In mid-March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that inflation had increased by 7.9% during February, reaching a new 40-year high.
Prior to that, in January, drug makers announced price increases on hundreds of medications. The Wall Street Journal reported that almost 870 drugs were affected, with increases that averaged 6.6%. This compared with the same period in 2021, when manufacturers raised prices an average 4.5% on 893 drugs.
Costs on front-end and OTC products have increased as well. And things may get even worse. This is because, according to MarketWatch, many consumer goods companies have yet to pass on their increased costs to consumers. "Packaged food and household products companies have yet to pass through all of their price hikes, and so consumers will likely face more sticker shock before prices stabilize," the report noted.
Not surprisingly, inflation-weary consumers are looking for relief. Research by RetailMeNot found consumers looking to mitigate the impact of higher prices in ways that include:
44% are looking for coupons or discounts more often.
40% are cutting back on discretionary spending.
39% are switching to lower-priced brands.
39% are using social media to search for new products.
37% are buying more generic brands.
30% are using more rewards or loyalty programs.
Pharmacies may be well-positioned to help in several of these areas. This is especially true for pharmacies with high-functioning technology systems, that offer a wide range of capabilities. PrimeRx™, for example, allows pharmacies to create and manage customer loyalty programs directly within the pharmacy's management system. PrimeRx™ also allows direct integration with more than 100 leading third-party technology providers, several of which offer solutions that address pricing concerns.
An overview of PrimeRx™ pricing-related capabilities includes:
- Loyalty Programs. As mentioned, pharmacies can create and manage customer loyalty programs directly within PrimeRx™. Other pharmacy management systems do not offer comprehensive management, and instead require users to acquire additional software. Within PrimeRx™, loyalty program capabilities include:
- Seamless and direct point-of-sale integration. The ability to accrue and redeem benefits at point-of-sale.
- App-based Mobile Access. The FillMyRefills™ app allows patients to access their pharmacy's refill process from the convenience of their mobile device. In addition, patients can easily access their loyalty program account, including their bar coded membership "card." This eliminates the need for patients to carry a card in their wallet and gives pharmacies the option to forego the expense of issuing physical cards.
- Records Management and Reporting. Pharmacy managers can request detailed reporting about their rewards programs, and have those reports delivered to their mobile device or desktop on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, or any other preferred frequency.
- Customization and Flexibility. Pharmacy managers can customize a benefits program for each patient based on purchase history, with predictions about additional products that might be appealing.
- Real-Time Prescription Benefit powered by Surescripts®. PrimeRx™ pharmacies can interface directly with this important solution which provides access to each patient's medication benefit information. Direct access to this information allows pharmacy staff to know immediately if a prescribed medication is covered by a patient's plan, thereby eliminating the time-consuming task of manually having to look up this information. Real-Time Prescription Benefit also identifies therapeutic alternatives that are on the patient's plan formulary. With this tool, pharmacist have an efficient new solution for helping patients get the medications they need, at a price they can afford. Real-Time Prescription Benefit efficiencies include:
- 20% improvement un first fill compliance rates.
- 75% reduction in staff time spent responding to patient pricing concerns.
- 30% improvement in medication adherence rates.
- 1/2-star improvement in Medicare Star Ratings.
- Simplified pharmacy-provider-payer communication process.
- Access to the largest network of PBMs and health plans.
- Integration of benefit checks into the pharmacy workflow.
- Comparison of patient formulary options with copayments.
- Reduced DIR fees.
- Reduced instances of medications returned to stock.
- Improved patient outcomes.
- Pointy From Google. Pointy helps a local pharmacy appear in consumer searches. A small device attaches to the pharmacy's point-of-sale barcode scanner. When a product is scanned, it is immediately added to a "Pointy Page" located on the pharmacy's website. The pharmacy will then appear as a buying option – presumably with competitive pricing – for subsequent searches for that product.
As the above discussion makes clear, PrimeRx™ offers several options for helping patients manage costs. Patients can get the medications – and OTC products – they need, at a price they can afford. And in the process, pharmacies can generate good will and loyalty, and ensure continued patronage from their most valuable customers!