At the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) 2022 Total Store Expo, Pharmacy times spoke with Danny Sanchez, senior vice president and general manager of EnlivenHealth, to learn about a recent survey that showed pharmacists are deeply concerned about losing Medicare eligibility patients when they plan for Medicare. change. Sanchez said that while pharmacists can play a role in educating patients about Medicare plan options, staffing issues may limit their ability to do so.
Q: An EnlivenHealth survey found that the majority of retail pharmacists are concerned about losing Medicare eligibility patients when they change plans. Why does this loss happen?
Danny Sanchez: Yeah, so every year Medicare patients are eligible for open enrollment, right? So this is a time of the year when patients can go out and choose new plans, so it gives an opportunity for plans to get patients out of other plans. And so there’s a danger that if you’re a retail pharmacy and you have your patient population, and they move to a plan that doesn’t serve you, you lose those patients, right? So that’s a risk. And now we recently did a survey, and the survey called out to us that, you know, a third of the patients in a retail pharmacy are on average Medicare patients. It is therefore a significant number of patients that [pharmacies] risk losing or moving to another pharmacy.
Q: What potential financial implications does that have for retail pharmacies?
Danny Sanchez: Yes it is, it is a material impact on a retail pharmacy. You know, [number] first, these patients are what we call poly-med patients, and most of them take a lot of drugs, right? So, prescription patients, even though they’re a third of the patient population that goes to that pharmacy, now they’re a big part of that pharmacy gain and loss, right? So the impact is if you lose these patients, how do you replenish these patients? Right?
And you know, there’s a patient satisfaction perspective here too. If you lose a patient, the patient goes to another pharmacy, and suddenly they no longer have their trusted pharmacist. And, as you know, pharmacists are the second most trusted healthcare professionals. You know, you lose access to that professional who knows your background, who knows your health profile.
Q: In addition to that financial impact, changing plans could also impact patient care with their pharmacist. Can you discuss what impact this will have on patients?
Danny Sanchez: Yeah totally. I think it is sometimes underestimated, the role that pharmacists play, and now a broader role, right? It’s like the pharmacy is evolving into this next generation, more of a healthcare environment. You know, pharmacists don’t just help dispense medications, they help a patient talk about their medications, how to take their medications, if they feel a prescription has not been properly prescribed to a patient, they intervene, they contact their doctor so it’s important to know your patient, right? So when a patient moves to another pharmacy, you suddenly have to rebuild that relationship from scratch. And that is not good for the pharmacist or the patient. The pharmacist has to teach that patient now, and the patient is at a disadvantage again because they start from scratch, right?
Q: How can pharmacies keep their patients eligible for Medicare?
Danny Sanchez: Yeah, so, I mean, the great thing is that EnlivenHealth has a really good tool for looking at a patient’s profile. So look at their drug regimen, look at their prescribers, and then recommend a plan that’s best for them. And that’s a big deal because when you look at the market today, what often happens during this open enrollment period is plans are just reaching out to seniors without any kind of data, and just say, sign up for our plan. I recently visited a restaurant and when I stepped out of that restaurant there was an enrollment table with a young lady enrolling patients. And I asked them questions, and she had no data on these patients, except she gave them an epidural and tried to include them in their plan. How good is that for a senior, right? It’s a terrible, terrible way to enroll a patient. EnlivenHealth has a solution that looks at a patient’s medications, looks at their doctors, and then recommends the best plan for that patient. We also weigh in the fact that,
“Hey, do you want to stay at this pharmacy?” and we weigh that piece too. So we can take all these elements into account and then recommend the best plan for the patient. And that’s a huge, huge differentiator in the market. We are not trying to drive a patient to a plan. We try to recommend the best plan for that patient.
Q: Helping patients select and manage their Medicare plan is important and is an opportunity for pharmacists, but the study also found that staff limits their ability to do this. Can you discuss this finding?
Danny Sanchez: Yes, I mean, staffing is a problem in retail. As we see more shifts move to the pharmacy, staffing becomes an issue. EnlivenHealth offers all kinds of solutions to help with the workforce, one of which is just digitizing your engagement, right? Message your patients, engage them through automation so they don’t have to go to the pharmacy as often, or even when they come by, they can solve many of their problems within our technology. And if I have to speak to a pharmacist, if you walk into a pharmacy at 6pm you will find that pharmacists are on the phone, literally with the phone to their ear, trying to answer questions, just trying to go through the number of patients on that moment comes in. You know, our mission is to reduce that. We want to relieve pharmacists of those mundane tasks so that they can start working on these more value-added services that really improve health.
Q: Are there legal efforts to address these issues?
Danny Sanchez: More than 150 bills have been introduced by 2022 to drive change and expand the practice for pharmacists, [and] about a third of that will have passed in 2022. And the momentum continues. So I think society sees, and our legislators and our regulators see that there are more opportunities for pharmacists, that they can do more. And honestly, it’s the footprint. It’s the caliber of what a pharmacist can do. You have a very underutilized caregiver and we want to maximize it, right? We want to move more services. So there is a lot of regulation going on. I’m happy to say that some of these accounts have dual support because you need dual support to get these things through, and we’ll see more expanded capabilities for pharmacists in the future.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
Danny Sanchez: Yes. I mean, I think, you know, I’m really excited about the direction we’re going. EnlivenHealth liberates the pharmacist, precisely, allowing the pharmacist to leave the mundane, as I said, using our technology, and then we bring solutions that help them evolve into this next generation. Gone are the days when pharmacists only fill prescriptions. If you’re just a pharmacy dispensing prescriptions, you’re not going to survive this, right? It’s not a good thing. You should turn the corner and provide other solutions and other healthcare options, and that’s what EnlivenHealth does – it empowers you to really adapt and change your business, which is why I’m excited to lead that effort.