As a 340B medical service provider, you probably know a lot about the questions patients ask when they come in for an appointment. They want to know about healthcare, about services your entity offers, or about how they can feel better and live healthier lives. They are focused on health when they are in your office, but have you ever wondered what questions they have after they walk out your door?
In our seven years of serving 340B patients through a home delivery pharmacy, we have learned a lot about patients and how they approach taking their medications - particularly how they manage their routines when taking monthly maintenance medications.
Here are the top three questions we get asked when talking to patients about their pharmacy choices:
- What are my copays?
Insured patients often do not realize that their copays are set by their insurance companies, and they want to be sure that the cost of medication will not change if they choose a different pharmacy option. It’s important to help patients understand that choice of pharmacy is a fundamental right they have as patients, and that drug and copay prices should be consistent across the board.
In fact, the more important question is: which pharmacy service options are more likely to help keep patients adherent to their prescription regimens? For patients on maintenance medications, pharmacy service and convenience can have a significant impact on adherence rates.
A 2014 Veteran’s Administration study of patients with Diabetes cited pharmacy-related services as one of three key factors affecting medication adherence. Factors affecting medication adherence: patient perspectives from five veterans affairs facilities
In addition to traditional copay questions, Medicare patients often have questions about their payment responsibilities when they change due to the Donut Hole.
- How / when do I pay?
Many of the patients we serve are on fixed incomes, and we have found that giving some payment flexibility can also help patients be more adherent. For example, a patient goes to her local pharmacy to pick up her five monthly medications, but cannot afford to pay the copays for all five upfront, so she fills the three prescriptions she perceives to be the most necessary, and leaves the other two at the pharmacy. We hear this scenario often, and there are several concerning factors with it. One key way we combat this issue is by sending patients monthly invoices for their medications. This not only takes away the burden of paying upfront, it also allows patients to pay medication bills more regularly, budgeting for it, like they would for a utility bill, mortgage, or rent.
- Can I get all of my prescriptions (from all of my doctors) in one place, at one time?
Convenience is a huge factor impacting medication adherence. Our average patient is on eight maintenance medications, and they are often prescribed by more than one provider. This often means multiple trips to the pharmacy, and when a patient has transportation or mobility issues, it can be a significant barrier for the patient. Helping patients consolidate pharmacies, and, when possible, synchronize delivery schedules, can help patients better manage their prescription regimens.
Picking a pharmacy is often a passive choice for patients. Think of the last time the “Which pharmacy should we send this to?” conversation lasted longer than a minute or so. It is often a decision a patient makes once, and then continues by default, not considering the options again until he or she is prompted to do so. When patients have a pharmacy option that is well-suited for their needs, they are happier, more compliant, and healthier.