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Caring for the Patient with Diabetes

By Tanya Mericle

Patients with diabetes require ongoing support; community pharmacists are well positioned to meet their needs.

Are America's 30.3 million patients with diabetes1 among pharmacists' greatest opportunities? Likely so, according to research from the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). 

In a report from the HCCI, healthcare spending (medical care and prescription medication) for patients with diabetes is more than triple that of patients without diabetes ($14,999 vs. $4,305).2 Given their ongoing prescriptions, coupled with over-the-counter necessities like compression socks and test strips, patients with diabetes could potentially spend a significant amount of money at local pharmacies.

But it's not just about the revenue. As one of the most accessible healthcare providers, pharmacists typically see patients more regularly than do physicians. Given the complexity of this condition, pharmacists are uniquely positioned to help patients affected by diabetes manage their disease through monitoring, education, counseling and more. So how can pharmacists make the most of their relationships with these specific patients, improving their business and their patients’ health — all while standing out from their competitors?

Done well the right blend of products and services can transform independent pharmacies from a “drugstore" to a bona fide healthcare destination that's seen by patients with diabetes as a one-stop resource for all their day-to-day needs. At that point, it's no longer an inconvenient trip out of the way just to buy insulin. Instead, it's a place where patients can get insulin, monitors, test strips, lancets, glucose gels, shoes, socks, batteries, flu shots, sugar-free candy and vitamins, as well as invaluable guidance for most of their healthcare questions and needs.

"Pharmacists are uniquely positioned to help patients affected by diabetes manage their disease through monitoring, education, counseling and more."

Here's how independent pharmacies can get there:

1. Optimize Medication Therapy Management 
Diabetes currently ranks as a top condition when it comes to qualifying for medication therapy management (MTM). However, according to 2016 figures3, fewer than 31 percent of MTM-eligible Medicare patients have gotten a comprehensive medical review from their pharmacist.

By providing all their MTM-eligible patients with an annual comprehensive medical review, independent pharmacies can build better relationships with their patients, including those with diabetes. This, in turn, will enable pharmacists to:  

  • Synchronize their patients' medications;
  • Ensure proper use and increase adherence; 
  • Identify potential cost-saving opportunities;
  • Improve outcomes; and 
  • Facilitate more effective interventions when needed.

To get started, call eligible patients ahead of their prescription refills to ask when they plan to pick up their medication. Use that opportunity to schedule a 10-15 minute conversation at the time of their next visit to the pharmacy. Be prepared to greet the patient and perform the comprehensive medical review at that scheduled time. 

Pharmacists should implement best practices for MTM and take full advantage of the opportunity to engage patients. This patient engagement can go a long way toward improving outcomes and customer satisfaction. 

2. Provide the Merchandise Patients with Diabetes Need
Given the high number of patients with diabetes who visit local pharmacies, a pharmacy should evaluate the front end space allocated to products that meet the specific needs of this patient subset.  Not only is this a convenience for the patient, but can also help improve the pharmacy’s bottom line.

Pharmacies should assess their front end selection with the goal of engaging their  patients as soon as they walk into the store - including those who are managing a complex condition like diabetes. Consider creating a special section for diabetes care that contains all the products and printed educational materials they might need, allowing them to shop and gather information before making their way to the pharmacy counter.

While an end cap could work, pharmacies determined to the destination for diabetes care may want to think bigger:  A large section for diabetes supplies — clearly marked with signage — could create an in-store destination that patients visit every pharmacy trip. Essentials could include:

  • Glucometer supplies: Glucometer, test trips and lancets, alcohol swabs and batteries.
  • Over-the-counter medications: Glucose gels, supplements and sugar-free cough and cold syrup.
  • Foot care products: Creams, therapeutic shoes and compression socks.
  • Other supplies: Ketone strips, alert bracelets and blood pressure cuffs.

3. Offer Screenings and Vaccines
Independent pharmacies have the freedom to offer in-store screenings that patients with diabetes might need (and would appreciate having access to), including glucose monitoring, blood pressure readings and cholesterol checks.

In addition, pharmacists can build an ongoing relationship with patients diagnosed with diabetes by meeting their other healthcare needs — that is, those needs that are outside of their diabetes diagnosis. This includes offering regular health screenings (such as osteoporosis scans) and vaccinations (such as the flu, pneumonia, shingles and Tdap).

4. Boost Marketing Efforts
The importance of building relationships with physicians should not be underestimated. With the right message to showcase a commitment to health and adherence, pharmacies can demonstrate their value to physicians by proving their value to their patients.

Pharmacies that have carved out a niche in diabetes care should use this as a point of differentiation to build stronger relationships with local physicians, particularly those who are also caring for patients with this complicated condition. rel="noopener noreferrer" Taking the time to market a meaningful area of specialty helps a pharmacy earn a provider's trust and gain physician referrals. 

With these tips, local pharmacies can better serve their diabetes patients' overall healthcare needs. After all, a population of 30.3 million people represents a huge opportunity, and strengthening those relationships will help improve outcomes for all.

Need Help? 

Learn how expert guidance offered through Good Neighbor Pharmacy can help you focus your energy and attention on the health of your patients while our business coaches focus on the health of your business. 

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New CDC report: More than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. 18 July 2017. Accessed 25 April 2018. Available online at
2. Health Care Cost Institute. Per Capita Health Care Spending on Diabetes: 2009-2013. 1 May 2015. Accessed 25 April 2018. Available online at Diabetes Issue Brief 5-7-15.pdf
3. AmerisourceBergen. Enhance Your Pharmacy Performance. 27 June 2016. Accessed 25 April 2018. Available online at


About The Author

Tanya Mericle
Director, Business Coaching Operations
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