Reputation Management for a pharmacy owner and his business – what does the term really mean? In the marketing world the term essentially equates to the practice of shaping or controlling the public’s perception of a pharmacy or business by influencing the online information about the company or operation. Also commonly referred to as ORM (Online Reputation Management), in the “old” days we simply called it PR or Public Relations. Yet perhaps it’s already somewhat too late when one thinks about it in the context of the Pharmacy profession as a business in general. To understand how badly the profession is being tarnished almost daily, we need only look back a short distance at some news stories that were recently covered on the national level.
Examples of Recent Negative News About Pharmacy
- Less than a week ago on March 30th of 2018 The United States Department of Justice announced that the owner and pharmacist at a drugstore named Fertility Pharmacy (located in Oviedo, Florida just east of Orlando) was sentenced to over thirteen years in prison for his role in a kickback scheme involving pain and scar creams. The pharmacy’s owner (Larry B. Howard) also has to payback over $4.3 million in restitution to the federal military health insurance program.
In a somewhat complicated scheme, illegal health care kickbacks were paid for referring patients to specific doctors who would then prescribe expensive creams for treating both pain and scars to the patients. The creams were then billed to the patient’s insurance company at costs of up to seventeen-thousand dollars ($17,000) per Rx. In one example, from October 2014 to May 2015, Fertility Pharmacy was paid over $4 million from TRICARE for patients that were procured through illegal kickbacks. TRICARE (formerly known as the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services) is an insurance coverage provider for active members of the armed forces and their families, plus for many retired veterans.
- Less than a week ago a pharmacist in Tacoma, Washington had his licence suspended after admitting that he stole controlled drugs and traded them for cash and the services of prostitutes. The pharmacist stole an estimated eight-thousand (8,000) tablets of oxycodone from the drugstore that he worked at in 2017 alone. David Pruett had been licensed to practice as a pharmacist in Washington since August 2000, but a drug test in January of 2018 showed that oxycodone, benzodiazepines and marijuana were in his blood.
- Also last week a pharmacy owner in Decatur, Alabama was sentenced to a five year prison term for defrauding TRICARE (the military health insurance provider) and two additional insurance providers. Additionally, the pharmacy’s owner (John Lemley) had to repay an estimated one-million dollars ($1,000,000) for his role in the ten-million dollar ($10,000,000) illegal scam. Lemley owned a specialty compounding pharmacy located in Decatur named Southern Compounding.
- A compounding pharmacy in Hattiesburg, Mississippi was involved with a local physician in yet another scheme to defraud TRICARE. The compounding pharmacy dispensed medically unnecessary compounded medications between October 2014 and December 2015 that resulted in TRICARE reimbursing the pharmacy for over two-million dollars ($2,300,000). Of special interest to many in this case is the fact that the physician involved (Albert Diaz, M.D.) filed a motion last week immediately after he was found guilty on all sixteen charges citing “juror bias” as the grounds for a new trial.
Be Proactive and Protect Your Reputation
Although these are all perhaps examples of extreme misconduct by pharmacists and pharmacy owners, the fact that the pharmacy profession is constantly making the news in a very negative light cannot be ignored. The fact that all four of these cases were in the national news spotlight over just a ten day period perhaps is a sign that everyone in our profession needs to take a long hard look at what we are doing and the way that we do it.
This does not mean that anyone is saying that all pharmacists are “scheming and scamming” their patients and insurance companies. As previously discussed, the 2016 Gallup Poll still showed that the public’s opinion of pharmacists is still very high. This post is also not intended to prevent pharmacists from engaging in criminal activities and breaking the law. Those that choose to do so will probably continue on until they are caught and find themselves in the media spotlight and courtrooms. However, it is intended for the majority of the pharmacy profession’s practitioners who are both honest and ethical to take notice that the American public is scrutinizing our behavior as never before.
With mass media, social media and the almost instantaneous “real time” information that is now available to almost everyone, it has become so very important to protect our personal reputation as well as that of our business. Once an individual’s personal &/or business reputation is tarnished, its almost impossible in some instances to clean up the damage (even when the person or business is in fact innocent or falsely accused). Sadly, the damage is already done.
Managing the reputation of your pharmacy means being proactive. It means taking a hard look at how you are currently doing things and making the necessary changes to ensure that your reputation is “safe”. Perhaps you should consider having an objective and experienced third-party pharmacy consulting firm take a look? Sometimes being too close to our own business can result in our overlooking some things that an outside observer can clearly see.
Make sure that both you and all of you employees are properly trained, plus have the most up-to-date policies and procedures to ensure that you are practicing pharmacy to the highest standards possible. Remember as you go through your daily activities that the public is watching you more closely than ever before and that both your reputation and that of your business are always at stake.
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From major hospitals and healthcare systems to individual community pharmacies, HCC has been the nationally renowned pharmacy consulting firm of choice for over 28 years now. HCC can assist with expert advice in any area of your pharmacy business or practice. We urge you to contact us today to see how our Pharmacy Consulting Services can help you improve your business now and 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 Pharmacy settings. Contact us online or call us today at 800-642-1652 for a free consultation.