Physician dispensing is changing the way that patients receive medication from doctors and medical practitioners. By dispensing medication directly to the patient in the doctor's office, the physician or clinic replaces the patient's extra step (and extra costs) of going to the pharmacy, thereby improving patient care, medication adherence, and providing a valuable income stream for doctors and clinics.
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Benefits of Physician Dispensing
There are numerous benefits for physicians in setting up an in-office dispensing program, including improved patient medication adherence and improved practice economics and efficiency.
Benefit #1: Improved Patient Compliance and Treatment
Providing medication directly to the patient at the point of care allows the healthcare visit to be more comprehensive and effective. Recent data indicates that out of 15,961 patients in a network of 131 physicians, primary non-adherence was 31.3%. That is over 31,000 prescriptions which were written but not filled. Put another way -- over 30% of the time, your work examining patients, working out an effective diagnosis, developing a treatment plan, and prescribing the most effective medication to heal them is rendered less effective by medication non-compliance. By dispensing prepackaged medication at the point of care, you will have confidence that every single one of your patients will have the right medication before they leave your office.
Even when patients do actually obtain their medications, they do not always carefully follow the instructions. For example, a World Health Organization study showed that approximately 50% of patients do not actually take their medications as prescribed. This problem cannot be completely solved with in-office pharmacy solutions, but it can be mitigated. For example, medical practitioners are in position to explain exactly how a given drug program fits into the overall course of treatment and why it is important.
In addition, as they dispensing physician, you are likely to know more about the patient and have a better relationship with him or her than the pharmacy, and to be in a more trusted position with him or her relating to their care. As such, a patient may be more likely to share otherwise unstated objections or barriers to compliance with you than with a pharmacist. You might also be more aware than a pharmacy of some compliance obstacles (e.g., potential language barriers) that might limit a patient's ability to read and understand prescription labels and be able to address and mitigate these.
Not only does dispensing medication at your clinic ensure that your patients get the drugs that they need, it also ensures that they get them right away, allowing their treatment to begin immediately for improved outcomes. Also by not having to communicate the prescription through a pharmacy and being able to handle it directly, you reduce the potential for errors in fulfillment.
To add to this, a doctor's office is likely to be more private than a neighborhood pharmacy, so a patient with a sensitive condition, or who is simply embarrassed to be seen asking too many questions, especially when a line forms behind him or her, would be more likely to ask, and trust, a dispensing doctor.
Benefit #2: Improved Practice Economics and Efficiency
Another clear benefit of dispensing for doctors and clinics is financial. For commonly-dispensed drugs, it is just as easy, if not easier, to provide these directly to patients from the physician's office or clinic than it is to send the patient to a pharmacy. Pharmacies charge a markup for their services in providing drugs to consumers; dispensing doctors can do the same without adding additional costs to the patient, and create a new income stream to support their practice. In many cases, it is easy for dispensing doctors to be reimbursed through insurance plans, or with prepackaged medication providers like DocRx who provide generic medications at extremely low prices, it is often possible to provide prescription medications to patients for a cost equivalent to the patient's co-pay at the pharmacy, while still charging a fair markup for providing this extremely valuable service.
Notably, all of these benefits can be achieved without having to hire additional clinic staff or extend hours. With a minimal amount of training, the in-office dispensing process is extremely easy to manage. If you are in one of the states that allow physician dispensing, you can be up and running extremely quickly, and in general you will not need to purchase any new equipment.
Clinics can also benefit indirectly from providing improvements to patient care (through increased compliance) and convenience (from not having to engage in time-consuming pharmacy visits). Increased patient satisfaction leads to greater retention, decreased patient churn, more predictable scheduling and revenue, and flows of new patients through positive reviews and word-of-mouth referrals.
Benefit #3: Patient and Community Safety
The arrival of the novel coronavirus to the United States has highlighted a third, powerful set of benefits patients, the general public, and the health care system in general. As we know, the virus is commonly spread through person-to-person contact. Removing an unnecessary trip of the patient to a pharmacy also removes multiple occurrences of person-to-person contact and virus transmission opportunities.
Physician Dispensing Solutions
With all but two of the 50 US states allowing physician dispensing (see below for Physician Drug Dispensing Overview of State Regulation), why does the idea of an in-office pharmacy seem so new and revolutionary? The answer is that, until recently, the process has been too difficult and cumbersome to justify the effort.
However, technology and efficient solutions have stepped in to bridge the gap. DocRx provides pre-sealed, pre-labeled options for commonly-prescribed medications, and easy-to-use and easy-to-install systems to allow providers to fulfill prescriptions in just a couple minutes (and handle order placement, inventory control, and compliance), without creating complicated new procedures, training staff, or even in most cases obtaining new equipment.
