Technology is constantly evolving and occasionally disrupting the way things are done across the pharmaceutical industry. Even retail giants like CVS and Walgreens had to respond when Amazon purchased PillPack last year, placing a big bet on adherence strip packaging, mailed conveniently to the patient’s door, as the model for future. Both CVS and Walgreens, as well as other large retail chains, have begun offering same-day delivery and are ramping up their adherence packaging programs to protect their market share.
What's an independent pharmacy to do?
Most smaller retail stores don't have the size, the space or the budget to absorb all the extra costs and personnel associated with strip packaging.
Maybe the first thing to do is this: question assumptions.
Bruce and Lisa Kocian, pharmacists and owners of Gibson pharmacy in Athens, Texas (population 12,704) are no strangers to trying a new approach.
"Before the strip packaging, you name it, we've probably done it. Medicine on Time, DocuDose, Opus, cassettes," says Bruce Kocian, noting that his first foray into strip packaging automation didn't have a happy ending.
"Not a fairy tale with the previous machine," he recalls. "A lot of time constraints on the pharmacists themselves. If you have the systems that require 200-300 canisters to load into the automation, you've got the pharmacist checking the loaded canisters, you've got the pharmacist checking lighted trays or a tray system for their pack. Then again, you've got the pharmacist checking the strip system. So if you've got a system that requires not only your tech time but also that much time from your pharmacist, you can see that kind of snowballs."
Lisa Kocian agrees.
"Our previous strip packer was very frustrating to use," she says. "It was very difficult to load drugs [and] the pharmacist had to check at several steps."
The couple also noted that their pharmacy technician used to almost dread adding a new patient to the packaging system, because she knew the amount of labor that was involved. Worse, the Gibson's team was unable to scale their adherence program due to the time-consuming, labor intensive process.
If at first you don’t succeed...
But this pharmacist "dynamic duo" didn't give up.
In 2018, the couple purchased a RapidPakRx™, the first adherence strip packager designed specifically for retail pharmacy. With universal cartridges and built-in vision inspection, the system has the industry's smallest footprint and lowest operating costs.
“What I like the most about the RapidPakRx is the ease of use," says Lisa Gibson. "Previously we could pack maybe five or six patients in a day and now [our technician] can pack 20 plus patients in a day, and we're hoping to build that even further. Spending less time packing medications for patients also allows technicians to have more time to explain the program to patients and help them get started with adherence packaging."
Staying ahead while improving medication adherence
Like many pharmacy owners, Bruce and Lisa Kocian believe that adherence packaging is the future of pharmacy, and they want to keep one step ahead of competitors.
“With Amazon stepping into the pharmacy arena with PillPack, it's going to become something that's much more recognizable in the pharmacy industry,” says Bruce. “If you're not packaging and running an adherence program, you are going to be left behind.”
Adherence programs aren't just a passing trend. More and more, health plans and PBMs are using adherence metrics in their reimbursement formulas. So, non-adherence isn't just negatively impacting the health of patients, it's also threatening the health of your pharmacy's bottom line.
“Since installing the RapidPakRx, we've been able to increase our packaging program quite a bit,” says Bruce. “It's much more efficient, [and] we've increased our patients’ adherence, which goes directly to our star rating and the reduction of our DIR fees.”
Increasing growth = increasing profit
Adherence packaging also helps increase script volume by reducing the number of medications abandoned by patients at the pharmacy.
“[Patients] know if they've taken their medications, they stay on schedule and they're able to come once a month to the pharmacy and pick up their medications,” says Bruce.
Gibson’s pharmacy uses the PakMyMeds brand, which is licensed to them by RxSafe. Lisa Kocian says patients are very happy with the packaging.
“Our patients love PakMyMeds,” says Lisa. “They love the convenience. They love the packaging. It's easy to read. It's easy to see what you've got. It's easy to take it on the go.”
Any parting thoughts?
We asked Bruce and Lisa if there was anything they’d like to say to pharmacy owners about adherence packaging.
“If there's a pharmacy thinking about purchasing the RapidPakRx, I would tell them it's definitely something that they need to do,” says Bruce. “For one, we don't have to have a separate inventory loaded into the RapidPakRx. Two, it is fast. It's heads and shoulders above in accuracy, with the technologies built into it. So not only is it accurate and fast, but we've also been able to grow our packaging program because of its efficiencies.”
To learn more about Gibson Pharmacy’s experience with the RapidPakRx, watch the full video above. If you would like more information about the RapidPakRx, please visit our product page or contact one of our automation experts now, at (877) 797-2332.