Medication Errors

Medication errors occur in a pharmacy under the best of conditions. However, a previous Missouri court ruling regarding a pharmacy medication dispensing error clearly shows that a lack of proper supervision, documentation and up-to-date policies and procedures will not be tolerated when the public’s safety is placed in jeopardy as a result. In an excellent article just released in the Australian Journal of Pharmacy, an extremely valid point is made: the owner of the pharmacy is always ultimately responsible! The point was well made that although many pharmacies are owned by pharmacists (or non-pharmacists) who do not actually work in them, in the end it is the owner’s responsibility to make certain that current and up to date Policies and Procedures are maintained and followed by all of the pharmacy’s staff. Being an “absentee” owner will not stop the legal ramifications of dispensing errors and other mistakes by employees that could (and should) have been prevented.

The Missouri Case and Ruling

The Missouri Court of Appeals (Western District) reversed a lower court’s decision in late October that centered around a medication dispensing error by a pharmacist in Missouri. The dispensing error occurred when a pharmacy technician took several prescriptions over the phone from a Registered Nurse on behalf of the physician who was discharging his patient from the hospital. Although several mistakes were actually made by the technician, the most significant medication dispensing error was that the prescription phoned in by the RN for the patient’s metolazone was transcribed incorrectly to read methotrexate. The directions given to the patient for “once daily” administration of the drug inherently led to the patient’s death less than three weeks later (after she followed the directions on the Rx bottle and took a dose each day).

The family sued after the patient’s death and was awarded $2,000,000 in damages by a jury after a trial. Even though gross negligence was proven and admitted by the defendants in the initial trial, the damages awarded were reduced by a lower Missouri appeals court to $125,000 (based on Missouri statutory caps and limits to damages awarded by a jury). The victim’s family further pursued the ruling, which eventually led to the recent reversal by the higher court. The court upheld the jurors’ decision to award the patient’s family the additional damages that they initially awarded for pain and suffering caused by “aggravating factors and circumstances” resulting from the medication dispensing error by the pharmacy.

The Four (4) Medication Dispensing Errors as Noted By The Missouri Court

What makes this case so noteworthy is that the Missouri Court of Appeals actually broke down the case into four separate incidences of medication errors occurring in the pharmacy’s process of dispensing the prescription.
1. The first error cited by the court was that the technician took the prescription verbally over the telephone. Although currently Missouri is one of the seventeen (17) sates that allows pharmacy technicians to take prescriptions verbally by telephone, the court noted that the pharmacy’s own policies and procedures actually prohibited this practice and state that only RPh’s are allowed to accept prescriptions via verbal phone communication.

2. The second error was that the pharmacist did not question the methotrexate being administered once daily. In conjunction was the fact that the pharmacy’s computer system failed to “flag” the daily methotrexate dose. The court’s opinion stated that the pharmacist failed to properly review the medication and its administration, plus the court noted that there was a lack of a computerized “hard stop” for methotrexate prescriptions prescribed to be administered once a day.

3. The third error cited by the court was the failure by the pharmacy to provide the patient with the necessary education and the required patient counseling when dispensing a new Rx to a patient. Especially when the prescription is for a high risk medication (such as methotrexate is).

4. The fourth and perhaps most significant error cited by the court was the fact that the pharmacy “had made no meaningful changes to its procedures as a result of the patient’s death.” The court noted that in the twenty (20) months since the original verdict in February of 2016, the pharmacy had failed to update and document any changes to their policy and procedures manual. This included any documented updates to their procedures regarding a pharmacy technician’s role in the prescription dispensing process.

Minimizing Medication Errors and Pharmacy Dispensing Errors

The FDA defines a medication error as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or harm to a patient”. A study released back in 2006 by The Institute of Medicine (a part of the US National Academy of Sciences) showed that medication errors result in harm to at least 1.5 million patients annually. Another study showed that over 400,000 patient injuries take place in hospitals in the US alone due to medication errors.  Medication errors occur for a variety of reasons. and everyone agrees that no one is perfect. Yet in today’s society of consumers having more access to drug information than ever before, medication dispensing errors by pharmacists are being reported much more frequently. As a pharmacy owner and/or practitioner, we all need to take a hard look at this and ensure that best practices are always being followed to the best of our abilities. As the National Institute of Health (NIH) points out: “Errors will always occur in any system, but it is essential to identify their causes and attempt to minimize the risks”.

As a pharmacy owner or manager, ask yourself the following questions:
– Do you ensure that if a mistake is made that you have documentation that will prove that you made changes to your written Policy and Procedures to show that you take every step possible to avoid medication dispensing errors?
– Is your staff properly trained and able to document situations where a mistake is made? Do you have job descriptions for your technicians and support personnel?
– When was the last time that your pharmacy took a good look at how it dispenses prescriptions and medications, plus how you document patient counseling?
– Are you following “best practices” and limiting the chance for potential medication dispensing errors (and therefore reducing your risks of potential lawsuits and bad publicity)?
If your answers are “not lately”, then we strongly advise that you get a qualified pharmacy consultant to take an objective look at your policies and procedures. An objective third party review may mean the difference between a court ruling like the damaging case seen in Missouri and your pharmacy maintaining its good reputation.

Pharmacy consulting is an area that most pharmacy owners don’t take advantage of until it is too late. At HCC we stress that addressing and preventing issues before they occur is the key to avoiding future problems, lawsuits and bad publicity. The old cliché that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never been more relevant than it is today.

About Healthcare Consultants

Healthcare Consultants has been in the business of Pharmacy Consulting for over 29 years now. Known as one of the nation’s leading full service pharmacy staffing companies, HCC is also one of the industry leaders in providing a full range of professional pharmacy consultation services to its vast array of clients. Owned and operated by pharmacists, Healthcare Consultants can provide proven expertise and experience in all facets of pharmacy operations, including retail, hospital and specialty pharmacy venues. With a full-time staff of in-house Pharmacy Consultant specialists, HCC can answer any questions that you may have in all areas of your business. Contact us online or call us today at (800) 642-1652 for a free consultation to see how we can help you.




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New Pharmacies and Ownership

New Pharmacy ConsultationNew pharmacy startups and the opening of brand-new pharmacy operations are occurring at a faster rate this year than ever before seen. Just reviewing the first two weeks of November this year reveals a staggering number of new retail community pharmacy businesses being opened and successfully established all across the entire fifty United States. Considering the 2018 “explosion” of new drug stores, plus the recent national economic growth and positive forecasts for 2019, one can only conclude that the number of new pharmacy start-ups will continue and even, probably, accelerate at a rate never before seen.

