As people around the world struggle under the weight of inflation, skyrocketing prescription drug prices continue to plague Americans. In January 2022, the average list price increase was nearly 10% per drug in the United States, exceeding the 8.5% inflation rate during that time period. Between 2016 and 2022, the list price of several drugs increased by more than 500%.
Rising prices are particularly burdensome for patients with chronic conditions who are prescribed high-cost specialty drugs. The average specialty drug price reached $84,442 in 2020, rising more than three times faster than the general inflation rate.
The situation is so dire that one in four Americans aren’t filling their prescriptions so that they can afford increasingly expensive essentials such as food or gas. Which means pharmacies—especially independent entities that operate outside of a health system—need to work harder than ever to attract new patients.
Strong Provider Relationships Are Key to Referrals
Healthcare providers hold special sway when it comes to helping patients choose a pharmacy. Already trusted to know what’s best, their referral can be the deciding factor for patients who need pharmacy care and are unsure where to turn—and what they can afford.
Pharmacies have a vested interest in establishing strong relationships with these providers, who make referrals to pharmacies where they know their patients will be in excellent hands. Prescribers know that medications can’t work if the patient doesn’t take them, and nonadherence is a major concern.
50% of Americans with chronic conditions don’t use their medications correctly, which can have dire health consequences. Poor adherence is linked to 125,000 potentially preventable deaths and up to 10% of hospitalizations in the United States every year.
Patients aren’t the only ones who suffer from nonadherence. Even the most conservative estimates indicate that abandoned prescriptions cost pharmacies in the US over half a billion dollars every year.
Nonadherence Strongly Linked to Financial Concerns
One major factor that contributes to nonadherence and prescription abandonment is cost. About 25% of adults in the US have not filled a prescription, cut pills in half, or skipped doses in the last year because of the expense.
Knowing that money is tight for so many, healthcare providers may be more thoughtful about where they send their patients for pharmacy care. They will be more likely to refer to a pharmacy knowing its staff will help ensure patients take their medications as prescribed.
Focusing on Patient Financial Experience Leads to Referrals
When pharmacies address cost barriers to care, they reduce the financial burden and improve patient financial experience—which will also improve adherence and outcomes. One study looking at the effect of financial assistance on specialty pharmacy patients, for example, found that help with copays and travel expenses often made all the difference in the patients’ ability to get the treatment they needed.
Focusing on patient financial experience allows pharmacies to strengthen their relationships with providers, leading to more referrals and boosting financial performance.
Leveraging Technology to Provide Positive Financial Experiences
When a doctor is considering how to treat a patient, their primary concern is choosing the medications or therapies that will be most effective. However, many physicians don’t discuss cost concerns. And even when they are aware of a patient’s financial challenges, they often lack the time and resources to address them.
Thus, when a pharmacy excels at handling patients’ financial needs, providers take notice—and make referrals.
Given that about 75% of pharmacists who participated in a recent survey said they are too busy and short-staffed to do their jobs safely, how can pharmacies carve out the time necessary to optimize their patients’ financial experiences? By leveraging technology.
With the help of financial navigation platforms like TailorMed, pharmacies can streamline the process of matching and enrolling patients in vital cost-saving resources.
Pharmacies can leverage technology to:
1. Increase Transparency and Improve Adherence
Using a financial navigation platform, pharmacies can proactively identify patients in need before a prescription is filled and the patient realizes they can’t afford the copay. When patients receive the help they need to afford care, they’ll be more likely to fill their scripts and take them as directed. This improves the likelihood of a good outcome—and the patient’s overall experience with the pharmacy.
Improved compliance benefits providers, too. The positive outcomes that come from medication adherence mean their patients will have a more positive experience with their provider as well as the pharmacy—and will therefore be more likely to stay loyal to that provider.
2. Seize Every Assistance Opportunity
Manually running reports to match patients with financial resources is a time-consuming process, and windows of funding opportunity often close quickly. With the help of a software solution, pharmacy staff can quickly find a list of relevant funding opportunities—along with the most expedited enrollment options. Patients will be pleased to know they’re getting all the financial assistance they possibly can, and pharmacy staff will have more time to spend providing the kind of exemplary care that providers seek out for referrals.
3. Help Patients Overcome Overwhelm
Patients who are dealing with a new diagnosis or treatment while struggling under the weight of financial hardship may be overwhelmed by information and unsure where to start navigating the complicated process of getting assistance. Software solutions enable pharmacies to efficiently guide patients who are dealing with financial issues on top of health ones, which reflects well on the pharmacy in the eyes of providers.
4. Create a Positive Feedback Loop
How do you ensure a positive patient experience—the kind that they’ll share with their doctor, who will then be inspired to send more patients your way? For 90% of respondents to a recent patient survey, it all comes down to finances. Patients who receive financial guidance and support from the pharmacy will likely share their experience with the referring provider. And when providers know that their patients are happy with their pharmacy care, they’ll be more inclined toward future referrals.
Building Lasting Partnerships with Providers through Improved Patient Experience
Providers want to know their patients will be in good hands. A pharmacy that is able to provide a positive financial experience, with the support of technology, will earn a reputation for superior care. When patients hold a pharmacy in high regard for improving medication affordability, it reflects on and enhances the reputation of the referring provider.