I was skeptical. A number of my direct care colleagues had touted the virtues of dispensing medications from the office, but I wasn’t sure. I built a successful practice without dispensing, relying instead on finding inexpensive drugs using services like GoodRx.com and patient assistance programs to get free medications from pharmaceutical companies. Patients were happy, and the practice was growing. It didn’t seem necessary.
But at the urging of those colleagues, I went ahead with medication dispensing about a year ago, and I must admit that I underestimated the impact it has had on my practice. It has become one of the biggest areas of patient satisfaction, as well as a very powerful marketing tool to both draw in new patients and retain my current ones.
The basics of medication dispensing
To start dispensing, there are a few things that you need to figure out early on:
- What the laws are in your state regarding dispensing drugs
- How to keep inventory and keep stock up
- Where to buy the medications
- Which medications to stock and what to charge
Each state has laws regarding dispensing*, with three of them (Texas, Minnesota, and Wyoming) not allowing physician dispensing at all. I am fortunate because Georgia has some of the most lenient dispensing laws for physicians and does not require extra licensure within the practice to dispense. The bottom line here is that your state has specific requirements, some of them significant, that you must follow if you want to legally dispense medications.
Once the legal hurdles have been crossed, the next step is to find a system that will help you print your labels, track your inventory, and log your prescriptions. There are a number of companies that take this next step out of the process by pre-packaging prescriptions and managing inventory. This does limit options for medication vendors to the one doing the packaging and also decreases flexibility of the number of pills prescribed in prescriptions. Doing a web search on “physician dispensing” will show a number of vendors who will do this for you.
Our office chose a vendor that interfaces with our EHR and our billing system. Check with your EHR vendor to see what solutions are available to you. Our solution allows us to enter prescription in the EHR, go to the dispensing software and print the label, and send it to our billing system. If the prescription brings the inventory down to a set level, it notifies us that we need to order more. It’s quite simple to use and lets us manage an inventory of over 100 drugs.