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The Vital Key to Successful Physician Dispensaries

August 23, 2017
Posted by: Jenny O’Neill, CPhT, Training Coordinator and Inventory Management Specialist, Onsite 340B

What can make or break the success of a physician based dispensary? The short answer: a clear understanding by your entire staff of dispensary operations and their benefits.

All of your staff members should be well prepared to answer patient questions about the features and benefits that your dispensary offers. Patients turn to whomever is available at the time at a health center for answers to questions. If your staff is equipped with comprehensive and accurate knowledge, patients will not only gain confidence and trust in the health center and its dispensary but will be encouraged to return.

Consider the questions patients may ask and what information can be shared with the patient in order to educate but not overwhelm them. Create a guide and/or workflow for each type of staff member at your facility (i.e., front desk, MAs, and providers) that helps them integrate information about the dispensary into their typical patient interactions. For example,

• Does your front desk staff ask patients to bring in insurance cards? Prompt the staff to remind patients to bring in their prescription insurance cards so that they may fill prescriptions right in the office.

• Does your MA direct the patient to the checkout counter after a visit? Encourage the MA to direct the patient to the dispensary to pick up their prescriptions.

• Does your provider normally ask the patient what pharmacy they use? Request that the provider inform the patient that dispensary services are located right in the office.

Other suggestions: Create a general program overview and a general FAQ guide to handout to each member of the clinic staff, including your front desk staff. They are often the first and last face a patient sees, and they should have just as much information at their fingertips as the other staff members.

For example, patients may ask, “Do you adjudicate insurance?” “How much will my copay be?“ “Can I use my sliding scale for prescriptions as well as my visit?” These are just a few examples of regularly asked patient questions that should be included in your FAQ for staff.

I have seen, firsthand, missed opportunities to dispense medications directly due to lack of staff education. Many times, a patient will have unfounded preconceptions about dispensing capabilities, resulting in some patients avoiding the dispensary altogether. A patient will voice these concerns to whomever is available, be it an MA, provider, or front desk staff person, and never speak directly to the person operating the dispensary. If the person they question doesn’t have the answers, or worse, doesn’t have the correct answers, the odds that the patient chooses not to use the dispensary are very high.

Consider how easily the following scenario could have been prevented with proper staff education: A patient is directed to the dispensary to pick up their prescription but decides not to stop and tells the front desk during checkout that they want to use their insurance, so why would they use the dispensary? The front desk person had no idea that the dispensary could bill insurance, and lets the patient leave without informing them. Not only has this patient been disenfranchised, but they in turn may spread the false information to other patients.

The more staff education you can provide, the better educated your patients will be and in turn, the more prescriptions will be captured at your dispensary. People are more likely to buy into a program if they understand how it works and how it will directly benefit them. Thus, it is important to have your staff excited and aware of all the benefits and features available through your dispensary and communicating these to patients whenever they can during patient interactions.

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