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An interview with DataScan’s Kevin Minassian

In this interview with ComputerTalk’s Maggie Lockwood, DataScan President Kevin Minassian shares his thoughts on what he sees as pharmacy’s survival and areas for growth.

CT: You see CMS Star Ratings as an opportunity for the independent owner. Tell us why.

Minassian: The Part D star ratings program was started back in 2007, but only recently has CMS aggregated the data, and is now putting the results into effect. If an insurance provider is not meeting and maintaining at least three out of five stars, they will no longer be able to service Medicare patients. These ratings, based on a number of different metrics, really trickle down to the providers within the plans—the doctors and the pharmacists. It’s a sign of things to come, and I think it’s a sign of positive changes within our industry. Now if we could just get rid of mail order! Pharmacists want to be part of a patients overall health picture, and finally CMS has recognized the role pharmacists play. If we utilize pharmacists’ knowledge and training, and make them part of the overall solution, they could be the answer to assisting in lowering overall cost of patient care.

CT: So independent pharmacies can survive and stay profitable with everything going on with PBMs? How do they compete with the changes?

Minassian: We all know what the real problem is in our industry—the enemy—the PBMs. The threat of the chains themselves does not compare to what the PBMs are doing. To say everyone is going to throw in the towel and give up is just insane. I have owned other companies, my friends and other family members own businesses in different industries, and every last one of them can give you a laundry list of hardships that threaten their livelihood and businesses. We are fortunate, in that we are in healthcare, so the hardships we experience in our industry are worth fighting. In the ‘80s you could make a good living filling prescriptions. Today, you have to build a great front end, educate your customers on the competitive pricing you offer, implement rewards programs, and use technology to do more without requiring more staff. Implement automatic refills, build adherence and reminders through automation in your pharmacy management system, offer mobile and web-based solutions, stay on top of maintenance medications through automation to make sure patients do not go without their meds—and if the software you currently use is not offering the latest technology and automation, its time to reinvest in that area of your business. Surgical supplies, not just from a sales perspective, but possibly offering rentals is unique to independents. You should explore compounding — something the chains don’t do. I know many of you went to pharmacy school with patient care in mind, but you also own a business. So looking at all areas of that business is imperative to its ultimate success. Owning a software company in this industry has major challenges, trying to keep up with the changes and demands from all angles, but it keeps us on our toes. I don’t want my children to grow up only knowing big box stores because the mom and pops threw the towel in. That’s not what this country was built on. Look at history in general, and how many problems have been overcome with a good fight, and realize that together, we can do this.

CT: How does automating adherence programs allow pharmacy to capitalize on the programs?

Minassian: The question is how do pharmacists build medication adherence programs, without creating an additional workload? With technology—seriously. If building adherence means patients are getting their refills on time, how about communicating automatically with your patients to let them know refills are due, or are ready to be picked up — or, still have not been picked up and that restock date is closing in. These communications should not require an employee to press buttons or run reports, they should happen automatically. These are just some of the features we made sure to build into our Winpharm software. Datascan has built in a utility that identifies patients with maintenance medications on their profiles, which have run out of refills and have no other current prescriptions for this therapy, and can automatically reach out to doctors for new prescriptions. We made sure to build our own proprietary med sync that can be customized over time to meet your needs right into our software. Our adherence dashboard will allow you to quickly identify problem patients, set up auto reminders so the system itself can help you build adherence especially in those problematic patients. We continue to build upon these platforms and innovate with the changes in the industry with a goal of doing less with reports, and creating a piece of software that works like an extra employee.

CT: How does improved patient tracking in the pharmacy system help pharmacy owners?

Minassian: As I have mentioned, pharmacists will be required to assist in patient adherence, and there is a great need to identify problem areas and opportunities. Whether it’s an MTM opportunity popping up right in our software, or a warning that Mrs. Jones, a diabetic patient, is constantly hitting 100% utilization before her refill request, the software needs to do this work for you. The software should have detailed algorithms built in, and easy-to-use features, along with a lot of fully automated processes to assist you in working with and communicating important messages to your patients. The technology today needs to work for you like an employee tasked with a project.

CT: You say you like to debate the topic “is the end of the independent pharmacy near.” Tell us why.

Minassian: The end is only near if independents give up the fight and sell out to the chains. Here’s the bad news; most independent pharmacists are used to working for themselves. Chances of enjoying the chain environment as a staff pharmacist is pretty slim. In the 80s we use to look at doctors and say “wow these guys make the big money.” Today, unless you’re a surgeon or in certain specialty areas, doctors are miserable with all the hours they put in and the dwindling reimbursements. The question is, how do we tackle these changes? Like any good business owner, we have to reinvent ourselves and look for other profit centers within our business or industry. The front end today is as important, if not more important that the prescription business. Set yourself apart from the chains — offer delivery, compounding, and other unique products within your store for the demographic surrounding you, not just the everyday Tylenol and soap. Don’t just use the technology offered by your software vendor to fill prescriptions — dig into it! At Datascan, we offer our clients optimization training where we walk them through the features and automation they should be putting to use. It’s a shame to see that the large majority of pharmacists are not putting the technology to work for them, and only using the basic features of the Winpharm software. We are working hard to change that. You should offer your patients mobile and Web refill conveniences, get them signed up for automatic refills and get those maintenance medication patients synchronized. Make sure the software is helping you monitor progress, identify opportunities, and giving you a detailed look into your business. And last but not least, any process that takes up a lot of your time— tell your software vendor! Its our job to build better products every day to aid in your success. CT