This is an enormous time saver when considering what has been removed from the process. There are no more hand-written doctor notes, no phone calls to the pharmacy, and no more doctor-pharmacy communication issues to account for. By dispensing prepackaged medication directly to your patients, you will never have to re-prescribe a “new” medication simply because their pharmacy of choice does not have the originally-prescribed medication available. For doctors and clinics who can estimate the type and quantity of medications prescribed on a monthly basis, the dispensing solutions can be even more automated for even greater efficiency.
The less time medical practitioners have to spend on unnecessary and non-value-added activities like these, the more time you can spend with your patients and developing your practice.
Patient Benefits of Physician Dispensing
Naturally, the most important patient benefit that comes from point of care dispensing is the improved outcomes that come from their improved compliance, as noted above. Patients who receive their medication, and do so in a timely fashion, with a clear understanding of the course of treatment are obviously more likely to respond more quickly and more effectively to their care. As noted above, many patients also appreciate the improved confidentiality and privacy that comes from discussing their medication and treatment in a doctor's office as opposed to at a busy pharmacy. Particularly engaged patients also appreciate the opportunity to ask questions about their medication in the context of their overall treatment, which a dispensing doctor would be able to answer but a pharmacist would not. As the physician, only you have a holistic view of the different components of a patient's condition and treatment.
However, even patients who would go to the pharmacy right away and who would adhere to all of the instructions associated with their medication still benefit significantly from having a dispensing physician as their doctor. This benefit comes in the form of significantly improved convenience. Today, most people are accustomed to visiting a pharmacy after a doctor’s visit to pick up prescribed medication simple as a matter of course. However, this traditional form of medication dispensing creates costs and obstacles for patients compared with the alternative of receiving prepackaged medication directly from the doctor.
Putting yourself in the patient's shoes, imagine a doctor's visit as a one-stop experience, without the additional step of travel to a pharmacy (and possibly a second visit, if it takes time for the pharmacy to prepare the prescription or if the pharmacy does not have the prescription drugs in question). These issues are further intensified for patients who are elderly, mobility-challenged, or who do not have a nearby pharmacy which accepts their insurance. As seen above, these obstacles are a significant driver of medication non-compliance, and, by extension, increased medical issues and health care costs. Unfortunately, these obstacles also disproportionately affect the more vulnerable in society; for example a time-challenged single parent with two jobs has much less time and money to drive to a pharmacy, pay for parking, wait in line, and then do it all again later as he or she makes a return trip to pick up the prescription.
Physician Dispensing Laws by State
Physicians in most states have the right to prescribe and dispense prescription medication directly to their patients. Most of the physician dispensing laws by state in 2019 have continued into 2020, with possible liberalization underway in Texas (where Texas Board of Pharmacy physician dispensing laws largely prohibits the practice today) and elsewhere.
Until recently the practice of dispensing prescribed medications directly to patients has been too cost-prohibitive and cumbersome with little to no benefit for the physician. Now, with recent advances in physician dispensing software, services and solutions, more doctors are taking advantage of their right to provide this additional service to their patients and to expand their overall practice.
If you are doctor or clinic interested in establishing a physician dispensing solution for your practice, it should be noted that regulations are not consistent among all states throughout the US – they may vary quite significantly. In 48 of 50 states, physician dispensing is broadly legal, though specific criteria around who can dispense medication vary. It is also worth noting that dispensing laws and regulations change quickly, and it is a serious mistake to rely on outdated information.
For specific detail on physician dispensing regulations by state as they relate to your practice, please use the contact form at the bottom of this page to schedule a phone consultation with one of our experts. In addition, your state's Board of Pharmacy will often provide generic regulatory information for your state, though even in that case it is recommended to discuss your specific situation with an expert.
Many thousands of doctors and clinics are turning to in-office dispensing every year, and with DocRx as a partner, you can be set up for dispensing - with the highest standards of compliance - within a number of days.
Physician Dispensing Companies: Dispensing with DocRx
Providing doctors and clinics with the ability to dispense prescriptions easily and efficiently is a major part of what we do. By improving patient outcomes, this process is a part of our mission of "Patient Health First". We offer pre-sealed, pre-labeled generic medications for in-office dispensing. If it can be prescribed for, and filled at, a retail pharmacy, you can dispense it directly to patients at your clinic. DocRx is well-known in the prepackaged medication field for having the lowest prices while maintaining the highest standards of quality, compliance, and service. Please see the video below for what you can expect when partnering with DocRx.