Long before news broke in mid-November about Pfizer’s promising COVID-19 vaccine test results, New York City pharmacy owner Priyank Patel had been hard at work, planning for the eventual role his three pharmacies would have in administering the vaccine. A first order of business was to research options for procuring a freezer capable of maintaining the reported –minus 70 degree Celsius temperature required to store the vaccine. Equally important, was developing a strategy for proactively communicating with patients so that when the time comes, eligible patients will be aware of the vaccine, and know they can rely on his pharmacies if they choose to get immunized.
For Patel, these were logical things to do, given the urgent need for the vaccine, and the important role pharmacies will have in its administration. His proactive approach was also typical of the way he approaches his business: If there’s an opportunity to help people, and if he can find a way to do it, count him in.
Increasingly though, these objectives seem to be in conflict. If it was up to Patel, he would spend the bulk of his time interacting with patients and expanding his pharmacies’ programming and outreach efforts. But the realities of pharmacy ownership, with ever-changing regulatory and payer requirements, along with typical responsibilities of running a business – inventory, planning, billing, staffing and payroll – seem to take up more and more time. In fact, a survey last year by AmerisourceBergen found the typical pharmacist spends just 10 percent of the day working with patients. The rest of the time? Paperwork and administrative tasks.
Finding a way to improve efficiency has always been a priority for Patel, and a key objective in choosing a technology system for his pharmacies. But when the decision needed to be made, Patel says the choice was obvious. “I did my research and realized that PrimeRx™ was the clear answer,” he says. “For one thing, PrimeRx™ offers full functionality, pretty much every capability you would expect in a pharmacy system. But what really sets PrimeRx™ apart from competitors are the regular system upgrades, third-party integrations, and the Micro Merchant Systems team’s willingness to engage with me and respond to my needs.”
Because of PrimeRx™ and its wide-ranging capabilities, Patel has been able to achieve meaningful efficiencies across each pharmacy. As he continues to operate amidst the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for what lies beyond, Patel has confidence that PrimeRx™ will keep pace, and continue to provide the precise solutions at exactly the right time.
An Early Understanding of the Importance of Technology
Growing up in New Jersey, Patel knew from a young age that pharmacy would likely be his profession. His dad worked as a pharmacy technician, back in the day when everything was done manually. “He would painstakingly fill each prescription by hand, and carefully record each transaction on paper. It’s hard to imagine,” Patel recalls.
By age 16 Patel himself was working at a pharmacy, volunteering actually, at a family friend’s store in Brooklyn. “It was during a time when technology was evolving from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’,” Patel explains. “As solutions became more and more sophisticated, it quickly became apparent that technology was going to be a gamechanger, and that there were big differences from one system to another.” The Brooklyn pharmacy was an early adopter of PrimeRx™, choosing to replace its existing Ram-based system with the Windows-based PrimeRx™ which offered significantly more functionality, along with a more user-friendly approach.
Years later, in 2016, Patel purchased his first pharmacy, Felicity Pharmacy, located in Bronx, New York. He subsequently acquired two additional pharmacies, Getty Square Pharmacy and HealthRx, both located in Yonkers. Felicity Pharmacy and Getty Square service primarily Medicare and Medicaid patients, while HealthRx patients tend to utilize multiple private plans.
Faced with choosing a technology system for his own pharmacies, Patel selected PrimeRx™. “I really did my research,” he says. “I checked in with friends who own pharmacies, and with my brother-in-law who also owns a pharmacy. Nobody seemed to have a solution that could match PrimeRx™, let alone exceed its capabilities. So the decision was pretty easy.”
Since then, Patel has been continually impressed by PrimeRx™. Not only has the system exceeded his expectations with regard to functionality, but he has been pleasantly surprised by Micro Merchant System’s commitment to integrating with third-party providers, that enable direct access to some of the industry’s most innovative solutions.
PrimeRx Offers Comprehensive Pharmacy Management that Adapts to Changing Needs
PrimeRx serves as the backbone of each pharmacy, providing multiple capabilities including workflow management, patient records, inventory management and, what for multiple-pharmacy owner Patel was critically important, extensive report options. “I depend on PrimeRx for my daily business summary, which arrives automatically at the end of each day,” Patel explains. “I have customized the report to provide the information I need – daily sales by store and for the entire network; cash tendered, co-pays paid/not paid, profits, there are thousands of options.”
With PrimeRx serving as the core, users then add components for additional functionality. Patel says he takes advantage of the PrimePOS™ point-of-sale system, PrimeDELIVERY™ which facilitates the delivery process with remote signature and co-pay collections, PrimeINVENTORY™ for seamless reordering and real-time visibility, and the MyPrimeRx™ owners app, which allows remote access to pharmacy activity, and comprehensive report capability from just about any device.
But what has really impressed Patel, has been the Micro Merchant Systems team’s willingness to engage with him – to listen to his ideas and concerns – and come back with solutions! As an example, Patel cites an inconsistency he noted with the program he was using to capture remote signatures. He was using the popular ScriptDrop application, which identifies local delivery companies to manage pharmacy delivery needs. “Our drivers were able to capture patients’ signatures on their iPads via ScriptDrop, but we were unable to add that signature back to the patient’s record in PrimeRx.
