Patient Satisfaction – The True Differentiator for Specialty Pharmacies

The rapid proliferation of specialty pharmacies has led to a growing need to create models that truly differentiate the various offerings in the marketplace. Specialty medications now account for more than one-third of all spending on drugs in the United States. Furthermore, specialty drugs are well on their way to claiming more than 50% of this spend in the next 10 years. 
This growing trend has attracted myriad players to the specialty arena—insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, hospitals, retail drug stores, and even supermarkets have carved out niches within the marketplace to offer professional and focused pharmacy services to specialty patients.

The diversity of offerings has led to the demand for standardizations to ensure consistent and validated care to all patients. 
While accreditation has answered this need for payers and manufacturers in the past, there remains great disparity in the patient experience from one specialty pharmacy to the next. Accreditation often ensures that the mechanisms to service high touch patients holds a minimum level of quality and consistency from an overall health care performance perspective. Accreditations only lightly lend attention to the interface between the providers at a specialty pharmacy and the patient lives as they live in the community.  
This node of interaction can greatly impact overall outcomes as the patients either become drawn into a relationship that advances the goals of their care or alienated from a system that ultimately results in a commoditized dispensary service. Because effective and valuable patient interactions that result in coveted relationships can impact performance, persistence, and adherence, payers and manufacturers are seeking new ways to measure the capabilities of specialty pharmacies as they continue to develop and enhance their limited distribution and specialty networks. 
Specifically, the benchmarking of patient care experiences has emerged as an industry-wide initiative. Targeting the patient experience has led to a clearer understanding of the disparity that remains between specialty pharmacy providers who are designed and managed to efficiently provide medications in high volumes and specialty pharmacy providers who have truly dedicated their organizations to supporting and communicating with patients through their achievement of health goals. 
Patient satisfaction surveys are becoming an increasingly popular mechanism to measure a specialty pharmacy’s capabilities and services. Internally generated and administered surveys can validate core practices for specialty pharmacies while only accounting for a minimal financial investment for the organization. 
Satisfaction results can be utilized to identify points of deficiency and, correspondingly, to initiate quality improvement. Conversely, these same results can validate processes intended to drive performance towards coveted goals. Further, staff engagement surveys provide metrics that facilitate workforce improvement. 
Results enhance staff understanding of what their direct efforts translate into in terms of goal achievement and can be utilized to empower employees and increase efficiency. Such exposure can be deployed at all levels of a specialty pharmacy, giving every single team member a common understanding of what makes the organization, as a whole, successful.
Other findings from internally generated surveys can be leveraged to identify and initiate various operational refinement, such as communication and process improvement. While surveys produced and administered internally provide the benefit of offering an inexpensive means of measuring the patient-pharmacy experience and can be easily tailored to the individual pharmacy’s reporting needs, they fail to provide an unbiased and comparative analysis that allows a specialty pharmacy to truly differentiate itself in a meaningful way. 

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