shutterstock_10826110_w640Drugs and Pricing

When a practitioner decides to dispense medications from his or her office, initial thoughts always go to products and pricing.  Physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants want  the right medication, in the right strength & count for the right price.   In this category, key elements indicating a complete physician dispensing solution from a supplier include:

  • Large catalog of prepackaged medications.  Prepackaged means “repackaged, unit-of-use” pharmaceuticals.  Manufacturers typically package tablets in larger counts: 100, 500, 1000.  Repackagers split these bulk bottles into ready-to-dispense sizes of 20, 30, 45, 60 etc.  To be responsive to your patients, you need access to a wide range of strengths and sizes.
  • In order to offer products to your patients at competitive prices, your acquisition pricing needs to be at the wholesale level.  Though pricing is not everything – the dispensing clinic needs to position broader aspects of its value – it does need to be comparable to other options available to the patient.  Repackagers will typically price similarly – the variability comes when you have intermediaries involved: brokers, agents etc.  Ask your prospective supplier if they package and warehouse pharmaceutical products or if they are brokering another company’s products and services.  This doesn’t always mean it will be more expensive but it might suggest a bit more diligence.
  • As I’ve said before, pricing is important and it is easy to evaluate.  However, to get the best dispensing solution, you will need to dig deeper with your prospective supplier.

Software and Service

Once a clinic team is comfortable that they can get the products they want at acceptable prices, thoughts turn to the actual point of care dispensing process.  Do you have software to manage your dispensing process?  Can you order online?  What support do is offered?  Any serious player in the physician dispensing marketplace will offer some kind of software to facilitate the dispensing process.  The most popular medication dispensing platform is currently MDScripts .  Your pharmaceutical supplier should offer the software at no additional cost.  Here are some additional thoughts on software and service:

  • What will the vendor do to help with your initial system setup?  If you are not currently using a dispensing system or you are changing systems, there can be some challenges during setup.  In addition, training can take a bit of time – especially if you have multiple locations.  Make sure you know what is available to you.
  • Does the vendor have staff available to support the back-end process and data management issues that inevitably occur?  Even if you have dedicated staff on your payroll to manage the software, there will be times that you want and need system management help from your supplier.
  • Service covers some broad territory within a relationship.  From access to ancillary services, your supplier may or may not provide the responsiveness and flexibility your require.  It is difficult to assess this before you are actually working with the supplier.  Hours of operation, email monitoring, ecommerce capabilities, formulary review and packaging options could all be key elements of service relative to your clinic.  I’ll delve into a couple of these in my next post.

My goal with this series of posts is to cover some old ground and introduce some new thoughts on challenges and opportunities when looking for a dispensing solution. We’ve seen some interesting developments in the last few months relative to service expectations, weak spots in the national repackaging supply chain and changing market requirements.  More to come!

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