Pharmacies

Open Opportunity

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How (and why) pharmacists can help Medicare Part D patients with open enrollment.

Over 50 percent of the average independent community pharmacy’s patient population is covered by Medicaid or Medicare Part D,1 which points to an enormous opportunity for local pharmacists to deliver additional value and build long term loyalty with this patient base. By proactively addressing questions and assisting with medication and wellness needs, community pharmacists can expand upon their vital role in health and wellness management. Now through December 7, 2016 the open enrollment period for Medicare Part D is in full swing, and there is a valid and necessary impetus for pharmacists to step forward and offer personalized guidance regarding prescription drug plans. Not only can pharmacists support patients with short-term decision-making, but the time and attention provided today will help establish and reinforce the pharmacist’s value and commitment to care.

Cutting Through the Noise
There exists a litany of plans for beneficiaries to choose from under Medicare Part D, and while each state or region may only offer a dozen, there is just enough information to confuse many patients. Herein lies the opportunity for pharmacists to serve as a resource for patients by helping them navigate open enrollment. The complexities of plan selection is overwhelming for many patients and the unmatched value of help in finding a plan that meets their goals is likely to result in increased patient loyalty.

Medicare.gov serves as an obvious source of information for patient conversations while tools design specifically for community pharmacies, such as iMedicare and PrescribeMedicare, are available as pharmacists assist their patients in navigating Medicare plan options. It is important for a pharmacist to understand his or her restrictions when talking about healthcare plans. For instance, while community pharmacists can provide information, they should never recommend one plans over another. It is ultimately up to the patient to use the information provided by the pharmacist to make a well-informed decision.

Promote Conversation
One of the simplest, most direct ways to assist patients with plan selection is to make it known that the pharmacist is an available resource. Post signs in high-traffic areas and invite patients to have a consultation on the spot if time permits, or give them the option to book an appointment for a future clinical discussion. Pharmacists can also leverage their pharmacy system to identify Part D patients and engage in proactive outboard calls or emails to let them know the pharmacist is available to help—and welcomes the opportunity to do so.

These interactions help patients immensely, and they also provide the pharmacist with an opportunity to solidify patient relationships and reinforce their role in managing wellness.

Make It Personal
While patients who are new to Medicare enrollment usually have questions, the needs of patients who are re-enrolling should not be underestimated. Since many Medicare subscribers stay with the same plan year after year, taking the time to review their histories and any upcoming changes to their plan to ensure their current plan is still the best plan for their needs demonstrates an interest in their well-being — and helps gain patient loyalty.

Demonstrate the Advantage
Pharmacists who provide insight, simplify plan options and deliver plan information in a personalized, easy-to-understand manner can create a bond with the patient that is difficult to break, even if they could find lower costs elsewhere. And the additional time spent with patients may lead to other pharmacy wellness services, such as flu shots and health screenings.

Remember that Part D enrollees are empowered to choose more than their own plan: They get to select their pharmacy as well. With friendly, informational and personal communication, pharmacists provide a much-needed service to patients, solidify their role in caring for their communities and help secure their future too.

Learn how AmerisourceBergen is enabling pharmacies to deliver quality patient care while managing healthy operations at AmerisourceBergenDrug.com. 

1. National Community Pharmacists Association. NCPA Digest. October 2016. Accessed 16 November 2016. Available online at http://www.ncpanet.org/solutions/ncpa-digest-sponsored-by-cardinal-health
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