Heritage Biologics Blog

Is Specialty Pharmacy a Stack of 2x4s?

Posted by Christopher Kennedy on Jun 5, 2017 9:35:16 AM

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know I run the risk of my audience getting bored with the topic of boards, so let me jump to the point. Did you know that when you go to the local hardware store and ask for a 2x4 board, they will actually direct you to one that’s 1.5"x3.5"? Yes, this is true. Yes, this makes no sense. Yes, this means I'm forced to write another analogous blog on accountability.

One place where accuracy and math really matter is in building a structure. A bad measurement, a poor cut, or a bad design are relatively transparent in the construction environment. With this in mind, how can the most common board be sold under the guise of being a classic 2x4 when we know it's not true? The lumber industry will explain why the 2x4 is actually a 1.5”x3.5”, but still decide to market it to us as something it’s not. Can you imagine if gasoline were measured in "kinda" accurate gallons or prime meat were sold in "should be about" pounds? Consumers simply wouldn’t stand for this type marketing practice in retail. But wait…there is actually another prominent industry where these same tactics are used. 

Yep, you guessed it. Healthcare.

In the healthcare industry, the stakes are even higher. The difference in life or death can be measured in the half inch discrepancy found in that 2x4. Inaccurate surgical procedures and medication dosing lead to significant consequences. This reality seems to be in great contrast to the commonplace marketing approach of many healthcare organizations. You’ve seen the "We're ranked #1" billboards and advertisements that have very little evidence behind the claims. I find it amusing that in nearly every town across America a hospital is “Ranked #1” in something. Wait a minute! Are we, the consumers, buying 2x4s in healthcare?

The "We are #1" craze has made its way into specialty pharmacy in a big way as well. Sales and marketing strategies are scrambling to catch up to the rapidly changing reimbursement landscape. Efforts to differentiate distribution businesses can be challenging, especially for a pharmacy that only dispenses products. Unfortunately the answer for too many pharmacies has been to develop a nice colorful brochure and update their website to talk about being patient-centered. Patient-centered?! Some might even toss in some "#1 ranked customer satisfaction" jargon. You know...like the hardware store that sold you that 2x4.

Thankfully patients are becoming more sophisticated today. Online resources continue to shape and build the early constructs of patient feedback mechanisms. The recent announcement of Amazon's potential entry into the pharmacy world can only mean that "Pharmacy Reviews" are on the horizon (my wishful thinking). "Bait and switch" marketing of 24/7 pharmacy and nursing services that are contracted to third party call centers will be exposed in this new market. Pharmacists that don't know anything about the patients they serve will be increasingly exposed. By the way, it’s a poor decision to market the term "Patient Experience" unless your organization has a formalized program like RXPX. Patients understand when their voice is being heard and when they are empowered in their own care. They also have an increasingly keen eye for that 1.5”x3.5” board the hardware stores try to sell them! 

Are you board yet? I mean bored. I'm assuming you're not since you are still reading this, and I'm glad because here is my revelation for you. Specialty Pharmacy cannot afford to be in the lumber business! We operate in a high-stakes game that has a much higher calling. There is distinct opportunity for high-performance pharmacy networks to form around specific disease states. Accountability established through accurate measures of a pharmacy’s contribution to patient outcomes will revolutionize healthcare. I was recently introduced to Trio Health, and their platform is designed to help pharmacies build a better structure. You know, like with 2x4 that actually measure 2"x4"!

The worst part about the board situation is that it could be corrected if the market demanded it. Physicians, patients, payers, and manufacturers are all demanding a better way from specialty pharmacies. Let's stop explaining away the fact that we could be doing better and instead focus on delivering a new value-based approach to care. Measure accurately and be a 1.5”x3.5” if that's what you truly are!

Topics: Healthcare, Measure It!, Accountable Care, Patient Experience, Value-Based Specialty Pharmacy

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