Study shows rapid growth in cost of physician-dispensed prescriptions versus pharmacies
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — While regulations meant to control the prices of drugs dispensed through physician offices for injured workers can keep costs down without limiting access, employers in many states may end up paying more than twice what they would have if the workers had gone to a pharmacy instead, according to a new study.
The study, conducted by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Workers Compensation Research Institute, examined data for nearly 5.7 million prescriptions paid under workers’ compensation for nearly 760,000 claims in 23 states from 2007-2008 to 2010-2011. It focused in particular on California, where regulations adopted in 2007 cut the prices paid to physician offices. Critics of the regulations feared they would result in fewer physician offices dispensing drugs because it would be less profitable, but the study found that wasn’t the case.
"There is a great discrepancy between what doctors and pharmacies charge for dispensing the same drug," WCRI executive director Richard Victor said. "One question for policy-makers is whether the large price difference paid when physicians dispense is justified by the benefits of physician dispensing."
Another concern about the California regulations was that they would increase costs because physicians nearly always dispensed generics, while pharmacies dispensed generic and branded drugs. But the WCRI researchers found that for the medications commonly dispensed by physicians, physicians and pharmacies alike almost always dispensed generics. The study cited the example of Abbott’s painkiller Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen), for which physicians in California received 85 cents per pill before the regulations, while pharmacies received 43 cents. After the regulations were adopted, physicians received 52 cents, compared with 48 cents for pharmacies. But despite the decrease in prices, the percentage of physicians dispensing prescriptions went from 55% before the regulations to 53% after.
In many states, a large percentage of drugs for injured workers are dispensed through physician offices rather than pharmacies, which the report said raised costs for employers because the same drug bought through a physician office can cost more than twice what it does at a pharmacy.
In Pennsylvania, the percentage of payments to physicians for dispensing drugs at their offices increased from 15% to 27% in the three-year period studied. Vicodin in that state cost $1.13 per pill at physicians’ offices, compared with 35 cents at pharmacies, thus raising costs to employers. In many cases, prices paid for physician-dispensed drugs increased for several drugs, while prices paid to pharmacies changed little or fell; for example, respective prices for Vicodin and ibuprofen increased by 23% and 26% at physician offices while falling 10% and 13% at pharmacies.
Meanwhile, in Florida, 62% of all prescription drug spending for injured workers went to physicians instead of pharmacies. The fastest growth in the frequency and cost of physician-dispensed drugs was in Illinois, which saw prescription drug payments to physicians go from 22% to nearly two-thirds of the total in three years. Vicodin in Illinois cost $1.44 per pill at physicians’ offices and 53 cents at the pharmacy.
"We rarely see a medical cost driver that has grown this rapidly," Victor said.
RedPrairie report reveals shopping preferences of Gen Y
ATLANTA — RedPrairie has released a new study that is designed to help retailers and manufacturers better understand the shopping habits of Gen Y and how to effectively communicate with this group of tech-savvy 18- to 29-year-olds.
“Successful engagement with millennial consumers is about adding value to their shopping experience and respecting both their privacy and their preferred methods of communication,” said David Bruno, director of corporate messaging at RedPrairie. “The good news is, Gen Y consumers are not shy about having their voices heard.”
According to "The Millennial Report," there are key points to follow when engaging millennial consumers. These include:
Respect their time: Recognize preferences and make meaningful recommendations;
Pick your spots: Make strategic advertising decisions and avoid bombarding at every channel;
Be there: Develop the versatility to be available across all selling channels and social media, so no need goes unmet;
Opinions matter: Facilitate peer communication to help build brand awareness and loyalty; and
Connect the dots: Connect store, customer and direct channel to make transactions seamless and keep customers coming back.
“When it comes to trying to satisfy millennials, the bottom line for brands is adaptability,” Bruno said. “One minute they want to shop and compare online and via every social networking site available, and the next they want to purchase in store. “
To reach this group, retailers essentially need to provide ‘endless aisle’ capabilities in every channel and location, according to Bruno.
“When marketing to millennials, retailers and brands must strike a balance between personalizing the shopping experience via individualized product information and not overwhelming or overstepping perceived boundaries of privacy,” he said. “It’s a challenge to meet these seemingly conflicting expectations, but with the right technology and integration in place, it’s achievable.”
A complimentary copy of the report is available here.
Surescripts, Epic partner on electronic health records
ARLINGTON, Va. — Electronic prescribing network Surescripts will connect its system to the interoperability platform of a company that provides electronic health records, under a partnership announced Thursday.
Surescripts announced that it would work with Epic to integrate its Clinical Interoperability Network with Epic’s Care Everywhere platform, allowing providers who use Epic’s EHR to securely exchange clinical information with peers between practices and across health systems, including referrals, discharge summaries and lab results. Clinical interoperability is a healthcare provider’s ability to share a patient’s health information electronically and, according to experts, is a critical step in accelerating the digital transformation of the country’s healthcare system, according to Surescripts, which said that medical information for 150 million patients would be stored in an Epic digital record by next year.
"Surescripts continues to be committed to enhancing our network, expanding our capabilities and enabling the flow of new types of health information to advance connectivity and enable diverse parties to work together," Surescripts president and CEO Harry Totonis said. "With our Clinical Interoperability Network, we will enable broader health information sharing between thousands more care providers nationwide. Our goal is to connect the entire U.S. healthcare system to support improvements in care, safety, cost and health outcomes."
According to a Surescripts survey of 400 physicians, 55% of respondents said important patient information always or frequently arrived after the patient visit, a statistic the company said wasn’t surprising because 91% of doctors still use fax machines to share information with other doctors, while 57% use telephones and 53% use electronic health records or the U.S. Postal Service.