Examples of Recent Pharmacy Startups

Just as examples of the startup trend, consider the following recently opened retail community pharmacies that have been in the news in just the past few weeks.

  1. In Clarksville, Tennessee – Hilltop Supermarket is adding a brand new pharmacy department. Owner of the supermarket (Cody Jackson) said that he will actually not own the pharmacy, but will partner with a local RPh. who has vast experience running retail community pharmacies in the area. For Hilltop Supermarket, having a pharmacy as an addition to his grocery store will be “breaking new ground”. “I know about the grocery business, but I don’t know a lot about running a pharmacy,” Jackson said. “The pharmacy will occupy space in our store, but it will be run and managed by someone else who has been successful with other pharmacies in the area.”
  2. In Ellensburg, Washington – Whole Health Pharmacy was recently opened by two local pharmacists who saw a tremendous opportunity after the local Downtown Pharmacy closed their doors this past October. Both of the new pharmacy’s owners had previously worked at the now defunct Downtown Pharmacy and knew that this was the “chance of a lifetime” to both help their community and open up a successful retail community drugstore.
  3. In Dayton, Ohio – Wright-Patt’s Kittyhawk Pharmacy opened its doors for business (although the official “ribbon cutting” will actually take place on December 12th). The new $10 million facility was actually upgraded with a modernized drive through lane, plus new dispensing apparatus that will enhance  both dispensing safety and double the prescription processing space. While focusing on diabetic supplies, the owners are hoping that the increased efficiency alone will pay for the upgrades over time (plus increase their local market share of customers).

    Changes in Ownership Also Rapidly Increasing in Pharmacy

    In addition to the rapid pace of new pharmacy practices being recently started and established, there is also an increasing frequency of established pharmacies being sold, bought and reorganized under new ownership and management. Once again, simply scanning the past several weeks reveals numerous examples to consider.

    1. In Cleveland, Ohio – Dave’s Mercado Pharmacy (owned by Dave’s Supermarket Inc.) was sold to Neighborhood Family Practice. The new owners have announced that they will be expanding the pharmacy’s business hours, plus adding several new services. Currently the pharmacy is undergoing an extensive remodeling, but will reopen in January of 2019 under the new name of the Neighborhood Family Practice Pharmacy. Interestingly, the store was originally founded all the way back in 1930 and renamed Dave’s Mercado in an effort to attract the Hispanic population in the area as customers.

    2. In Bull Shoals, Arkansas – Lake Side Pharmacy was purchased from previous owner Steve Thomas (who owned the drugstore for approximately thirty years) Thomas sold the pharmacy in order to retire, and the new owner (Layne Hawkins) has a PharmD degree and vast previous experience as an independent pharmacist.

    Starting a Drugstore or Buying an Existing Pharmacy

    If you are considering a pharmacy startup or the purchase of an existing drugstore in 2019, then consider asking yourself several basic questions. Your answers may make the difference between your pharmacy becoming a successful business venture versus it being a disappointing failure and a loss of money.
    1. How much money and funding will I need and where will it come from?
    Your answer should include all of the possible initial startup or acquirement costs, plus take into consideration such ongoing costs as staffing (if necessary) and marketing. If this is your first business venture, are there additional costs that you may not have thought of? How much debt or equity are realistic? How best to obtain funding should you need it?
    2. Do I need a written pharmacy business plan?
    The answer is YES! Whether starting up a pharmacy business or purchasing an existing drugstore, every successful entrepreneur knows that in order to become successful one must write a solid business plan. In addition to being a “road map to success”, a solid business plan can help you get the funding from lenders that may be required.
    2. What experts will I need?
    You may have already considered an accountant and an attorney, BUT the most important expert of all is a seasoned Pharmacy Consultant on your team. HCC is known for being a national leader in helping pharmacy owners plan, purchase, setup and staff their pharmacies nationwide. Having helped open hundreds of new pharmacies and pharmacy startups, HCC ensures that all aspects of the business are covered and done right.

    Pharmacy Startup Experts

    There are many factors to consider in the planning, execution and the long-term success of starting up or purchasing an existing pharmacy business. Planning and execution are the keys to a drugstore being opened and becoming a successful business. Some of the considerations and tasks that Healthcare Consultants Pharmacy Staffing can provide include:

    – Creation and review of a business plan
    – Evaluation of proposed business location
    – Design recommendations
    – Obtaining financing
    – Assistance and guidance in the application process
    – Provide a Pharmacy Manger for both the application process and inspection
    – Provide a list of equipment and supplies (both for the Board of Pharmacy inspection and the actual Pharmacy operations)
    – Make arrangements for the final inspection of the facility (including a mock-inspection)
    – Suggestions for vendors
    – Provide legal support
    – Provide staffing

    If you are considering starting up or purchasing a pharmacy in 2019, we strongly urge you to get in touch with us today for a free consultation. We offer you the support of an experienced staff who have been through the process numerous times and know the business inside and out!  With over 29 years of experience, Healthcare Consultants Pharmacy Staffing has helped hundreds of business owners (both pharmacists and non-pharmacists alike) establish successful businesses over the years.  Contact us now online or call us today at (800) 642-1652  to discuss how we can help you.

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Opening a Successful New Pharmacy Business – What You Need To Know

New Pharmacy ConsultationOpening up a new pharmacy business is really not that much different from starting up any other type of retail enterprise. Aside from the regulations and laws inherently involved in a new pharmacy operation, the basic business startup principles still all apply. Having opened up hundreds of new pharmacies at HCC, here are the general retail business guidelines that any entrepreneur should consider as the basics for a successful and profitable endeavor.

On average the owner of an independent retail community pharmacy makes an estimated two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars annually (~ $247,000). Keeping in mind that the independent community pharmacies still hold roughly a thirty percent (30%) share of the overall retail prescription market, one can easily see why so many new drugstores keep being opened up. Yet the entrepreneur must also consider the most recent reports from the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA). The NCPA reported that there’s actually been roughly a ten percent (10%) decline since 2001 in the number of independent pharmacies in the United States. According to the NCPA statistics released, there are currently an estimated 22,000 independent community pharmacies versus the 25,000 retail independents operating nationally in 2001. The point is, that while starting up a new pharmacy business can be very rewarding financially, like any other retail business it must be properly planned and executed correctly to wind up as a profitable business investment and venture.

