Pharmacies have long been regarded as a reliable and crucial component of our healthcare system. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, they have played a vital role in administering vaccines and expanding their clinical services. However, recent events have shed light on the growing frustration of pharmacists and pharmacy workers with their working conditions. Walkouts and concerns about patient safety have surfaced, leading to a deeper examination of the challenges faced by these essential healthcare professionals.
One significant factor contributing to these issues is the discrepancy between increased revenues from clinical services and decreased reimbursement from insurers. While pharmacies have expanded their services, they have not seen adequate staffing to support these endeavors. This has forced them into a difficult position: either scale back their clinical services, increase staffing, or continue with the same resources. Unfortunately, due to financial pressures and the need to meet Wall Street expectations, many pharmacies have chosen the latter option.
The call for increased staffing seems reasonable, but it is unlikely to happen given the current financial constraints. Additionally, pharmacies are reluctant to lose or transfer patients, as it would result in a drop in prescription revenues. Higher reimbursement from insurers is also an unlikely solution, considering the strategic value of clinical services and the need to diversify revenue streams.
However, there may be another solution worth exploring: the implementation of 12-month prescriptions for long-term chronic medications. This approach would involve patients receiving a year’s supply of medication with a single prescription pick-up. By converting a significant portion of 90-day prescriptions to 12-month fills, the workload for pharmacists could be reduced, leading to improved working conditions and patient safety.
Dispensing medications in six- or 12-month supplies has become more feasible with the prevalence of low-cost generic medications. The incremental cost for patients would be minimal, while the benefits in terms of saving time and reducing administrative burdens are significant. Studies have shown that both pharmacists and physicians support the idea of longer prescription durations for stable patients, and state pharmacy laws already allow for such dispensations.
The biggest challenge lies in convincing insurance companies to cover extended supplies for select maintenance medications. While many patients rely on insurance for their prescriptions, implementing this change could ultimately reduce costs for both patients and insurers. With the support of healthcare professionals and patients, it is essential to advocate for policies that encourage the coverage of six- and 12-month supplies by insurance companies, ensuring the well-being of both patients and pharmacy workers.
Q: Why are pharmacies facing challenges with their working conditions?
A: Pharmacy workers are experiencing overwhelming working conditions and raising concerns about patient safety due to inadequate staffing and increased demand for clinical services.
Q: What are the potential solutions to address these challenges?
A: Solutions include increasing staffing, reducing the number of prescriptions dispensed, and implementing 12-month prescriptions for stable patients.
Q: Why are pharmacies hesitant to increase staffing?
A: Financial pressures and the need to meet earnings expectations make it challenging for pharmacies to allocate resources towards increased staffing.
Q: How can 12-month prescriptions benefit patients and pharmacists?
A: For stable patients, receiving a year’s supply of medication at once reduces the workload for pharmacists and improves patient convenience.
Q: What are the obstacles to implementing 12-month prescriptions?
A: The main challenge lies in convincing insurance companies to cover extended supplies, as most patients rely on insurance for their prescriptions.