Occasionally I accept guest posts on topics that I think are relevant to my readers and non-commercial.
This post is an update of an earlier post I wrote on physician dispensing in the office.
In 1241, Pope Frederick II signed a law prohibiting physicians from acting as their own pharmacists, and his legacy is still felt today in medical circles. But Frederick didn’t live in a time with FDA regulations, medical licensing, 80 hour work weeks, and real-time video chat. Today, many medical practices have found that offering the additional convenience of dispensing medications in-office has benefited their practices both fiscally, and in quality of care. Patients appreciate the convenience and prefer this one-stop shop approach.
In-office dispensing is the service of dispensing medications directly to patients out of the doctor’s office or clinic. The practice can fill either a short or long term prescription for patients during the initial appointment, thus eliminating the 25% chance that the patient will not fill the prescription at a local pharmacy. Physician dispensing is gaining popularity in fields such as primary care, dermatology, urgent care, and pain management, and can benefit almost any private practice or clinic.
Here a few of the foremost considerations for physicians to keep in mind when deciding if dispensing is right for them, and in looking for a vendor in the pharmaceutical dispensing industry.
Where to begin?
Practices can get into the in-office dispensing business very inexpensively because they don’t need to outlay a lot of capital to test-run the program. Many practices initially start with a very small medication formulary, comprised of lower cost generic drugs that they prescribe most frequently. As they get more comfortable with the program, and are more confident that it is a fit for their practice, they can develop a more extensive formulary.
What are some of the various pricing models?
Price and cost vary greatly from vendor to vendor. In addition to the price for medications, additional charges may include: a fee to get started, shipping fees, a per bottle dispensing fee, and in some cases vendors may require the practice to buy computer equipment or a monthly fee to run their dispensing software.
While some vendors may suggest it, entering a long-term commitment is unnecessary. Practices should be careful about entering binding contracts that require monthly minimums or that legally obligate them to buy medications for a certain period of time.
Who is repackaging the medications and where are they coming from?
Vendors either repackage the medications themselves or buy unit of use bottles from a third party and then sell them to the practice. Working with a company that is a pharmaceutical repackager eliminates unnecessary middlemen and may provide more flexibility in inventory and custom packaging.
Is the company’s proprietary software up to the industry standards?
The proprietary software of the company you choose should have adequate security to safeguard your patients’ important private data and be HIPAA compliant. A good vendor should be able to integrate with your EMR, and their software should allow the dispensing process to be as efficient as possible, reducing the time spent on dispensing to a maximum of 90 seconds per transaction.
What do I need to know about regulation?
Physician dispensing is regulated by each state so the laws vary. In addition to standard medical licensing and DEA licensing, some states require a dispensing license, a few require an inspection of some kind from the state, and most require the dispensing physician to abide by the same standards as a pharmacist in regards to record keeping, storing, and labeling medications. Before you commit, be sure to ask your vendor, or double check with the appropriate agencies in your state that regulate pharmaceutical dispensing, in case any laws havebeen changed or updated.
What sort of customer service can I expect?
As in any long term business relationship, fast and reliable customer service can be the number one ingredient in choosing a vendor. In health care, it is imperative that the vendor share the outlook of the practice that patient care and safety is always the first priority.