Start With a Written Business Plan

Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that a written business plan is the key to success when starting up a new business of any kind. Basically, your business plan should contain your business goals, the reasons that they are achievable and a detailed plan for reaching them within a certain time-frame. Most entrepreneurs look at a business as they would a map. Would you set out driving a long distance without a map or knowing the fastest and safest route to get to your ultimate destination? Of course not. The same is true for starting up a new pharmacy – outline the fastest and safest route to achieving a profitable operation. Keep in mind, that like the example of the map, your business plan must be flexible and allow for contingencies. As with driving, the roads may be under construction or blocked, so sometimes even the best plan needs some adjustments or modifications made to it. The same holds true with a new pharmacy start-up. Being flexible and prepared to make business adjustments or changes when certain conditions call for them is the key to achieving a profitable venture in the end. Additionally, a solid business plan can greatly assist you in obtaining funding from lenders that you may require.

Location Is the Critical Consideration

As with any retail business, the three most important factors that need consideration are: location, location and location! It is imperative that you first determine who your target market and audience is, and then select a location where they frequently shop for goods and services. Your new pharmacy startup may offer customers the very best of everything – great service, low prices, excellent product selection – but if your target market doesn’t frequent the location that you’ve chosen,  you will likely not be open for very long.

Most entrepreneurs view choosing their business’s retail location as they would fishing. To be successful while fishing you must throw your line and bait where the fish are. There’s no use fishing where the type of fish you’re trying to catch don’t swim and eat! The best fishermen put in the time and energy to research the best fishing spots. The same holds true for determining where to start your new pharmacy. Intensive research should be performed before choosing your pharmacy’s location. Economic data such as average family income in a specific zip-code or neighborhood is readily available these days. You may want to consider hiring a professional market research firm to provide you accurate data before you select a location. Additionally, look for retail outlets that are already thriving with business and shoppers. You may have to pay a higher rent, but the rewards and results will be worth it.

Design – Both the Outside and the Inside

Design of both the inside and outside of your new pharmacy can be a major key in the business becoming a successful venture. In order to determine what would be the best possible presentation and appeal for prospective customers, think about forming what marketing companies refer to as “focus groups” before making up your mind. Try and remember that you are not your own target audience and that it’s hard to be objective about your own business. Consider hiring a professional store designer and then enlisting a sampling of people that represent your ideal customer base. You may be shocked to find out that what you had in mind may not be in alignment with the feedback you receive. So be open minded and remember that becoming a profitable business is your goal.

How Much Money Does It Take To Open a Pharmacy?

Your answer will be much clearer after your business plan is written. Obviously you will need to include all of the possible initial startup costs, plus take into consideration such ongoing costs as staffing (if necessary) and marketing. Additionally, a brand new pharmacy takes time to start generating any profit, so a realistic operating budget is a must. Initially acquiring a credit line and researching how best to obtain additional funding should you need it are both highly suggested to do at the very beginning of the start-up process.

Start Marketing Before You’re Open For Business

Don’t make the mistake of waiting until your pharmacy is open to begin the marketing! Have your website and Google Business Listing in place before you actually fill your first prescription. Use direct mail and social media prior to the “Grand Opening” to create a buzz. Additionally, consider some form of an initial promotion to get those curious shoppers to stop by and hopefully become customers of your business.

Enlist the Experts!

You may have already talked with an attorney or accountant, BUT the most important expert of all is a seasoned Pharmacy Consultant on your team. Healthcare Consultants is known as the leader in helping pharmacy owners plan, purchase, setup and staff their pharmacies nationwide. Having opened hundreds of new pharmacies and pharmacy startups, HCC will ensure that all aspects of the business are covered and done right.

If you are truly considering starting up a new pharmacy operation, we strongly urge you to get in touch with us today for a free consultation. We offer you the support of an experienced staff who have been through the process numerous times and know the business inside and out!  With over 29 years of experience, Healthcare Consultants Pharmacy Staffing has helped hundreds of business owners (both pharmacists and non-pharmacists alike) establish successful businesses over the years.  Contact us now online or call us today at (800) 642-1652 to discuss how we can help you.


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Pharmacy HIPAA Compliance Policies Procedures

Pharmacy HIPAA compliance policies and proceduresDo you have Pharmacy HIPAA compliance policies and procedures at your pharmacy? Are your employees HIPAA certified? HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is always a topic of discussion when patients start asking their pharmacists and physicians for the receipts of their medical expenditures for tax purposes. This usually starts happening in late November and December, plus continues all the way to April 15th. These receipts are considered to be a part of a patient’s medical records and their release (what information and to whom it is released) should be covered in your pharmacy’s policies and procedures manual. Additionally, it is wise to get your staff training on dealing with patient confidentiality and even have them become HIPAA certified. Now is the time to make sure that your employees understand exactly what HIPAA compliance really is, plus gives you the time to update your P & P manual and get your staff properly trained and certified in regards to your pharmacy operation being HIPAA compliant.

Verdict Against Walgreens Upheld by the Indiana Court of Appeals

It has been almost three years now since the $1.4 million dollar verdict against Walgreens was upheld by the Indiana Court of Appeals. The court had ruled against Walgreens Pharmacy and one of its pharmacists who shared confidential medical information regarding a patient. The court based the award on the fact that they had violated HIPAA restrictions and broken the patient’s rights to privacy and confidentiality, thus resulting in harm to the individual and his family. That ruling was the initial decision handed down by an Indiana State Court holding a healthcare company or provider liable for an employee violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, but there have since been others. Many Pharmacists still remember back in 2009 when the CVS drug chain agreed to pay $2.25 million to settle for HIPAA violations regarding the inappropriate disposal of prescription bottles and receipts that were considered to be violations of HIPAA standards and rules.

Patients Own Their Medical Records

It must also be pointed out that legally patients own their medical records. More and more patients and consumers are aware of this right and requesting their medical records from their doctors, hospitals and pharmacies. Previously, in the “paper age”, obtaining them was a costly, time consuming process. However, in this age of electronic medical records (and digital data storage and retrieval), obtaining one’s medical records is easily accomplished. A recent survey reported that over 97 percent of hospitals and over 82 percent of physicians utilize electronic records for their patients. So the public’s expectation is that they are “quickly” entitled to this information, plus it should be provided without hesitation and inexpensively (as compared to just a decade ago). In a good article in The Peoples Pharmacy, patients are encouraged to obtain their medical records and can even download and print a free “drug safety questionnaire” to take to their pharmacists and physicians to fill out.

Pharmacy Operations and HIPAA

HIPAA’s Privacy Rule basically was put in place to safeguard a patient’s protected healthcare information (PHI). Additionally it mandates that a patient has access to their own medical records and that patients have the right of ownership regarding their own healthcare information. These HIPAA Privacy Rules apply to everyone who “manages health care transactions”, and the point to be noted is that this includes pharmacies, pharmacists and the entire pharmacy staff.

