Historically physician dispensing was a manual process and required extra staff to count pills, maintain records, and report dispenses to state PDMP systems. Today, PharmaLink’s turnkey solution with pre-packaged medications, quick and easy dispensing, automated label printing, and automated PDMP reporting makes the process much easier and requires no additional staff. Many physicians are wary of how much risk and work is involved. If you share these concerns, contact us today and we’d be happy to provide a free consultation and software demo.
While many arguments are made for and against physician dispensing, the fundamental trade-off is largely between patient outcomes and satisfaction on one side vs. the potential for distorted outcomes related to financial incentives on the other.
We’ve provided a complete list of Provider Benefits and Patient Benefits on the linked pages, but here are the most-cited benefits of physician dispensing:
- Patient compliance and improved outcomes: Studies have shown that between 20 and 30% of prescriptions are never filled by patients. By dispensing at the point of care, patients save the trip to the pharmacy and are far more likely to begin treatments, resulting in better outcomes.
- Confidentiality: Dispensing can be particularly useful in specialties that might be a bit more sensitive to patients, such as weight loss, men’s health and women’s health. Patients often prefer getting these medications from their trusted medical professional rather than a pharmacist.
- Patient satisfaction: Patients love saving time and money by getting their low-cost generics directly from their provider. Providers who dispense often report improved patient satisfaction scores.
- Cost savings: By eliminating the pharmacy, providers are often able to offer patients lower prices while still generating additional revenue for the practice. This can be especially beneficial in situations where companies or entities are self-insured, for example at Student Health Centers or Employer Worksite Clinics. By sourcing medications directly, you can save significant money for the practice.
- Increased practice income: Create a new revenue stream for your practice.
- Improve service offering: Dispensing is highly popular among patients and allows you to compete with other practices in your area. This is particularly beneficial if you treat acute conditions (e.g. urgent care) or where patient confidentiality is paramount (e.g. weight loss, men’s health and women’s health).
Very few things in life are without drawbacks, and physician dispensing is no different. The most common downsides cited include:
- Increased patient cost: Ultimately the price set for the patient is up to the dispensing provider. In some cases, providers will include large markups on the items and the ultimate price to the patient may be higher than at the pharmacy. However, the prices our suppliers provide are very competitive so in many cases providers can generate income while still charging well under what the pharmacy charges for medications.
- Difficulty billing insurance: It can be a challenge to bill insurance for dispensed medications and be profitable, so most providers opt for cash & carry dispensing only. This can mean that patients who want to use their insurance must still go to the pharmacy. That being said, the beauty of physician dispensing is that you can and in fact must provide the patients with the option to go to the pharmacy to get their medication. In that sense, physician dispensing can only give patients more options, not less.
- Conflict of interest: Opponents of dispensing often cite the financial incentives for doctors and the concern that dispensing will result in changes in the way doctors prescribe, either encouraging them to prescribe more or to prescribe the items they have in stock. In practice, most of our providers are carrying their most common generic medications and are only generating a few dollars in profit from each dispense. The financial incentives are not such that they are likely to cause any changes in the way the provider treats his or her patient.
- Patient safety: One downside of physician dispensing is that there is only one set of eyes on a prescription and the provider may not always know a patient’s complete medication history. That being said, pharmacists also often don’t have the full picture, but having a second set of eyes on the prescriptions may result in catching some prescribing errors. On the other hand, dispensing reduces the chances that the wrong medication is dispensed and allows the doctor to counsel the patient and ask questions about their other medications.
If you’d like to read more, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (part of the NIH) has a good article titled Good Intentions, Uncertain Outcomes: Physician Dispensing in Offices and Clinics that discusses many of these points.
Getting started is very easy with PharmaLink! Contact us for a copy of our brief application. Once we receive the completed paperwork and necessary licensing (varies by state), we can have your program up and running in as little as 3 business days.
Our standard setup fee is $479, which includes the cost of all equipment along with setup and training. Depending on your state and the program you choose, we will provide all of the equipment and software you need to get started, and we’ll even finance your inventory for you. What this means is you are immediately profitable and cash flow positive. For a risk-free consultation, or if you’re ready to get started, contact us and a representative will reach out to you to provide more information.
To take full advantage of the PharmaLink program you only need to provide a computer with internet connection and a black and white printer. Use of PharmaLink’s dispensing software is not required, however, so it is possible to get started without any equipment. Contact us if you’d like to learn more.
We carry a full catalog of approximately 2,500 generic and branded medications in prepackaged, factory-sealed, ready-to-dispense packages. We carry a variety of strengths and quantities for most common medications. For more information, refer to our Formulary section or contact us.
Yes! Our software automatically files PDMP reports in all of the states where we have customers dispensing controlled medications, as required in each state. Our software will also file “Zero-Fill” reports to the extent no controlled dispenses are completed where required by the state. For more information check out our PDMP Reporting page.
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Once we receive a completed application packet, including the required license or licenses, we can have your account set up in as little as 3 business days. For more information, or if you’re ready to get started, please contact us!
Contact us for a risk-free consultation! If you’re ready to get started we’ll be happy to provide the paperwork required and guide you on your state’s regulations.
We recommend starting the process 2-3 months prior to opening, which gives you time to address any state licensing requirements and still have time to complete the application process. Feel free to contact us if you have any specific questions.
Does the physician have to physically hand the medication to the patient or can the staff complete the dispensing process?
The rights and responsibilities of dispensers vary from state-to-state. We recommend reviewing your state’s dispensing regulations or contacting your state Pharmacy or Medical Board for more information.
No! With PharmaLink’s turnkey physician dispensing solution, dispensing a medication takes no more than 15-30 seconds and requires no additional staff.