Twenty years ago John Sykora, then owner of Abrams & Clark Pharmacy in Long Beach, CA, was looking for a way to effectively obtain patient reorders for diabetic and other supplies as required under managed care.
By donalee Moulton
Illustration by Martin Bregman
What he ended up creating was a new way of providing care and doing business – the appointment-based model – that worked so well for his patients and his store that today it is in use in thousands of pharmacies throughout the U.S. Now ABM is making its way to Canada.
Sykora describes his model as proactive rather than reactive. “There is no waiting for patients to bring in a prescription,” he says.
At the core of ABM is a phone call from the pharmacy technician, usually once a month but sometimes less often, to verify patients’ medication needs and order refills, and enquire about any issues or additional requirements. The system relies on medication synchronization, which makes it easier and more expedient for patients and the pharmacy to manage prescriptions.
A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Humana Inc. found that a refill-synchronization program increased medication adherence by more than 10 per cent in some patients and by as much as 13 per cent in those who had the lowest level of adherence.
“Synchronization is important, but it is not the end of the process, it is the beginning,” says Sykora. “The key is to do it in conjunction with the personal call. That will empower the patient.”
The system also includes a monthly appointment with the pharmacist when patients come in to pick up their prescriptions. This helps enhance adherence, optimize understanding, and foster greater customer loyalty. “It is critical to build a relationship with patients, and ABM gives pharmacists the time and opportunity to do that,” says Sykora.
Patients benefit in numerous ways. There is dedicated time with the pharmacist and pharmacy staff, an improved understanding of therapy, and the convenience of having all prescription and non-prescription needs filled in one trip. For pharmacists, there is more time to offer non-dispensing services, better patient monitoring, and ongoing opportunity to address issues before they escalate. The business also benefits: workflow streamlines, inventory management improves, and sales increase.
“Pharmacists find that using this model actually reduces the number of phone calls they receive from patients and saves them time while enabling them to build a strong relationship with their patients, which is a health benefit and a business benefit,” says Sykora.
“In the long run,” he adds, “it is a marketing tool for your pharmacy.”
The appointment-based model has become so popular in the United States, according to the American Pharmacists Association, it is now in place in more than 23 chains comprising more than 20,000 community pharmacies, as well as in use at 2,000 independent pharmacies. Pharmacists in Canada are now looking closely at the model and the benefits it provides.
“ABM is becoming a standard of practice,” notes Sykora. “It’s been in place for 20 years, it’s simple, and it’s highly effective.”
The California pharmacist, who has now sold his business and is consulting with pharmacies looking to implement ABM, advises pharmacists in Canada interested in the model to opt for simplicity as a starting point. Flag the patient for a regular follow-up call, and keep record-keeping as simple as possible. A lot of the tools you need are already part of your existing pharmacy software.”
“ABM,” he adds, “is going to make your life a whole lot easier – and more gratifying. It’s about getting better outcomes for your patients.”