The Rules

Suffice it to say that the rules are complex regarding a patient’s protected healthcare information (PHI). The basis of HIPAA and the HIPAA Privacy Rules simply stated is that pharmacies must get signed authorization from patients prior to service that allows the pharmacy to use their PHI during their care, plus allows the patient to access their PHI. Yet there are exceptions, exclusions, provisions from other acts (such as the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act) that have turned the good intentions of HIPAA into a legal “quagmire” for the pharmacy and pharmacist. Just a few that were noted in some excellent articles (including a well explained discussion in Pharmacy Times):
–  Exclusions to a patient’s PHI (when it could harm the individual or others) include psychotherapy notes, legal documents, or laboratory results prohibited under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA).
– Another exclusion is if the patient is not able or unavailable to agree or object in instances where disclosure is required by law, public health oversight, or child abuse or neglect.
–  PHI must be disclosed regardless of patient’s authorization to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) during an investigation.
– Additionally there are situations when a pharmacy or a pharmacist may disclose a patient’s PHI without the patient’s consent under certain treatment, payment or operations “instances”.

Reporting Violations and Possible Fines

HIPAA violations must be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If a violation affects more than 500 patients, then HHS must be notified within sixty (60) calendar days. If less than 500 patients are affected by a violation, you may notify HHS no later than sixty (60) days after the end of that calendar year. Fines range from a minimum of $100 per violation up to $1.5 million.

What Should You Do Regarding HIPAA Compliance

The answer is simple: Develop good Policies and Procedures. Don’t delay – do it now! Then educate your staff on how to implement and follow them. Train yourself and your staff on the law and do not tolerate violations of your Policies and Procedures.
In the past, it was common practice for a pharmacist or pharmacy staff member to share the personal prescription records of patient with the patient’s family members or even friends out of concern or in an attempt to help. Yet now such actions are violations of laws and can result in lawsuits, fines and negative publicity for your pharmacy business operation. Perhaps it’s time to have a comprehensive Pharmacy Business Review of your entire operation by an objective and experienced third-party pharmacy consulting firm.

About Healthcare Consultants

As always, please contact us here at HCC if you have any questions regarding development of policies and procedures related to HIPAA Compliance. If you already have HIPAA policies and procedures in place, perhaps a review by an objective (and experienced) third party is a good idea? With over 29 years in the pharmacy consulting business, HCC can assist you with expert advice in any area of your pharmacy business or practice. With a full-time staff of in-house Pharmacy Consultant specialists, HCC can answer any questions that you may have in all pharmacy settings. Contact us online or call us today at 800-642-1652 for a free consultation.

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Dispensing Error Liability

dispensing errorsDispensing errors in pharmacy are a fact of life. Even with the very best policies and procedures in place, an educated and well trained pharmacy staff performing the necessary steps to ensure safe Rx dispensing, plus an experienced pharmacist performing and overseeing the actual prescription dispensing, the process involves human beings and they are not robots. The point is that humans make mistakes, and dispensing errors occur even when a pharmacy has the very best of systems and professionals in place.

New Dispensing Error Legislation Proposed In The UK

Interestingly enough there is currently new legislation being proposed in the United Kingdom in regards to dispensing errors made by pharmacists and the associated liability to the pharmacy. The problem that the proposed UK legal changes attempts to address is quite simple: Remove the fear of prosecution that pharmacists face when they discover that a dispensing error has been made. By removing the impediment that discourages pharmacists from reporting dispensing errors and mistakes that have been made, the result of increased error reporting can only result in learning from the errors and a vast improvement in patient and consumer safety.

It is important to note that the proposed legislation for exemption from legal liability applies only when an inadvertent medication dispensing error takes place or occurs. As long as the pharmacy had in place proper and up-to-date written Policies and Procedures, plus the pharmacist involved did not intentionally make an error or knowingly break a law, then the proposed legislation would prevent any liability as a result of being reported. In other words (keeping in mind that we here at HCC are not attorneys or lawyers), if the RPh acted in the expected and best standard practices of their profession when a dispensing error was made, the pharmacist would be exempt from both criminal and civil legal liability.

The Estimated Reduction Of Errors In The UK

The assessment that was performed in the United Kingdom to substantiate the legislative changes was based on several basic estimates. Determining whether the estimates are accurate or not is not the intent of this discussion. The reasoning that was used, however, does seem to be logically sound and leads to a dramatic result in the potential economic savings, and, perhaps more importantly, an increase in patient welfare and safety.

The Impact Assessment Estimates

The Impact Assessment conducted and released by the UK Department of Health and Social Care estimated the following:
1. In 2016 alone there were almost twenty-one thousand (20,820) estimated dispensing errors reported by pharmacists throughout the UK.
2. There were almost five-hundred thousand (499,651) additional dispensing errors that were NOT reported by pharmacists during the same year (2016).
3. This means that only about four percent (4%) of all errors were actually reported.
4. The assessment estimated that over sixty percent (62%) of the dispensing errors could be eliminated with a major increase in the sharing of information and an increase in education and discussion regarding the errors.
5. The proposed new UK legislation would then result in an estimated thirty percent (30%) reduction in medication errors in a four year time period. This means that over one-hundred and fifty thousand errors (156,503) would be prevented or eliminated each year.

The Monetary Impact Considerations In The United States

Now let’s extrapolate these estimates to the USA. It’s important to note that the UK assessment pointed out that there are numerous factors why a pharmacist would fail to report a medication dispensing mistake, but they estimated that over twenty percent (20%) of the non-reporting is due to the fear of prosecution.

As reported in 2016 by the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), an estimated economic cost of over $20 billion in the United States is due to medical errors. This number obviously includes all errors, of which only a portion can be attributed to errors in Rx dispensing by pharmacists. However, as reported by the Institute of Healthcare Improvement’s National Patient Safety Foundation almost ten years ago (in 2007), an estimated 3 billion dispensing errors occur annually in retail pharmacies alone in the US.

Although there may be no way to actually extrapolate the monetary savings that could be realized, the possible reduction in deaths caused by dispensing errors is quite considerable. According to a report released by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are greater then seven-thousand (7,000) deaths annually in US hospitals alone that are directly attributed to medication dispensing errors. This number does not include any deaths that are related to dispensing errors made by retail pharmacies. The real question may be: If the UK assessment is correct and the proposed legislative change could result in a thirty percent (30%) reduction in medication errors in four years, would the saving of nearly 2,100 patient lives a year in our nation’s hospitals alone not justify the  change?

Contact HCC For Answers To Your Questions

With over 29 years of experience, Healthcare Consultants has been known as a national leader in regards to pharmacy consulting since 1989. Should you have any questions on how proposed legislation may affect your pharmacy or business, we encourage you to us contact us online now or call today at 800-642-1652. Let us help you ensure that your pharmacy operation has no issues by performing a comprehensive Compliance and Audit Review, or by simply having our experienced team of in-house pharmacy consultants address any questions or issues that you may have.

