Seeking Patients that the Big Box Pharmacies Turn Away: HealthFinders Partnership

July 07, 2015 | Jessica Ehret

As much as we independent pharmacists or pharmacy owners pride ourselves on providing stellar service and improving customer experiences, pharmacy is still a volume-based business. To remain relevant in the pharmacy world and continue to provide exceptional service, independent pharmacies must constantly find ways to grow or maintain our prescription volume. Sometimes, growing the business means finding unique ways to care for challenging or underserved patients.

For the past six months, my Minnesota pharmacy has been focused on finding such opportunities and I am excited to share some of our successes on the blog in the coming months.

Our most successful opportunity so far came to us by chance, through a partnership with a local clinic for underinsured or uninsured patients in our county. This partner organization, HealthFinders, serves as a primary care clinic and provides medication assistance to a large number of patients throughout our rural area. However, up until a few months ago, they were working with several pharmacies and struggling to control medication-related costs.

While working on an unrelated, formulary-development project with HealthFinders, some of these cost containment struggles came up. Since I was raised with the "you don't get anything in life if you don't ask for it” mentality, I asked them if they would ever consider forming a stronger partnership with a single pharmacy in an effort to better track costs, measure adherence, and form stronger relationships with pharmacists. HealthFinders leadership was thrilled with the idea--and so were we. They would achieve better cost-control for their medication assistance program and we could begin building relationships with some of the community members who need us most.

After working closely with some of our technology partners, NetRx and Rx30, we developed a pricing model, efficient work-flow solutions, and complete reporting capabilities to meet the needs of The HealthFinders Collaborative and their patients. We then considered what additional tools could make our pharmacy more attractive to these particular patients by identifying some of their daily struggles and developing solutions to overcome them:

  • Promoting our free delivery service, since transportation is often a struggle for these patients.
  • Piloting medication synchronization and Meducation, to further improve the care, adherence and counseling of these patients. These tools are especially beneficial where level of education, language and cultural differences create barriers to care.
  • Using our technology partners to provide HealthFinders with adherence data; they now know which patients don’t pick up their medications on time and exactly how much they are spending on each patient’s medications.

For our part, this level of reporting enables our pharmacists to analyze trends and suggest therapeutic changes that will save HealthFinders money without compromising patient care. Our pharmacists also serve as resources to the volunteer physicians and nurse practitioners when they have medication related questions at the HealthFinders clinics. As a result, HealthFinders has pharmacists on their team for the first time in their history.

Through our strong partnership with HealthFinders, we have gained access to a population who previously did not know that our pharmacy existed. At the same time, our partnership is showing reduced medication related costs and decreased staffing needs for HealthFinders. As a privately-funded organization that seeks to keep the uninsured out of the emergency room, we are partnering for the common good. HealthFinders now has additional funds to care for more patients, more patients are gaining access to primary care services, we have more patients in our pharmacy, and public dollars are no longer relied on to care for these patients in the emergency room. Win-win-win-win.

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Jessica Ehret

Jessica is a third-generation pharmacist and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy. As a pharmacist with a communications background, she has found a unique niche in which she is able to educate, inform, and serve her patient community. When Jessica isn't in the pharmacy or hosting her weekly radio show, you can find her planning her next getaway, near or far, with her husband, friends, and family.