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Start a new medication synchronization (med sync) program and add hundreds of patients in just a few months

In three months, a pharmacy can set up a med sync program and sign up enough patients to add $90,000 in annual revenue from its current patient base.1

An average patient will refill a maintenance medication prescription only 7.4 out of 12 times. However, when their refill dates are synchronized, that number jumps to 11 out of 12 refills, studies have shown. This improves adherence, patient outcomes and a pharmacy’s bottom line.

Tarrytown Pharmacy in Austin, Texas, embraced med sync in early 2015, and it took off. By October, the pharmacy was synchronizing the medications of about 400 patients and seeing results in increased refill revenue and continually improving Star Ratings measures.

Tarrytown Pharmacy’s prescription volume is in the top 5% of pharmacies in central Texas, owner Mark Newberry said. Although three chain pharmacies or mass merchandise stores are within two miles, in the past decade his pharmacy’s biggest competition has come from mail-order pharmacy. He knows that proving his pharmacy can help keep customers healthier is key to winning business from health plans.

“We are moving to a five-star quality model,” Newberry said, with pharmacies becoming paid based on performance. That’s good news for independent pharmacies, he said. “We can finally show that we do things better than the chains.” By building a network of pharmacies with top pharmacy quality performance, Newberry said, “I think Health Mart is going to improve our reputation and position with health plans.”

Health Mart’s Get In Sync program can help lead member pharmacies through every step of setting up a successful program, also providing members with a comprehensive and practical “Medication Synchronization Playbook.” Find out more in the Medication Synchronization Education Center, sponsored by Health Mart®.

The impact of synchronization

Med sync is the easiest way to make a quick impact on improving patients’ adherence to their medications, and three of the Star Ratings measures pharmacies can directly influence are based on adherence.

“The bonus payments [from health plans] aren’t that big yet,” Newberry said, but already Tarrytown pharmacy has seen a difference in monthly revenue from refills, which increase when med sync helps patients be adherent to their prescription regimes.

0 to 100 patients in 3 months

Setting up a synchronization program and signing up the first 100 patients can be done in 90 days by following this roadmap:

  1. Days 1–30: Prepare the system and staff.
    • Select the technology or paper-based system you will use, purchase the materials, and complete any vendor training. Relying on technology for as much of the process as possible frees time for staff to provide patient counseling, said Newberry, who chose Ateb for his pharmacy’s program.
    • Choose one person to be the program “champion,” but train all staff members. They should understand why you are offering med sync and the benefits to the patients and the pharmacy, know how to complete each step, and be comfortable inviting patients to participate.Changing the mindset of the staff from refills on demand to the proactive approach of med sync requires educating them about the importance of the program to the future of the business and keeping them focused on goals for enrolling new patients.Newberry wants every employee to take a role in making the med sync program a success, but one technician who recognized how important it is has stepped up to be a leader. She is shifting her workday one hour earlier, to 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., so she can focus on med sync first thing in the morning. The workflow impact of filling 200 prescriptions first thing in the morning is like filling 500 later in the day, he said.
    • Identify your first patients to enroll, ideally people on three to five medications, so they aren’t too complicated for the staff to process.
  2. Days 31–60: Go live.
    • Review enrollment goals with the staff. If you aim for enrolling 5 patients a day, reaching that goal will give you 100 patients in the program by the end of the month. Consider holding a contest or offering incentives. Review progress toward your goals weekly, and keep rechecking that your staff understands how to handle issues such as new prescriptions or changes for med sync enrollees.
    • Develop and use marketing materials. In addition to signs, advertisements and bag stuffers, make conversations with patients a priority. With adherence reports from McKesson, Tarrytown is able to target customers who could benefit most from med sync and reach out to them in person or by phone. By far, face-to-face conversations are the most successful in encouraging customers to join the program, with Newberry estimating about 80% sign up when approached in person, compared to about half of the people reached by phone.
  3. Days 61–90: Review and revise.
    • Check progress. If your pharmacy has reached its initial enrollment goal, celebrate that success. But if it hasn’t, determine what the obstacles have been so you can remove them. Consider additional staff training. After Tarrytown Pharmacy enrolled 100 patients in its med sync program, the staff received additional training in how to use the Ateb system more efficiently, and Newberry said that allowed them to make significant gains. Because they hadn’t worked with the system yet, it was difficult to teach them everything before they started.
    • Set your next target enrollment group and expand marketing. Initially Tarrytown asked every patient receiving multiple medications if they wanted to be on the med sync program, but now Newberry is focusing on Medicare Part D beneficiaries, because those are the patients used to compile the Star Ratings.
    • See the impact on patient outcomes after three months. Each month Newberry shares with the staff Tarrytown Pharmacy’s results on the Electronic Quality Improvement Platform for Plans and Pharmacies (EQuIPP™) and adherence measures from Pharmaserv®.“We don’t do anything well; we do it the best,” Newberry said. So he wants Tarrytown Pharmacy not only to reach the 5-star level on quality measures, but to be in the top 20% of pharmacies. Already it is well on its way. Tarrytown was in the top 20% on one measure in July, two in August, and three in September.

Keep enthusiasm high

Newberry wants his staff to sign up 15 to 17 new patients a week, and he set an ambitious goal for the end of September. If they reached 375 enrolled in med sync, they would receive a pizza party. But if they reached 400, he would take them on a golf outing. They finished the month with 397 enrollees, but Newberry said he’ll probably still reward the staff with the golf outing, which the increase in refill revenues will cover.

The following week, however, they signed up only three new patients, so he again stressed the importance of keeping the enrollment growth on pace. “They could sign up 10 a day if they would remember,” Newberry said, and his ultimate goal is 600–800 patients synchronized.

Newberry knows that serving his customers well is key to success in the pharmacy, which his family has owned for three generations. Tarrytown’s customers tend to be doctors, lawyers and other business people, and Newberry tells his staff, “We are serving people who serve other people. When they ask for something, they expect it to be done. In return, they will give you unending loyalty.”

A high level of service is what sets independent pharmacy apart, he noted.

 

1 Holdford DA, Inocencio TJ. “Adherence and persistence associated with an appointment-based medication synchronization program.” J Am Pharm Assoc. 2013;53(6):576-83. Available at: http://japha.org/article.aspx?articleid=1765641. Accessed July 23, 2015.