary. But even with that knowledge, his pharmacists still had to go through the arduous process of typing in the prescription, going through the payer’s billing process, determining a viable alternative, calling the doctor’s office to make the switch, and then running the claim through the system again
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“It was a terribly inefficient system,” Patel says, and that inefficiency was exacerbated for technicians, who may not have the same knowledge of medication alternatives as a pharmacist.
As a technology enthusiast, Patel says he pays attention to new solutions as they are developed for potential use. He uses the PrimeRx pharmacy management system from Micro Merchant Systems as the core operating system in his three pharmacies, and he is quick to praise the system’s continual upgrades, which he says really capture the needs of today’s pharmacies. Among the software’s capabilities are direct interfaces with several leading technology vendors. Patel had become aware of the interface with Surescripts and was thrilled when Micro Merchant also recognized its potential. In fact, Patel’s Felicity Pharmacy signed on to pilot the integration, making Patel one of the earliest users.
“With the push of a single button, our staff now has immediate access to each patient’s benefit information. Information that used to require multiple steps,” says Patel. “Our Bronx location processes 450 to 500 prescriptions each day and in that respect, a real-time prescription benefit has truly been a gift to our team.”
And for customers there have been two main benefits: Time and adherence.
They can now have confidence that when they arrive at the pharmacy, they will leave with an affordable, appropriate medication. There is no longer fear that a trip to the pharmacy will be a waste of time, or that the start of their medication therapy might be delayed.
This in turn has increased medication adherence. “Since affordability is a key reason for nonadherence, that obstacle has been removed,” Patel notes. In fact, he notes that adherence rate among his pharmacy’s patients has increased from between 60% to 70% to is almost 90%.
Patel is grateful for the extra time this efficiency allows — time that can be spent
helping patients in other ways. Among other things, Patel says he’d like to pursue additional vaccination opportunities for his pharmacies, along with additional educational initiatives. CT