Pharmacy’s complexity problem
Gone are the days when a patient would simply discuss a prescription with their provider, go to their local pharmacy, and leave with their medication. As with most areas in health care, yesterday’s streamlined experience is a far cry from today’s reality. Much more is happening behind the scenes due to the proliferation of pharmacies, increasing drug prices, staffing shortages, and health plan variation, among other factors.
While pharmacies utilize technology in an attempt to manage these complexities, the tools tend to be outdated and difficult to use. Further, even though health systems have expanded to include a wide range of services, the pharmacy experience is all too often disjointed and inefficient.
Patient experience pain points
If we step back from the complexity and focus on the patient journey, what do we see? Three critical points emerge, including when the provider prescribes a medication, when the patient picks up the medication, and when the patient refills the medication. These connection points are prime opportunities to influence patient engagement, satisfaction, and adherence.
When conversations are needed at these junctures, we know that time is of the essence. Whether due to staff shortages, long lines, or other factors, it can be difficult and time-consuming to zero in on the most crucial information to have for a constructive conversation. However, it’s critical for the patient, provider, and pharmacist to have relevant and timely information.
Technology as a streamlining solution
Recognizing the underlying complexity and critical pain points in the patient pharmacy journey, health systems are increasingly seeking updated technological solutions to address these challenges.
Here’s a snapshot of three of the most promising technologies in the space:
1. Real-Time Prescription Benefit (RTPB): Providers can use RTPB to access timely, specific, and relevant drug cost information while interacting with patients so they can discuss the most affordable care options. This is one of the most significant innovations in pharmacy technology.
For more on RTPB, read the first blog in this series.
2. Electronic Prior Authorization (ePA): With ePA technologies, providers can have conversations with patients about cost and coverage status, in addition to finding ways to reduce PA barriers. While in the nascent stages of development and use, prospective ePA combined with RTPB has the potential to eliminate most friction patients encounter at the pharmacy. As such, this technology has the potential to significantly improve patient experience across the care journey.
Fortunately, many vendors, including Arrive Health, are actively collaborating with leading health systems to drive prospective ePA workflows and automation.
3. Patient Engagement Solutions: Most often using a combination of AI and SMS, these technologies seek to streamline the pain point of medication first fill and ongoing refills. While simple tools can automate reminders over text message, more advanced tools expand into the realm of patient education. This can unlock a variety of benefits for both patients and health systems.
Within this space, UPMC Enterprises developed a technology suite which includes an AI-powered virtual assistant and care team workflow tools. The goal of the technology is to enable seamless fills from UPMC pharmacies and drive ongoing patient engagement. Patients who participate receive automated follow-up texts and prescription refill reminders, as well as coupon offers and information about their medications. The end result: a convenient way for patients to (re)fill prescriptions, and a seamless tool for health systems to identify patients in need of support. With this technology, UPMC has offloaded more than 4,000 calls from their pharmacy staff per month, reduced 30-day readmissions by 16%, and increased refill revenue by 200%. Arrive Health recently acquired this technology to scale its use at leading health systems nationwide.
Taken together, these technologies have the potential to streamline and holistically address the pain points patients face in their pharmacy journey. And while this won’t return us to the era of set co-pays and family-owned pharmacies, it provides an opportunity for a return to what patients value most – a simple consumer experience. That’s a win for patients, providers, pharmacies, and health systems.