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Pharmacy Ownership

New Pharmacy Ownership and ConsultationPharmacy owners are really no different than the owners of any other types of businesses. Everyone can agree that owning a pharmacy presents the owner with some very unique challenges and requires very specialized knowledge when compared to most other industries. However, the basic rules of running a business still all apply to owning and running a successful pharmacy operation, whether it’s a retail community pharmacy, specialty pharmacy, compounding pharmacy or even a mail-order operation. Having opened up hundreds of pharmacies throughout the nation, having an expert help out with your pharmacy startup is obviously a great way to get started. But what happens after the startup is completed? To help every pharmacy owner to be as successful as they possibly can (and of course be more profitable), here are several strategic ideas that have been shared by numerous successful business owners.

Have a Business Plan

Having a business plan is essential for success. Consider it to be like a road map. Would anyone travel to their destination without a road map (or these days a navigation unit)? Eventually you may get where you were going, but the route you traveled may not have been the most efficient or fastest way to have gone. The same is true in any business. A written business plan lays out the proposed route to success. Keep in mind that the plan is never “written in stone”. It must be flexible and adjustments often need to be made due to unforeseen circumstances or new changes in the pharmacy profession. Yet not first “mapping” out and planning your business strategies will hinder both your growth and profitability.

Strategic planning for a pharmacy business or operation is crucial in today’s complicated environment. Being prepared for new legislation and the constantly changing insurance issues makes strategic planning a must. Strategic planning and pharmacy consulting are areas that most pharmacy owners don’t take advantage of until it is too late. So why not start off the right way with a solid business plan to help you get where you want to go faster and efficiently?

Set SMART Goals

Setting goals is a key to success for not only owning a business, but for all facets of an individual’s life. This has actually been proven by numerous scientific studies, perhaps the most famous one being a study conducted by Harvard University. The study looked at the monetary success of graduates from the Harvard University MBA Program 10 years after they graduated. What the study revealed was that those graduates who had written goals accounted for approximately three-percent of all the graduating students with MBA degrees. Yet, after ten years following graduation, those 3% were earning almost ten times as much money as the other 97% of graduates “put together”!

The best goals are those that are called S.M.A.R.T. goals. The requirements are these: S.M.A.R.T. goals are defined as goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound.
Specific: This is What, Why and How that describe the goal you set and clearly states exactly what it is that you are intending to achieve or accomplish when you’re finished.
Measurable: This is simply making sure that your goal can be proven successful. It means defining some sort of tangible evidence that clearly demonstrates that your goal was completed and finished.
Achievable: They must be realistic. This doesn’t mean that your goals should be restricted to being “small”. Many people set goals that seemed almost impossible to reach, yet in the end they accomplished them. What it does mean is that you and your team must realistically have the appropriate knowledge, skills and abilities that are necessary to achieve the goal.
Results-Focused: This one sounds the easiest, but may actually be the hardest. What it means is that your goals should measure outcomes, not activities. Often times we may hear that “the devil is in the details” and perhaps it is. Yet in successful goal setting, focus on the outcome. The activities required to achieve your goal can be defined afterwards.
Time-Bound: A specified time frame must be established. Once again it must be realistic, but it creates a time frame and an urgency to accomplish the goal and produce a relevant outcome and result.

Have an Exit Strategy

Having an exit strategy is a must for all business owners. Although many may consider this to be a necessary component of any good business plan, it’s such an important topic that it warrants a separate discussion. It also obviously ties in closely when a pharmacy owner is setting his or her goals: What happens when I reach my goals?

The very best business plans include a sound strategy regarding exiting the business. As the profession, the economic environment, plus multiple personal  situations can obviously change, your exit strategy can change right along with them. Every pharmacy business owner that plans on selling their business at some point in the future should be asking themselves several important questions. Some examples include:
– Will I be able to sell my pharmacy when I retire?
– How can I accurately project what my operation will be worth when I am ready to sell it?
– How can I improve both the worth of my pharmacy and the chances that a third-party will find my drugstore a lucrative purchase?
– What can I be doing right now to increase the value of my business when the time comes to sell?
– Would my family (perhaps a spouse and/or children) be able to run my business if something should happen to me? How do I get them prepared for such a situation?

Almost daily the news stories regarding pharmacies in the USA contain a story about a pharmacy or drugstore simply shutting down their operation and closing their doors. Perhaps proper planning, combined with a solid exit strategy, could have helped prevent some of these sad closings from happening.

Have an Objective Third-party Help You

We’ve often talked about the fact that most pharmacists may, perhaps, lack both the skill and the training that a business owner needs to have. All agree that they definitely lack the time that they need to dedicate to looking closely at all the business parameters in making decisions and adjustments to improve efficiency and profitability. So how can a pharmacy owner do a better job to improve his business?

The answer is in knowing that it is virtually impossible to look objectively at your own business and that expert help is required. Some recent business studies revealed that most successful business owners (not only pharmacies, but in every business vertical) worked with two primary outside vendors:
1. An expert accounting firm to look objectively at their financials and perform regular audits.
2. An expert consulting firm to look objectively at their operation’s work flow, efficiency and business performance.
Pharmacy owners cannot be experts in every area of business. Every pharmacy owner should consider finding an experienced and reputable pharmacy consulting firm to help them look at their operation on a regular basis. Most find that establishing such a partnership produces results that are very effective, with the benefits far outweighing the costs.

About Healthcare Consultants Pharmacy Staffing & Consulting

HCC offers pharmacy owners the support of an experienced staff who have been know the business inside and out! With over 29 years of pharmacy consulting experience, HCC has helped hundreds of business owners (pharmacists and non-pharmacists alike) get results by evaluating their business and objectively identifying operational problems, business opportunities, solutions and options. Contact us on line or call us today at 800-642-1652 for a Free Consultation to find out how we can help you too.


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Gag Orders

gag ordersGag orders placed on retail pharmacies by insurance companies and PBMs (Pharmacy Benefit Managers) hopefully will soon become a thing of the past. For years now both the insurers and the PBMs have restricted pharmacists from telling their patients the truth: that it is often times cheaper for the customer or patient to actually buy the prescription medication without going through their insurance company. Written into the contracts that allows a pharmacy to participate in their programs, the insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers have effectively used these gag orders to block the pharmacist from informing the consumers that it’s less expensive many times to simply pay for their drugs “out of their pockets”. But now it’s clear that the end of this practice may be in sight.

What Is The Know the Lowest Price Act?

