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Overcoming Patient Concerns at a Physician Based Dispensary

August 9, 2017
Posted by: Jenny O’Neill, CPhT, Training Coordinator and Inventory Management Specialist, Onsite 340B

After years of working with physician based dispensaries, I have become privy to many patient concerns regarding use of physician based dispensaries. There are main three issues that patients always cite:  finances, time constraints, and transportation. Let’s explore these issues and consider the most effective ways to overcome them.


The first question many ask is, ‘how much will it cost’? Patients are concerned that their medication will cost them more at your dispensary than at their regular pharmacy. So, your first goal is to quickly quell this fear.  How? Secure prescription insurance contracts either through a Pharmacy Services Administrative Organization (PSAO), or by signing up with various Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBM). These give your dispensary the ability to bill the patient’s insurance directly.  With these relationships in place, your answer to insured patients when asked – “How much will it cost?” – will simply be: the same as at your regular pharmacy.

Next, it is important to have a simple system in place to look up the “cash” price of medication in the event you do not plan to adjudicate insurance claims or you are servicing uninsured patients.  Uninsured patients often know the exact price they pay for each medication. Therefore, quickly being able to demonstrate a cost savings will best encourage the patient to immediately fill their prescription at your location.

Moreover, if you are a federally qualified health center that uses a sliding scale for patients, you can assign a sliding scale for your prescriptions and offer this wonderful benefit to those in need. Here’s an example of how utilizing the sliding scale at your 340B dispensary can impact a patient’s life.

A Story:

A diabetic patient, who had lost his job and his insurance, visited one of our health centers. He had been using an insulin pen and was having great success controlling his diabetes. He was concerned that he would no longer be able to afford his insulin, but his clinic had a dispensary that utilized a sliding scale for prescriptions. The health center’s dispensary was able to dispense his insulin at an affordable price, and enable him to maintain his same level of care, even though uninsured.


Something I have repeatedly heard from patients, providers and those working at the dispensary is their concern about prescription fill time.  Understandably, patients are often anxious to leave the doctor’s office and don’t want to be bothered with waiting for prescriptions to be filled on the spot at the dispensary, even if the wait is comparatively shorter than the alternative choices. This is why it is crucial to be respectful of a patient’s time by always setting accurate and reasonable expectations regarding the waiting time as well as the cost of the prescription.

Appropriate expectations, plus a streamlined process where you can safely fill, check, adjudicate and label prescriptions in a matter of minutes, will show your respect for the time of the patients and inspire them to use your dispensary during future visits.

A Story:

A father came into a health center with his ill daughter.  They were seen for a visit and prescribed antibiotics. The dispensary filled the prescription before the patient even got to the dispensary. The father was able to pick up the antibiotic and get his sick daughter home right away, without making any additional stops.


Many patients without transportation rely on friends or public transportation. This can cause a burden for the patient. So, why not offer to send the medication for free? This will increase patient retention AND help to increase patient compliance.

A Story:

I had a patient who was in her 80s. She lived alone and didn’t drive; she relied on her niece to drive her around.  To make things even trickier, she lived on a mountain, so in the winter, it would be very hard for her to travel up or down the mountain to retrieve her medications. As the dispensary offers free delivery, she was able to receive medications without relying on her niece or worrying about weather.


These are the predominant aversions patients have to utilizing a dispensary. With just a few simple tweaks you can easily increase your capture rate. Check in next month to see how staff and patient education can also positively affect your physician based dispensary.


We will be happy to answer any questions you might have.