Avoiding 3 common med sync stumbling blocks
Overcoming major hurdles when implementing med sync
- To fully benefit from a med sync program, a pharmacy must start with a solid foundation.
- Make a pharmacy technician the “champion” for med sync.
- Start med sync with those patients on approximately three maintenance medications, and tackle more complicated cases later.
- Fill prescriptions based on when the customers will receive the medications, not when you receive the prescriptions.
According to various reports, as many as 10,000 independent pharmacies and 20,000 chain pharmacy locations were offering some form of medication synchronization to patients in 2015.1, 2 Many independents, however, have only a few dozen patients enrolled, far fewer than needed for a pharmacy to begin realizing the benefits of improved workflow that med sync provides.
“Almost everyone starts to feel the benefit when you’ve got 100 patients on med sync,” said Crystal Lennartz, Health Mart® director of clinical development. This insight comes from her hands-on work with the Health Mart clinical implementation team. The team of pharmacists has spent time in approximately 100 independent pharmacies to learn from successful med sync programs and help other independents get their programs up and running.
First, the pharmacy owner and staff need to understand the big picture. “Med sync is a fundamental change in how a pharmacy operates,” Lennartz noted. Instead of reacting when a customer calls or brings in a prescription, the staff must be proactive in communicating with patients and ultimately moving to an appointment-based, patient-centric model of care.
Even with a staff that has embraced med sync, starting slowly is important.
“Don’t try to enroll 50 patients in your first three days, five patients per day is a reasonable target,” Lennartz said. “It takes time to get the program going so you’re not going to feel the benefits until you get two to three months in.” In addition to the pharmacy dealing with short fills, patients are going through a fundamental change as well, learning to trust that the pharmacy will be on top of their refills, so they don’t have to call the pharmacy to check on prescriptions.
Lennartz identified three keys to success in implementing med sync:
- Identifying the right program “owner.” Of course you want your entire staff to support med sync, but the program needs a leader. Keep your pharmacist free to spend time with patients by making a technician the champion. One or two technicians should know the program inside and out, and work on it every day, taking calls and syncing patients’ medications. Choose a technician who can engage patients and is technologically savvy.
- Starting with the right patients. Your first 10 patients should be “easy” patients and ones you know well. That means they aren’t on too many medications and will be patient as the staff works through setting the anchor date and arranging the necessary short fills.“Med sync is not for every patient,” according to Lennartz. And while a patient on 15 medications may benefit greatly from med sync eventually, “Never start with that patient.” Start enrollment with patients who are on three to five medications, she said, “so everyone becomes comfortable with the short-fill process.”Also, starting with diabetic patients on Medicare can directly affect a pharmacy’s results on three key pharmacy quality measures:
- Adherence with diabetes medication, measured by proportion of days covered (PDC)
- Whether they are on a statin medication
- PDC for statin cholesterol medications
Next, streamline deliveries. “Get all of your delivery patients on med sync,” Lennartz said. “There is no reason to send your driver to a home multiple times each month.” With med sync you also can deliver to places such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities less times per month.
Look also at syncing patients who are on expensive medications, so you can better control the pharmacy inventory. With med sync, Lennartz noted, “You’re not keeping that $4,000 drug on your shelf or in your refrigerator because you order it only when you know you need it.”
- Managing the workflow. If you aren’t balancing your workflow to accommodate for a med sync program, you may not achieve the full benefits of increased efficiency. Med sync allows for greater flexibility — since med sync prescriptions are filled well before the patient arrives, you can call a patient seven days out and fill for the patient five days before the refill is due, for example. A “promise-time workflow” for your non-sync and acute refills is essential to efficiency, filling prescriptions based on when they were promised to the customer, rather than on a first-in, first-out basis.Each staff member should have assigned duties but also fill in when necessary. If there’s a backlog in data entry, for example, the tech from the filling station should move over to help with data entry. “When you have a team that is cross-trained, you can move people where needed at peak times,” Lennartz said.
Once the program is running smoothly, your staff can work on expanding it. After successfully implementing med sync in his stores, Bob Lomenick, owner of Tyson Drug Co., reminds other owners that “10% of your patients can drive 75% of your workload. So, the more that you chip away at that 10%, the greater the benefit.”
With the right foundation, a pharmacy can quickly reach 100 patients on med sync and see the benefits of increased efficiency, as well as improvements in refill rates and pharmacy quality measures.
Visit the Medication Synchronization Education Center, sponsored by Health Mart, for more ideas to get started, gain patients and ramp up your results!