CCM Ambulatory Pharmacies at Health Systems: Improving the Patient Experience - Cover

CCM Ambulatory Pharmacies at Health Systems: Improving the Patient Experience

Growing emphasis on value-based care and population health is leading healthcare organizations to focus on ways to increase patient access and engagement. One way that health systems are doing this is through ambulatory pharmacies. Medication adherence is an important aspect in maintaining patient wellness and avoiding adverse events, such as readmissions, ER visits, and mental health events. Ambulatory pharmacies can leverage technologies that help patients adhere to their medication regimens and achieve tangible health outcomes.

The Center for Connected Medicine (CCM) recently partnered with KLAS to survey health system leaders about the digital strategies and technologies employed by their ambulatory pharmacies; the subsequent report, recently published on CCM’s website, explores the challenges and successes these leaders have seen.

Why Are Health Systems Using Ambulatory Pharmacies?

While there are many reasons health systems may implement an ambulatory pharmacy, interviewed health system leaders say that their organizations are primarily motivated by a desire to improve the continuity of patient care as well as patient access. Continuous care elevates care quality and enhances medication adherence, ensuring patients receive the correct medications in the right doses at the right times. Ambulatory pharmacies have also extended operating hours, making them more accessible to patients than other retail options like CVS or Walgreens. For example, a patient can pick up their medications once their appointment has finished, minimizing the risk of delays or interruptions to their treatment.

Though not a primary motivator, increased revenue is also a benefit of ambulatory pharmacies. Amid industry struggles with strained budgets, ambulatory pharmacies enable health systems to capture more revenue from medication sales, as patients who would otherwise go to a retail pharmacy can instead get their medications from the ambulatory facility. Additionally, ambulatory pharmacies have a quick, almost-guaranteed return on investment; most organizations that have these pharmacies achieve value for their efforts, proving the effectiveness of this approach.

chart covering reasons that organizations own ambulatory pharmacies

What Technologies Are Ambulatory Pharmacies Using?

Technology plays a significant role in addressing patients’ pharmacy needs as well as challenges that pharmacies encounter. Convenience is a major desire for patients when going through the healthcare journey, and almost 75% of interviewed health leaders report that their organizations have implemented applications that enable them to provide delivery services in their pharmacies. The ease and convenience of these services have led to improved patient satisfaction, especially for patients who may have difficulty accessing a pharmacy. Refill reminders via text are also a popular strategy and have helped increase medication adherence rates.

One factor that influences what technologies ambulatory pharmacies can utilize is space. While telepharmacy kiosks and self-pickup lockers are intriguing innovations, health systems don’t often implement them due to limited physical space within the pharmacies. A few interviewed health leaders report that their organizations do plan to implement these technologies in the future, and use of these technologies may become more popular in the future. Staffing challenges may contribute to interest in telepharmacy kiosks and self-pickup lockers, as they could help streamline operations for organizations struggling to recruit and retain employees. Other technologies that ambulatory pharmacies are looking to implement include adherence reminder outreach systems, integration with patient portals, online/in-app payments, and prescription refill applications.

Are Ambulatory Pharmacies Valuable?

As consumerism becomes more of a factor in the healthcare industry, ambulatory pharmacies will be a valuable service for health systems, with opportunities to further benefit patients as technologies become more advanced. Across the board, the leaders interviewed for this report indicate that their health systems have been successful in leveraging digital solutions to encourage patient adoption of their ambulatory pharmacies, and they have achieved outcomes such as convenience, increased accessibility, and improved medication adherence. In short, no matter what organizations use or do regarding their ambulatory pharmacies, they will most likely see positive results that will benefit their patients’ lives. Health systems that implement ambulatory pharmacies are doing so with their patients in mind—seeking to better their experiences and well-being.

KLAS will continue to monitor this market and the technologies used to operate and support pharmacies. For a deeper look at the CCM and KLAS findings on ambulatory pharmacies, we encourage you to read the full report on CCM’s website. We also encourage readers to look at KLAS’ catalog of reports for more information on health systems’ experiences with healthcare technology.

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