Physician dispensing envisages a dual role for the physician i.e. of prescribing medication, and distributing the same to patients at ‘Point of Care’. Although this concept is currently being followed by a mere 10% of physicians in the country, it is gaining momentum because of the inherent benefits to both the physician and the patients.
Till the early 20th century, pharmacists manufactured medications and physicians prescribed and dispensed them. Then the trend changed around early to mid 20th century, when physicians only prescribed medications, pharmaceutical companies manufactured them and pharmacists dispensed them. This trend seems to be changing once again.
Benefits of Physician Dispensing
1)Increased Revenue: The most important benefit is the increase in physician’s revenue through this new revenue stream. Initially, however, the staff will have to be trained and the process of implementing physician dispensing might take time and some investment, but in the long run it will prove to be financially beneficial.
2)Reduced Pharmacy Callbacks: Physicians have to spend a lot of time everyday dealing with pharmacy issues and attending to pharmacy call backs. Moreover, each callback costs $5-$7 per call and roughly $30,000 a year. These costs and time losses can be avoided with physician dispensing.
3)Improved Patient Care and Patient Compliance: Writing and dispensing errors will be eliminated. The compliance rate of patients getting prescriptions filled and taking the medicines as directed will improve by more than 60%. The overall health care costs will reduce with improved compliance.
4)Reduction of Adverse Drug Events: Illegible writing of prescriptions, unclear abbreviations, unclear or inappropriate dosages, and unclear telephone/verbal orders cost primary care practices a large sum of money as overheads and these can be avoided with physician medication dispensing.
5)Increased Convenience: It will be more convenient for the patients as they will not have to drive to the pharmacy and wait for dispensing of the prescription which can be upwards of one hour. Patients can receive their medication at the point-of-care with physician dispensing and save time spent on commuting and waiting at the pharmacy. This will be especially convenient for the disabled, elderly patients and parents with sick children.
6)Lower Cost Substitution: Since physicians are aware of the costs of different medications, they can make substitutions on-the-spot for needy patients, or if a particular medication is not available. Pharmacists on the other hand would have to call the physician and wait for the physician to call back to approve any change required. This loss of vital time can be avoided with physician dispensing.
In 44 out of 50 states of US, physician dispensing is completely legal. In some other states, there are restrictions on this practice and other states have prohibited it altogether. However, there is no doubt that physician dispensing improves health of patients and it increases the physician’s practice revenue. Overall healthcare costs for patients are reduced with higher compliance rate, achieved through physician dispensing. This practice is safe and endorsed by AMA provided the physicians comply with federal and state guidelines and give their patients a choice of where to purchase medications.
The practice of physician dispensing is gaining momentum because of its inherent advantages to both patients and physicians. It increases the physician’s revenue and makes it more convenient for patients, by providing them with a one-stop solution to their ailments.