Last week the United States Senate passed a new bill known as The Know the Lowest Price Act. The Bill S.2553 would amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act and abolishes the gag orders placed previously on pharmacists for their patients who have Medicare Part-D and patients who have Medicare Advantage (a healthcare plan that is managed by private insurance companies). Basically, the new Senate Act would allow for pricing transparency in a long overdue attempt to help reduce healthcare costs for senior citizens and people with disabilities covered by Medicare. Pharmacists will no longer be forbidden from informing these patients that they can actually spend less money on their prescriptions if they simply don’t go through their health plans.

The bill was passed unanimously last Wednesday by the US Senate, yet it still needs to be approved by Congress’s second chamber – the House of Representatives to become a law. Then it will need to be signed by the President to finally go into effect.

What About Removing Pharmacy Gag Orders For All Patients?

It’s important to note that the new rules of The Know The Lowest Price Act that abolish the pharmacy gag orders only applies to patients with Medicare Part-D and Medicare Advantage Plans. Perhaps soon, however, these pharmacy gag orders will be totally abolished for everyone. Currently another new bill has been proposed that is known as The Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act (S.2554). This newly proposed legislation is aimed to provide the same protection and pricing transparency to all patients that have any form of private or commercial health insurance coverage. This new bill (The Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act) is currently gaining momentum and is right now making its way through the Senate.

It’s also notable that several states have already independently taken action to attempt to eliminate these pharmacy pricing gag orders. Both North Dakota and Connecticut have already banned the practice entirely in their states and made the practice illegal. Georgia has just passed new legislation that clearly states that neither the pharmacy itself and the individual pharmacist cannot be penalized for ignoring any insurance provider’s restrictions or PBM’s gag orders. Now North Carolina has also passed a new law saying that pharmacists have the legal right to share such information with their customers.

A Step In The Right Direction?

Most experts agree that the new legislation is simply the first “small” step in attempting to reduce the cost of healthcare in the United States.

In 2017 it was estimated that approximately three-hundred million Americans currently have a PBM in some way managing their pharmacy benefits. There total nearly twenty “major” PBM companies in the United States, but the three “Super PBM’s” account for approximately eighty percent (80%) of all of healthcare patient coverage. Between these three, they have management of the enrollment of approximately 200 million patients who have health insurance coverage and prescription benefits programs.
The three largest or “Super PBM’s” (ranked by the total number of patients that are enrolled in their health insurance programs) are:
1. Express Scripts
2. CVS Health (formerly CVS Caremark)
3. United Health (also referred to as OptumRx & Catamaran)

What has now happened is that the three biggest major healthcare insurance companies now have acquired ownership of these pharmacy benefit managers.   Cigna just recently purchased Express Scripts for an estimated $76 billion dollars. With Express Scripts being the largest independent Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM), the following “alliances” are now in place:
– Aetna  now owns CVS Health
– Cigna now owns Express Scripts
– UnitedHealth now owns OptumRx
So this removal of the pharmacy “gag order” poses a problem for all of them. Although two-hundred million Americans may benefit, the profits of these insurance “giants” is likely going to suffer. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Interestingly, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), an association for PBMs, stated in response to the new legislation “that gag orders were not common and that the organization did not endorse their use”. Yet CNN has reported that the association is spending “large” amounts of money lobbying against the bills.

Questions or Comments on the Gag Order Laws?

At Healthcare Consultants Pharmacy Staffing & Consulting, we welcome your feedback and are available to answer any questions that you may have about this new legislation (or any other topics). HCC has been the nationally renowned pharmacy consulting firm of choice for over 29 years now and can provide you with expert advice in any area of your pharmacy business or practice. With a full-time staff of in-house Pharmacy consultants and specialists, HCC can answer any questions that you have in all pharmacy settings. Contact us online or call us today at 800-642-1652 for a free consultation.

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DEA Audits

Pharmacy AuditsPharmacy audits and inspections are a fact of life for every pharmacy and pharmacy owner. It is actually a pretty safe assumption to make these days that your pharmacy will be audited at a minimum of every two years. In this brand new world of computerization, shared databases of controlled substances, prescription data and patient information, plus the ever increasing use of social media, a negative inspection or audit outcome can be a catastrophic event and may cause irreparable damage to a pharmacy’s hard earned reputation.

Recent DEA Audit at a North Carolina Pharmacy

Just a few days ago in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, DEA agents, assisted by the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, unexpectedly arrived at Anderson’s Drug Store. Arriving before the pharmacy actually opened for business (at about 7 AM in the morning), the Drug Enforcement Administration agents proceeded to perform an unexpected controlled inventory audit.

Why Did the DEA Audit This Pharmacy?

The Anderson’s Drug Store pharmacy has been located and doing business in Elizabethtown for over forty years now.  The drugstore had never previously received any documented regulatory agency violations during those forty years of operating the independently owned retail community pharmacy. Yet the DEA agents and the County Sheriff’s Office deputies forced the store to not open up for over four hours while they performed a controlled drug inventory. They even had the store cordoned off from the public by surrounding the area with yellow police-tape. The DEA agents and inventory auditors all left shortly after noon, finally allowing the pharmacy to open its doors to their customers.

The owner of the pharmacy (Mr. Gene Anderson) would not comment to the news media. However, according to the local news station, an anonymous person tied to the drugstore stated that there was nothing to worry about because the store has always operated “above board” and would never operate in an illegal manner. The spokesperson also stated that the surprise audit was only due to the DEA’s response in fighting the opioid epidemic that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) had declared to be a national crisis.

Today it was announced that the audit revealed what many might consider irregularities in the volume of oxycodone tablets that the pharmacy has dispensed over the past eighteen months. According to the federal affidavit that the DEA filed, the drugstore has dispensed over three-hundred thousand oxycodone tablets (318,000) in just the first five months of 2018 (covering January of 2018 through May of 2018). Additionally, according to the federal DEA affidavit, the pharmacy dispensed over three-hundred and fifty thousand oxycodone pills in 2017 (365,000 total). With a population of approximately thirty-four thousand residents living in Bladen County (34,318 according to the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau), that equates to every county resident receiving ten pills, including men, woman and children.

Does it Matter if the Pharmacy Passes the DEA Audit?

Yet this question remains to be answered: Was the pharmacy’s reputation damaged even if they are found to be innocent of any violations? Although the number of oxycodone tablets dispensed by the pharmacy is best described as “suspicious”, what happens if the prescription audit ultimately proves that no illicit actions or practices actually took place? The story has been picked up nationally, but what would be the damage to the drugstore’s reputation and business on the local level of the Elizabethtown, North Carolina community? Although perhaps it’s difficult to put an exact monetary number on the possible financial damage that would ensue, the point is that the harm has already occurred.

