I wrote this post nearly two years ago:

We frequently receive calls from physicians considering pharmaceutical dispensing.  A common theme among these calls is frustration with what it is often described as “a lack of professionalism and responsiveness” from various companies offering physician dispensing options.  Quite often, websites for groups offering to help implement dispensing systems for physicians are merely fronts for individuals selling part-time with no organization behind them.  I often hear folks say that Northwind Pharmaceuticals was one of the only companies to respond in a timely fashion.  There are a number of things a clinic/physician can do to avoid upfront difficulties:

1. Recognize that many websites are posted by brokers who are actually selling products for other suppliers.  These “firms” are often ran part-time by one individual who simply makes commission by marketing others’ products.  Look for additional substance on the site geared to helping customers with the dispensing process.

2. Ask the firm if they distribute products from their own facility or just sell for a repackager.  As in any business, if there is a middleman, you are paying more.

3. Verify that they are licensed to distribute in your state. Many state pharmacy boards allow you to verify wholesaler license numbers online.  The DEA also verifies licensure for wholesalers.

4. On their website, look for an indication of how long they’ve been in business. There are a few repackagers that have been around for 20+ years and are proud to say it.  Northwind Pharmaceuticals has been around since 1981.

5. When you talk to the supplier, ask them about their business. How do they go about helping their customers? Do they offer software?  How do their labels work?  Do they make recommendations for a start up formulary?  You want to find a supplier that can get you the products you need but will also be a good fit for you and your practice.  Talking to them is the only sure way to make sure there is a fit.

Medication dispensing offers wonderful possibilities to a clinic and does not have to be rocket science.  Focus on finding a good partner, asking basic questions and getting a “feel” for the company before you buy.  A little diligence goes a long way.  Good luck!

The information is still relevant today.  I wanted to update it with a few more suggestions:

6. Ask about tracking dispenses.  Reputable repackagers/distributors will offer manual and electronic options for tracking the medications you dispense.  Northwind offers a logbook and a system called MD Scripts.  Make sure their model fits your needs.  Northwind does not charge for our software.

7. How easy is it to order?  Your supplier should offer email, phone, fax, online and smoke signal as options for you to submit your order.  The point is, they need to make it easy for you to order.

8. What else do they offer?  Some organization don’t have the buying power to get all medications or get them at the best prices.  You should be able to get prepackaged medications but what about lotions, creams, ointments, liquids, injectables, supplies?  Your supplier should be able to offer one-stop shopping if that’s what you want.

9. What are some of the flags?  Start with their website.  Do they clearly explain what they do, who they are and provide additional information if you need it?  Do they offer insurance or other financial products?  These companies are often brokers that are trying to leverage relationships; they may be a good partner but you will pay more – make sure they are worth it.  Working with a sales person?  Are they are a direct employee or a broker?  Once again, more cost in the system.  How long have they been in business?

10. Who owns the company?  I like to know who I’m doing business with.  Is it a big corporation or a family-owned business?  How important is my business to them?  Thought: the bigger the company, the less important you are.  These questions will lead to fulfilling your preferences and ultimately help meet your expectations.

No worries, nothing a little due diligence won’t uncover.  Sometimes it just comes down to what type of company do you want to deal with.  Do you like corporate?  Do you prefer small business?  Do you want to work through the call center or do you want to talk to the owner?  These are cultural questions that can only be answered by you.  Regardless, give medication dispensing a try – it is still one of the easiest add-on services you can find and the returns can be very good.

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