Does Your Specialty Distributor Deliver Practice Success?
By Sandy Brewer |
It's widely known that payment reform and reduced reimbursements have forced specialty practices to find new ways to lower costs and increase efficiencies. But what's lesser known is that these new challenges have driven an evolution in the specialty drug supply chain giving rise to innovative, practice-focused solutions and services that go far outside the scope of pick, pack and ship. And while today's specialty landscape demands a distributor that will strive to help practices meet the needs of their patients, not all distributors are positioned to do so. Here are five questions you should be asking in order to answer the ultimate question: Is my specialty distributor really that special?
Question 1: Does your practice need a vendor or a partner?
At its most basic level, a specialty distributor should be able to get the drugs the practice needs when the practice needs them. But the role of the specialty distributor is increasingly that of an indispensable partner. That means serving as an extension of the practice, supporting the practice mission and ensuring products are kept in stock, competitively priced and delivered in a timely manner. After all, time is one of the most valuable commodities patients and specialty practitioners have. Your distributor should honor that with responsive services such as no-wait guidance, expedited online ordering and tracking and immediate availability by phone. If the distributor doesn't have a history of supporting specialty clinical initiatives, they'll most likely not have the resources or know-how to provide additional value to the practice.
Question 2: Is your distributor updating and innovating at the speed of technology?
Specialty drugs are a high-price asset for practices, making storage and maintenance mission critical. Practices have long since looked to the distributor to provide the technology to ensure drug therapies are properly maintained while stored within the practice. But storage innovation has evolved, and the specialty distributor with it. For example, there are technologies designed to serve as a storage and inventory management system, helping practices automatically track and improve control of specialty drug use, which ultimately helps the practice reduce carrying costs. These cutting-edge systems, which can be fully integrated with practice management systems, can also provide valuable reporting tools designed to help better manage drug spend and ensure every drug is properly reimbursed.
Question 3: Is your practice focused on cost savings outside of drug spend?
With new data suggesting drugs make up only a modest portion of specialty practice costs, practices must focus on improving costs across the entire practice, not just those related to drug therapies - and so too should the specialty distributor. Which is why select distributors have taken the lead in delivering services that include:
- Practice performance technology solutions
- Inventory management and reporting
- Reimbursement guidance and financial expertise
- Insights on regulatory trends and drug usage
In addition to helping practices improve processes and optimize efficiencies, these services are designed to reduce administrative burdens, which ultimately allows more time for patient care. Your specialty distributor should be focused on more than just order placement; it should provide tools to make ordering, inventory control and accounts payable quick and easy. While price is important, so is the delivery time frame, packing and shipping container, invoicing and accessibility of staff when you have a question.
Question 4: Does your distributor offer flexible payment terms and have access to contract pricing?
These days, competitive pricing is simply the cost of admission for specialty distributors. The right distributor will not only be able to access all of a practice's contract pricing to ensure the most aggressive cost advantages, it will also offer unique payment models and terms. In addition, since some manufacturers have volume pricing and/or rebate programs or restricted returns, your distributor should be an expert on these programs to help your practice make the best purchasing decisions. These offerings help to reduce strain on the practice's cash flow and resolve accessibility challenges related to high-cost therapies. In addition, some distributors can help the practice access manufacturer-sponsored solutions, like patient assistance programs, designed to enhance patient outcomes.
Question 5: Is your practice getting all the information it needs to make sound decisions and stay relevant in the community?
For some distributors, serving specialty practices means more than providing for today's needs. It means doing what can be done to secure a successful future. Practices should look to partner with a distributor that's working to create additional educational opportunities and advocating on the practices' behalf legislatively. Whether related to ICD-10 coding, meaningful use, legislative issues or simply ensuring physicians get all the latest information on the drugs they're prescribed, distributors can serve as a well of knowledge for the specialty practice.
Although specialty practices face many challenges, one might surmise that these evolved distribution solutions and services are a direct reflection of how important community-based specialty practices have become to the industry supply chain and to the continuum of care. Specialty distributors are uniquely positioned to help practices ensure high-quality care for patients and address efficiencies and cost-savings in business-line operations - and practices should expect nothing less from partners they choose to do business with.