How Independent Pharmacies can Beat Mail-Order Giants


When Amazon acquired PillPack in 2018, some independent pharmacists were taken by surprise. Adherence pouch packaging was just starting to gain recognition among pharmacy owners, but many people were still hesitant to enter the market. Those “in the know” expected Walmart to purchase PillPack, but Amazon scored a last-minute deal by snapping up the New Hampshire-based startup.

Two years ago, Amazon recognized a thriving market for patients interested in the added convenience and peace of mind associated with adherence pouch packaging. Now, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are getting in on the action. UnitedHealth Group, a PBM parent company, recently acquired a PillPack rival -- DivvyDose -- for approximately $300 million. CVS is also beginning to push adherence packaging and mail delivery to compete for these patients.

It is no secret that these mail-order giants believe that pouch packaging is a growing market, with potential to transform the pharmacy industry in the near future. 

Today, growing numbers of independent pharmacy owners are choosing to invest in automation, such as the RapidPakRx, to compete with the mail-order companies. 

How Does Local Pharmacy Delivery Stack Up Against Mail-Order?

PillPack and DivvyDose both offer patients prepackaged prescriptions via mail. This business model allows them to service patients all across the country, and allows them to expand quickly. 

But you may be wondering, at whose expense?  

Many patients often have two major concerns regarding their service. The first focuses on the security of mailing prescriptions. Some patients worry about their medications getting stolen or arriving late, or damaged.

The second concern that mail-order patients often express is the lack of transparency and customer service from the larger chains and central fill companies. If they need to make a change in their prescription or if they catch a mistake, patients typically need to wait on the phone to speak with a representative. Even after voicing their concerns, there is no guarantee that it will be corrected by the next time their prescriptions are mailed out. 

“Several of our patients have told us that they were switching to PillPack, but when we mentioned to them that we could do the packaging just the same, they immediately were excited and stayed with us,” says Shane Becker, owner of Old Town Pharmacy. 

When independent pharmacies offer free delivery of their adherence pouch packaging, they can communicate a time when the prescriptions will be dropped off by a pharmacy staff member. This helps ensure that the medications don’t get lost, and ensures that they don’t remain in extreme temperatures in the delivery process. 

Pharmacists are also able to check-in with their patient before the scheduled delivery, to make any prescription changes before their 30-day supply is packaged. Patients also have the option to go into the pharmacy and have a face-to-face conversation with the pharmacist and get all their questions answered in a timely manner. Further, if pharmacies offer “on demand” packaging made possible by systems such as the RapidPakRx, they can deliver an even higher level of service.

What are Best Practices for Marketing Pouch Packaging?  

Amazon Pharmacy is spending a lot of money to attract Prime members to its mail order services. But in a way, PillPack advertising is a good thing for independent pharmacies. 

Why?

Prior to Amazon acquiring PillPack, pouch packaging was not a well-known service to many patients. Without any previous exposure to the service, patients were more likely to refuse  something new. PillPack has helped adherence pouch packaging become a more popular service, which patients across the country are requesting in greater numbers. 

“Physicians are already familiar with PillPack, so they can see hands-on what our packaging looks like and they can start referring patients to us,” says Chandra Patel, owner of Heritage Pharmacy.

Independent pharmacies can use this exposure to their advantage, by letting patients know that they can experience the conveniences of pouch packaging through a local pharmacy. 

Here are several strategies that RapidPakRx owners use to gain new patients:

  • Offer local physicians sample boxes 
  • Add existing customers to the service to encourage word-of-mouth marketing
  • Social media marketing  
  • Utilize local TV and radio stations to advertise 

RapidPakRx customers also have access to the PakMyMeds network. This network is designed to support RapidPakRx owners and launch the introduction of their new service to the local market. Through the PakMyMeds network, pharmacies receive leads in their area and are also added to the PakMyMeds “pharmacy locator.” 

Keeping Your Patients Synced 

When filling a 30-day supply of medications, making sure that each medication is synced can feel overwhelming. 

So how do RapidPakRx owners keep track of their patients' medications?

The RapidPakRx makes it easy for patients to stick to their medication regimen. Each pouch is labeled with the name and dates that each medication needs to be taken. This removes the guesswork and hassle that most patients experience when trying to organize their medications themselves.

“We had a lot of trouble having a basic synchronization program, patients on sync were always getting off due to not taking their medications as prescribed,” says Ben McNabb, owner of Love Oak Pharmacy. “Having patients on adherence packaging has been able to keep them more well aligned on med sync.”

If pharmacists are waiting to get a refill from a patient’s physician or realize that there is a change in the medications, they can quickly identify it a few days before filling the 30-day supply. Coordinating with a staff member to reach out to the physician and patient a few days before filling the pouches can help ensure that everything is updated. 

How to Choose the Right Automation for Your Pharmacy

It’s not too late for your pharmacy to offer adherence pouch packaging. RapidPakRx Pouch Packaging

Starting your own adherence pouch packaging program is easy with the RapidPakRx. The RapidPakRx is an all-in-one design built to fit into any pharmacy. With unmatched speed and accuracy, the RapidPakRx can complete packaging for up to 50 patients using only one technician in an 8-hour shift. 

Don’t get left behind! There is a huge untapped market of patients ready to improve their health with pouch packaging. To learn more about the RapidPakRx please call an adherence expert at (877) 797-2332, or visit our product page.


RxSafe

RxSafe is the leader in robotic automation that improves patient safety and boosts profitability for retail and outpatient pharmacies. Our technology solutions include the RapidPakRx™ adherence strip packager, the RapidCardRx™ system for filling single or multi-med blister cards, and the RxSafe 1800™ high-density storage and retrieval system. Learn more at www.rxsafe.com.
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