How physician dispensing helps Central Ohio Urology Group improve patient care.
In response to the mounting pressures of healthcare reform, what can specialty practices do to improve patient care and lower costs at the same time? For Central Ohio Urology Group, one proven strategy is the physician dispensing of oral oncolytic medications.
This approach addresses the evolution in healthcare from fee-for-service to value-based payments in two ways.
“First, it improves compliance, which lowers costs by improving outcomes,” said Michael Gambla, M.D. of Central Ohio Urology Group. “A lot of money is wasted on office visits when patients don’t comply with the prescribed therapies. And that leads me to the second benefit of physician dispensing: patient tracking. We can more closely monitor patient adherence, which can lead to better outcomes and keeping patients out of the hospital.” In effect, dispensing medications in-house enables an even closer bond with patients.
This is the underlying philosophy of Central Ohio Urology Group—providing a comprehensive range of services that improves the continuity of care, enhances outcomes and lowers costs. “Our focus on creating a one-stop shop is really the same concept as value-based services,” said Tino Valentino, Chief Financial Officer of Central Ohio Urology Group. “Add in the patient convenience, and we have a winning combination.”
After a thorough search for the best fit, Central Ohio Urology Group chose VitalSource™ GPO, the group purchasing organization of Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions.
“We want to work with who provides the most value,” Valentino said. “A lot of companies are competing for our business, but VitalSource™ GPO is always right there when I need them. They get an A+ for responsiveness — an established company with a lot of resources to help us succeed,” he said.
The approach strongly supports Central Ohio Urology Group’s patient-centric, personalized model of care. The practice also sees value in having its distributor, GPO and dispensing program all connected—for example, making sure drug pricing is synchronized and having a simple way to resolve any issues
The foundation of physician dispensing is improving patient care, which it accomplishes on several levels. “For patients taking generics, the expected benefit is to provide better pricing than the name brand drug,” Dr. Gambla said.
“The unexpected benefit is that, by being able to provide this medication, we’re able to stay closely connected with our patients and monitor adherence.” If patients don’t pick up their prescriptions at the pharmacy, the practice will know and can call them to follow up.
“It’s a great patient convenience—they love it,” Valentino added. “They don’t have to visit another pharmacy; they can just grab their medications and go while they’re here.” At the same time, patients can get all of their medication questions answered from familiar faces who already know them well.
The physician dispensing program also helps fill the ‘donut hole’ gap in Medicare coverage, which can be a significant barrier to ensuring patients can afford their medications. When patients use an outside pharmacy, that barrier can lead to non-adherence. And the physician might not know about the delay in therapy until the next appointment.
In-practice dispensing avoids this issue altogether by accessing the patient’s eligibility for financial assistance immediately and coordinating with patient assistance networks, so patients can begin treatment as prescribed.
Dr. Gambla sees a wide range of advantages that helps physicians improve patient care. With physician dispensing, the practice is better able to ensure that patients understand the medications they’re taking, including potential side effects. Physicians see a level of patient care data and feedback that would not be available otherwise. Plus, they can monitor patients to reduce abandonment rates. “Overall, physician dispensing ups the quality of care we deliver, and payers like to see the increased compliance and potential for improved outcomes,” Dr. Gambla said.
Physicians are very excited to have the program, because they know they’re providing a stronger level of care. The physician dispensing program helps Central Ohio Urology Group take care of the ‘whole patient’—not just the clinical, including the emotional needs of both patients and caregivers. The practice is able to answer their questions and monitor how they feel from month to month.
The most obvious advantage of physician dispensing is adding a new source of revenue in a time when costs are rising and reimbursement rates are declining. But there’s more to this story. “While physician dispensing helps our practice capture new revenue, the hidden gem is that it enables us to monitor our patients more closely, which helps improve patient care,” Dr. Gambla said.
The program is flexible as well, enabling the practice to grow at its own pace. “We can add new drugs as we go, which is key as we continue to expand our pharmacy offering,” Valentino said.
In short, physician dispensing benefits patients, physicians and the practice alike. “It’s a tremendous positive for the physicians,” said Greg Sieg, Manager of the Physician Dispensing Program at VitalSource™ GPO. “Patients are very receptive as well. There’s a smooth continuity of care that helps forge and maintain patient relationships over the long term.”