“I happened to see some members of the Micro Merchant Systems team at a regional trade show, and brought this to their attention,” Patel explains. “And was I impressed when, about two months later, the problem had been fixed! Now remote signatures are automatically added to PrimeRx™ patient files.”
Patel brought another problem to the team’s attention, and was again satisfied by the results. As all pharmacy owners know, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) seem to change guidance on a regular basis across a wide range of issues. These changes come fast and furious, and it’s up to the pharmacy owner to keep pace.
But when a change was made regarding treatment of certain insulin boxes, Patel faced the unpleasant prospect of not being able to submit claims that accurately reflected the amount of medication being supplied to patients. So he approached the Micro Merchant Systems, and the problem was solved.
Patel says that among his pharmacy-owner colleagues, such level of attentiveness is the exception. Other technology companies, he says, would issue a job ticket and eventually have someone look into the matter.
Micro Merchant also supplies a steady stream of upgrades that improve functionality, address changing payer/regulatory needs or, Patel likes to think, incorporate recommendations from other pharmacists about how the system could be improved.
“I feel like I have a direct pipeline into Micro Merchant Systems,” Patel notes. “The industry is changing every day, which means technology needs to keep pace, and Micro Merchant Systems really seems to embrace this.”
Additional Capabilities through Direct Integration Third-Party Solutions
Something else Micro Merchant Systems embraces is the importance of third-party solutions in adding even more functionality. In a world in which tens of thousands of technology companies work every day to develop new and better solutions, Micro Merchant Systems has always recognized the value of some of those solutions in improving pharmacy operations. As such, Micro Merchant Systems has partnered with several dozen of the world’s most innovative tech providers to provide PrimeRx users with direct integration to their products.
PrimeRx users will find a listing of these third party interfaces right on the PrimeRx home screen, with capabilities that touch just about all areas of pharmacy operations. For Patel, these third-party integrations give him confidence that his pharmacies are truly taking advantage of best-available technology solutions. He is quick to mention a few interfaces that have been especially helpful to his facilities:
- Real-Time Prescription Benefits by Surescripts™ which allows pharmacists direct access to patient plan benefits. This minimizes instances of “sticker shock,” whereby patients have to leave a medication behind because it’s too expensive, and allows pharmacists to easily identify less-costly alternatives.
- Script Drop prescription delivery provider, which offers service levels ranging from 2-hour courier delivery to integration with Federal Express/UPS/U.S. Postal Service for less-immediate services.
- Parata Systems which automates the packaging and labeling process, including easy access to pouch and blister packaging.
- Kirby Lester which revolutionizes the dispensing process via use of camera technology to manage the pill counting process and ensure overall medication accuracy.
This partial list barely scratches the surface of interfaces available to PrimeRx users. But for Patel, these particular third-party solutions complement core PrimeRx™ capabilities, and allow even greater efficiency, and better service to patients.
Pharmacy Provider Status – The Holy Grail
As someone who has grown up in the pharmacy business, Patel has had a front-row seat to changes within the industry. He recalls, for example, that pharmacist were only authorized to administer immunizations in 2013. In just seven years, pharmacists have become a leading source of all flu shots administered in this country. “Most people probably think we’ve always done this,” he notes.
More recently, he notes the federal government’s authorization of pharmacists to administer COVID-19 testing, and their inclusion in vaccine administration plans. And looking ahead, Patel sees a role for pharmacists in administering rapid HIV-testing, and in helping patients manage chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure.
All of this, of course, is contingent on pharmacists finally gaining full provider status by the federal government. As a fully-recognized member of a patient’s health care team, pharmacists would gain a seat at the table in patient care decisions, along with proper reimbursements for the full range of services provided to patients.
“It’s crazy when you think about it. Patients see their pharmacist far more often than they see their doctor, and really depend on us for quite an array of services.” Patel relies on PrimeRx™ to carefully document all interactions with patients. This information is essential to all reimbursement claims, and also helps build the case for full-provider status.
Looking Ahead –
When asked about his “near-term goals,” Patel is quick to offer that his focus remains where it has been for the past several months, on the pandemic. He uses PrimeRx™ to offer seamless delivery services to patients, including contactless co-pay collection, signature waivers, and flexible service options. He stays in touch with patients through the system’s various phone and texting options. He uses the external JotForm platform to assist with COVID-19 testing, with contactless capture of identification/insurance documentation and paperwork requirements.
And now, with a vaccine hopefully on the horizon, he is preparing his pharmacies to serve as administration sites. At this point, there is more that is unknown about the vaccine than is certain, which is why Patel must plan for all contingencies. To do this, he will rely on technology, just as he does for everything else.
For Patel, this is a natural part of the evolution of today’s pharmacy. “I think we’re at the very beginning of the role technology will eventually play in health care,” he says, “It’s exciting to see, at the pharmacy level, the transformative role technology is having.”