What Should a Pharmacy Owner Do To Be Ready For a DEA Audit?

The answer is to be prepared! Plus be proactive in monitoring your pharmacy’s business practices. There are two steps that every pharmacy owner should consider:
1. Make absolutely certain that your Policy and Procedure Manual is current and up-to-date. The first thing that any regulatory or compliance agency will ask for during an inspection of your pharmacy is the Policy and Procedure Manual. Be proactive to make certain that yours is always kept up to date. Additionally, consider having an experienced third party consultant review it and customize any areas that your business may specialize in. These days having a generic Policy and Procedure Manual is a sure way to get a negative inspection report. Most auditors say that when they encounter a pharmacy that uses a “free templated” P & P manual, it’s a “red flag” that they will uncover areas of concern that will need to be addressed.
2. Have an experienced third-party pharmacy consulting firm perform mock DEA inspections regularly. These experts understand all of the inspection process and the audit criteria. If the owner of Anderson’s Drug Store pharmacy had a qualified and experienced pharmacy consultant perform a “mock” DEA inspection, the dispensing of that many oxycodone tablets would easily have been uncovered. In such a case the “red flag” could have been both anticipated and documentation already in place to explain the pharmacy’s practices.

About Healthcare Consultants

For over 29 years now, HCC has been a national leader in providing pharmacy consulting services in all 50 states in the USA. With our experienced in-house pharmacy regulatory experts, HCC can perform mock DEA inspections and identify those areas of your business that should be of concern to you. Our consultants will, upon completion of the inspection, also prepare a Gap Analysis with corrective recommendations and discuss these with you and your team. If significant issues are found, our consultants are available to assist in the implementation of the corrective actions and perform a re-inspection to confirm compliance. We are also the national leader in customizing Policy and Procedures Manuals that are prepared to meet each of our client’s specific needs on an “individualized” basis.

Don’t just wait until a surprise inspection knocks on your pharmacy’s doors! As the old cliché says: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Contact us on line or call us today for a Free Consultation at 800-642-1652 to discuss how we can help get you prepared for any regulatory or compliance audits.

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Pharmacy Specialization

Specialization in the profession of pharmacy has perhaps become the primary area of focus for all pharmacies. Whether you represent a major hospital or healthcare system, or you simply own or manage a small independent retail community pharmacy, specialization may be the key to both the success and profitability of your business operation.

The Age of Specialization

Specialty Pharmacy Consultation and SpecializationEveryone has heard that this is the “Age of Specialization”, but exactly when did it start and what does it really mean? Basically, specialization occurs when a task is broken down into separate sub-tasks that require different skill sets. A great case was made by the author Jeremie Averous in his book The Fourth Revolution that humans started to become specialized all the way back to the beginning of civilization. The task of finding food became divided into three categories: hunting, gathering and cultivating. Each method of survival required a “specialist”, and thus the “Age of Specialization” was born!

A great example of the growth of specialization can be seen in the world of technology. A good friend started a technology company back in the early 1990’s and initially had one IT employee on staff. Now he employees nine different IT specialists:
– Network administrator
– Software developer
– Network engineer
– VM specialist
– Database administrator
– Web programmer
– Web designer
– Tech support
– Hardware specialist

Pharmacy and Specialization

Many sociologists make the case that the pharmacy profession may be one of the best models to use as an example regarding specialization development in a profession. The first “branch in the road” for pharmacy was the establishment of the hospital pharmacy as a separate role from the traditional apothecary or druggist. Although there is no documentation when this actually occurred, it is well documented that in the colonial United States the first hospital pharmacist was Jonathan Roberts. When the first hospital was opened in Colonial America, the Pennsylvania Hospital hired Roberts and appointed him as the hospital’s in-house “apothecary”. Although there were several other pioneers in hospital pharmacy in the US (Charles Rice in 1841 and Martin Wilbert in 1865 are notable examples), numerous factors kept hospital pharmacies and their reduced numbers at the periphery of the pharmacy profession. In these modern times, every hospital has a pharmacy, with some having an additional outpatient pharmacy.

According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), the development of the practice of hospital pharmacy in the United States didn’t actually begin to emerge as a specialty until the early 1920’s. An interesting historical footnote for this emergence is the fact that Prohibition may have actually been the primary reason. At that time, alcohol was commonly prescribed by physicians as part of a patient’s treatment, and a pharmacist was now necessary in the hospital for both the compounding of numerous preparations and inventory control.

Hyperspecialization in Pharmacy

Now in 2011 an article in the Harvard Business Review indicates that perhaps a profession like pharmacy is evolving one step further. According to the article, the “division of labor” seen in pharmacy is now transforming pharmacists into what they termed “Hyperspecialization”. As the profession and practice rapidly transforms, more and more specialties are emerging that require practitioners to have unique and specialized skill sets. Even an individual’s personality type was sometimes noted as a requirement to fulfill specialized roles in certain situations and settings.

Specialty Pharmacies and Hyperspecialization

Everyone is aware of the explosive growth of specialty pharmacies that’s taken place in the United States over the past two decades. Along with the traditional retail and hospital positions that a pharmacist could choose to practice in, other specialized roles emerged: nuclear pharmacy, clinical pharmacy, institutional pharmacy, mail-order pharmacy, long-term care pharmacy, consulting pharmacy, to name just a few.

Next came the emergence of specialty pharmacies geared for specific “functionality”. The industry quickly filled a void that existed for individualized medication therapies by the creation of specific types of specialty pharmacies:
– Compounding
– Sterile compounding
– Enteral and parenteral nutrition (TPN)
– Dermatalogicals
– Veterinary medications
– IV and infusion
– Pediatric medications

The next step in the evolution of this hyperspecialization was the definition of what a specialty pharmacy actually is. Several pharmaceutical societies and organizations came up with their own definitions:
– The American Pharmacists Association (APhA)
– The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS)
– Specialty Pharmacy Association of America (SPAARx)
– The Association of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP)
Although each definition varied, there was one basic premise that all agreed on: that a specialty pharmacy dispenses medications for specific chronic and/or life-threatening disease state.
Specialty pharmacies are now seen for almost every disease state:
– Cystic fibrosis
– Diabetes
– Oncology and cancer
– Pain management
– Crohn’s disease
– Multiple sclerosis
– Hemophilia
– Growth hormone deficiency
– Hepatitis C
– Immune disorders
– Infertility
Even patient’s with conditions such as erectile dysfunction and certain psychiatric disorders are serviced today by specialty pharmacies.

