When Laura Furdas was exploring ways to enhance efficiency in her Scarborough, Ont. pharmacy, she discovered that the appointment-based model (ABM) would enable her to do this—and more. It offers significant benefits to patients and their doctors as well as the pharmacy team.
“ABM allows us to have important conversations with our patients while streamlining our workflow—and these are only two of the many advantages,” says Furdas, pharmacist owner of The Medicine Shoppe in Scarborough’s Coppa’s Fresh Market Plaza.
As a starting point to implementing ABM in June 2016, Furdas and her team identified patients who were coming in several times a week or month. “This makes it harder to track if they are taking their medicine correctly,” she notes. “It’s much easier to do that when medications are all due at the same time.”
ABM also opens the door to regular and ongoing discussions. In advance of pickup, patients receive a reminder call. “It’s a critical point of contact,” says Furdas. “Patients appreciate that connection, especially the elderly patients. They feel they are getting service above and beyond.”
In addition to building customer loyalty and enhancing adherence, the regular contact enables the pharmacy team to determine if there have been any changes in the patient’s health and if there are any concerns. “We can recommend a medication review if this would be helpful. At the very least, patients gain a better understanding of their medication and how to take it,” says Furdas. “Frankly, many patients are not aware that their adherence is as bad as it is. ABM helps address this.”
Once a problem is identified, of course, steps can be taken to correct it. Often the solution is simple, such as suggesting patients turn their medication bottle upside down once they have taken their daily dose, or recommending compliance packaging. “Offering this advice and checking in regularly with the patient is a real point of difference in the service we can provide,” says Furdas. “It is central to the business and it enriches the relationship with the patient.”
Synchronizing patients’ medication to one prescription pickup time requires some setup on the front end, but once that is done, it streamlines workflow, notes Furdas, who prints off a list each day of patients who will need to be called and whose medications need to be refilled. “It really does improve operations. It means we are not reacting. Prescriptions are filled proactively, not reactively. We don’t have that same swamped feeling.”
In addition, there is more efficient inventory control. Under the traditional pharmacy model, stores would have to carry a minimum inventory, including very expensive drugs, and anticipate patient needs. “Now,” says Furdas, “I can make sure inventory is ordered to avoid partial fills and other related issues.”
That’s a substantial time-saver, she notes. “When you owe a drug or have a partial refill, it requires doubling up on your work. If you can eliminate that, it is a tremendous advantage.”
The benefits also extend outside the shop. “For pharmacies that offer deliveries,” Furdas says, “the cost-savings with ABM could be significant.”
The Scarborough pharmacist is also using the appointment-based model to connect with doctors in the community. Now instead of having to send several faxes requesting refills, they only have to send one fax with all the refills listed. “This demonstrates that we are doing things to try to save them time,” says Furdas.
It’s a message that resonates, she notes. “In this market, you have to stand out.”
Liz Tiefenthaler is president of Pharm Fresh Media, a full-service marketing company focused on helping independent pharmacies.
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This article originally appeared in the September issue of Pharmacy Practice+Business.