Why it’s Better to Dispense Medication In-House
According to the experts, physician offices around the United States have begun to adopt the idea of an in-house pharmacy. Often, this increases the practice revenue by tens of thousands of dollars- and it gives the physician more insight to his patients.
So, offering discounted medication has become commonplace in the primary practice model. Of course, physicians will find that their ability to dispense medication will vary from one state to the next.
Here, you will find some of the advantages to dispensing medications in-house as well as how you can set this up in your own practice.
Advantages to an In-House Dispensary
Here are a few of the advantages to setting up an in-house dispensary in your practice:
An In-House Dispensary Brings Increased Revenue
The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that the average physician sees approximately 25 patients in one day. He writes 1.4 prescriptions for each visit. If the physician were to make $10 on those 35 prescriptions, daily revenue would increase by $350 without requiring any additional time from the physician.
Many medical practices have already begun offering more services such as electrocardiograms, lab testing, x-rays, and more to increase their revenue. It just makes sense to also incorporate an in-office dispensary as well.
Many states are falling in line with this trend. One recent ruling in Arkansas will make it much easier for a physician to sell medications. Supporters of this ruling agree that patients should be given the option of where they purchase their medications.
Physician dispensed medications have become so profitable that even private equity firms have begun to invest in this business. In addition, political lobbying for these dispensaries is going strong.
An In-House Dispensary is Convenient
Establishing an in-house dispensary adds the convenience that is typically unavailable in the physician-pharmacy relationship and will increase overall patient satisfaction. This means that patients are more likely to get their prescriptions filled when they can get it before they leave the office.
The Journal of General Internal Medicine estimates that between 28-31 percent of new prescriptions end up not being filled. This leads to new and worsening health conditions- which could have been prevented, if the patient had the convenience of getting it filled in-house.
Since many prescriptions do remain unfilled when the patient is required to visit the pharmacy, an in-house dispensary increases the physician’s confidence that his patient’s health condition will improve.
Some studies indicate that problems with transportation are a major problem. After all, in most cases, elderly patients and those on Medicaid have to find rides to their physician’s office.
This makes trips to the pharmacy almost impossible. In situations like these, being able to receive treatment and medication at the same location eliminates this issue.
An In-House Dispensary Increases Safety of Treatments
In some cases, being able to receive medications in-house increases patient safety. In some cases, such as worker’s compensation, the system is so complicated that an injured employee could be forced to wait for several days before he is able to receive the medication he needs through the pharmacy.
In addition, an in-house pharmacy can alleviate the problems that come with over-prescribing. One recent study revealed that over 1/100 terminated prescriptions were filled by the pharmacy anyway.
Setting Up Your In-House Dispensary
As you can see, an in-house dispensary has many benefits- both for the physician and the patient. This is why the practice of an in-house dispensary has become so much more common in recent years.
When it’s done safely, it becomes a win-win for everyone involved. Here are some tips for setting up your in-house dispensary.
Choose the Right Vendor/System
If you have decided that you’re interested in establishing your in-house dispensary, the vendor/system that you choose should include these vital abilities.
- Integrate with your patient database and electronic health records
- Include medication information for the patient similar to the information provided by a pharmacy
- Provide information in a way that most patients will be able to understand
- Produce labels for the bottles that list:
- name of the patient
- name of the physician/practice and phone number
- name of medication
- instructions for dosing
- Able to bill insurance and have a barcode or something similar
Consult State Boards
These days, in most states, in-office dispensaries are legal. However, you must also be aware that there are several jurisdictions that either prohibit or levy restrictions on the practice of in-office dispensing. This includes:
- New Jersey
- New York
As many areas in the medical world are changing, the rules that govern in-office dispensaries are being re-evaluated and revised. Before you establish your in-office dispensary, you need to check with your state medical board so that you can make sure you’re in compliance with the most recently passed laws/regulations.
In addition, you must be aware of and follow the regulations set forth by the State Board of Pharmacy. After all, in many cases, they regulate who must give the medication to the patient.
Many states require that the physician must hand it over and it is not allowed to be left at the front desk for the patient to pick up.
Be Aware of Possible Risks
Unfortunately, there are some possible risks that are associated with in-office dispensaries. You must make sure that you are aware of the following:
- You should never practice outside of your specialty- and you should only be dispensing medications for the conditions that you are treating.
- You may want to avoid stocking controlled substances, since this raises additional concerns such as increasing the risk of an office break-in and increasing the potential for robbery- or even theft by employees.
- Understand that having an in-office dispensary removes the pharmacist from the process. Many times, the pharmacist is the one that calls the physician’s attention to potential issues such as errors in the prescription or multiple prescriptions for controlled substances from other physicians.
- To reduce the risk of medication errors, you’ll need to put some quality control protocols in place.
- Take time to educate office staff in regard to the dispensing of medications and their roles in that process. Make sure to establish some clear regulations to limit staff involvement in this process.
- Be sure that education is provided to the patient when the medication is dispensed and make note of this in the patient’s medical records.
If you are interested in establishing an in-office dispensary to increase your revenue and make things more convenient for your patients, you’ll want to talk to your patient safety risk manager about any concerns you have. When you’re ready to move forward, we would love to help you get started in the process of setting up your in-office dispensary.