About HealthCare Consultants

From major hospitals and healthcare systems to individual community retail and specialty pharmacies, HCC has been the nationally renowned pharmacy consulting firm of choice for over 28 years now. We work with businesses of every size – from the corner drug store to national corporations and organizations – with only one goal in mind: to improve your pharmacy’s business operations. We can assist with expert advice in any area of your pharmacy business or practice.

HealthCare Consultants is additionally the leader in pharmacy startups! No other firm has opened and started up as many pharmacies throughout the nation as HCC. Plus, these new pharmacies run efficiently and profitably. Our in-house consulting experts can make sure that you do it right… every step of the way!

We urge you to contact us today to see how our Pharmacy Consulting services can help you improve your business now, plus be ready for the future. With a full-time staff of in-house Pharmacy Consultant specialists, HCC can answer any questions that you may have in all pharmacy settings. Contact us online or call us today at 800-642-1652 for a free consultation.

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Managing A Pharmacy

Managing A PharmacyManaging a pharmacy is an important part of almost every pharmacy owner’s responsibilities. The day-to-day management of just the pharmacy’s personnel, inventory, customers, vendors and store maintenance issues always seem to take up a majority of an owner’s day… and the list sometimes seems endless. Then add in such critical functions as ensuring that your pharmacy’s policy and procedure manual is kept up to date, that your drugstore is ready for any compliance or regulatory audits or inspections, that your employees are properly trained, and it sometimes seems that an owner never has the time to spend on what is perhaps the most important thing he or she needs to do: how to make sure that your drugstore is profitable. Plus spending the time on making your business even more profitable!

With the diminishing number of independent local community pharmacies operating throughout the United States, it’s sad to see over a ten percent reduction in the total over the past two decades. According to data supplied by NCPA (National Community Pharmacists Association), nearly 22,000 independent pharmacies are currently in business in the US. This represents a 12% decline since 2001, when the association reported that there were over 25,000 independent pharmacy businesses in operation nationally. Perhaps better management of those pharmacies that have been closed or shut down over the past seventeen years could have resulted in more profitable businesses and less pharmacies closing across the nation.

The Challenge of Managing a Pharmacy

Most independent pharmacy owners that were surveyed recently about the challenges they faced in managing their businesses cited two major areas of concern that they found challenging:
– Lack of time and resources
– Lack of business and management training

As discussed in the opening paragraph, most pharmacy owners simply don’t have the time to spend on what’s perhaps the really most important issues that face any business owner in any type of industry: increasing both efficiency and profitability. Delegating was often times mentioned as one possible solution, but this also had its drawbacks. Delegating was seen as “hiring additional staff” and this additional drain on the pharmacy’s limited resources often times offset any capital gains that resulted. Additionally, many pointed out that there simply was no objectivity from their internal staff. There was a “fear” that no one internally could look at the pharmacy’s operation and evaluate the business with the impartiality and detachment required to properly make unbiased recommendations and adjustments.

The second major area of concern that drugstore owners saw as challenging was the lack of both business and management training that they actually had. Very few had actually taken any courses in business or management since graduating from college. And how many pharmacy students have actually received this type of training while in school? Although many colleges and universities have now added business training into their curriculum, the fact remains that earning your diploma to graduate and pass the Board exam is the primary focus for most students. Most owners agreed that they had to learn the business side of owning and operating a pharmacy “on the fly” and made business mistakes that could have been avoided with more training.

How To Get Business and Management Help

Most large corporations and companies actually have entire departments dedicated to managing, monitoring and evaluating their business operations. Most small and medium sized pharmacy businesses simply cannot afford hiring full-time employees to perform these critical tasks, nor can they afford to train their existing staff to objectively carry out these essential business roles. Many owners are finding that outsourcing to an experienced and qualified pharmacy consulting company best suits their needs for strategic planning and management. They find that outsourcing can be the most practical and economically feasible way to achieve large company effectiveness without the large company price tag.

Suggestions to Make a Pharmacy Profitable

Here are just a few examples of areas that most pharmacy owners tend to overlook, yet can result in increased operating efficiency, cost reductions and enhanced profitability.

Quarterly Business Reviews

Pharmacies should conduct quarterly business reviews to accurately assess their strategic position, direction and practices, and to ensure they continue to align with market shifts, competition, profitability and regulatory compliance. To be objective, perhaps the pharmacy owner should consider including a qualified third party who is able to provide an in-depth analyses and report on the actual state of the business. One who is able to evaluate the operation objectively in regards to the efficiency and opportunities that exist to gain a larger market share. This information can be invaluable in helping managers make the right decisions at exactly the right times to ensure your business always runs as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Cost Containment Strategies

Pharmacy owners can also benefit from an expert consultant on cost containment strategies. When cash flow is an issue, an owner really only has two choices: increase sales and volume, or reduce costs. Increasing sales is obviously an objective that every owner wants, but for immediate results cost containment is the fastest way to increase profits. Yet many managers simply don’t see some of the “hidden” costs that can be addressed immediately. An in-depth analysis of where the money goes can also sometimes reveal “hidden” costs that can be either reduced or eliminated.

Industry Niche Identification

Industry niche identification is also a great way to generate more revenue and be more profitable. Are there certain areas and services that the pharmacy can quickly ramp up and take advantage of? A great example is the sudden explosion of IV infusion therapy pharmacies that we discussed in detail in our previous blog post. The projected increase to approximately $28 billion dollars by 2021, plus the estimate that the market would expand by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over ten percent by 2022, makes IV infusion and compounding a lucrative idea to consider.

Technology Evaluation

Technology evaluation has also become a critical area of pharmacy operations that many need outside help on. After all, keeping up with all the new medications coming onto the market and the ever changing regulatory and compliance requirements keeps every pharmacist pretty busy. Although pharmacists have always been considered “early adapters” when it comes to embracing new technologies, everyone can agree that the pace at which technology changes makes keeping up with the latest software, hardware and systems an almost impossible task. Why not rely on a technology expert to evaluate what you currently have and advise you regarding what’s coming or available? Perhaps new technology exists that offers a cost reduction, increases efficiency and leads to greater profits.

About HCC

Healthcare Consultants has been the nationally renowned pharmacy consulting firm of choice for over 28 years now. Contact us today to see how our Pharmacy Consulting services can help you improve your business right now, plus be ready for the future. With a full-time staff of in-house Pharmacy Consultants and specialists, HCC can answer any questions that you may have in all areas of your business. Just a few of the services that we offer include:
– Business planning
– Business problem resolution and turnaround
– Cost containment & financial projection analysis
– Management consultation & operations evaluation
– Policy & Procedure review
– Process design and evaluation
– Quality control and improvement
– Regulatory compliance and Gap analysis
– Workflow management

Contact us online or call us today at 800-642-1652 for a free consultation.

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