This blog is the second installment of a five-part series on Navigating Your Entry Into Specialty Pharmacy and serves as a step-by-step guide for integrated healthcare systems.

Payers are Becoming More Aware of Hospital Systems Entering the Specialty Pharmacy Arena

The EMD Serono report, which is considered the “Bible” of specialty pharmaceuticals, is seeing a shift in payers becoming more aware of hospital systems entrance into the specialty pharmacy arena. It is important to develop a payer strategy and protect your data. Interoperability is the ability to capture all the data so that all the points are together.

Obstacles Standing in the Way of Starting a Specialty Pharmacy

“The only use of an obstacle is to be overcome. All that an obstacle does with brave men is, not to frighten them, but to challenge them.” – Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson

In the current model, specialty pharmacies cannot compare to a hospital or healthcare system’s specialty pharmacy. The delivery of care that is possible, cannot be replicated. With that said, it’s important to note there are two main obstacles in terms of starting a specialty pharmacy:

  1. No analysis has been done to determine if a health system should enter the specialty pharmacy industry.  It is risky to do without the help of veteran industry professionals who have the experience starting a specialty pharmacy from the ground floor – learn from their success and failures to ensure a smooth path to success.   
  2. If a health system decides to enter the industry, through partnering with an existing specialty pharmacy, there are going to be technical and organizational challenges

Starting a specialty pharmacy is not a “one size fits all” solution. It is more involved than just deciding how to staff the pharmacy or where the physical location will be. There are a myriad of other decisions that must be considered to make sure you, and your patients, get the most out of your specialty pharmacy endeavor.

Another factor is selling the idea to your C-Suite and reviewing a pro forma (a method of calculating financial results in order to emphasize either current or projected figures). It is going to be key for a lot of pharmacy directors to make sure that it is a profitable entity.

It should go without saying, but entering specialty pharmacy is not cheap. We suggest working with a specialty pharmacy consulting group that has the framework and resources in place to help create a performance evaluation and pro forma before doing anything else to make sure specialty makes sense for your business.

Educating Your Current Doctors on Your Specialty Pharmacy Services

While the theory of ‘If you build it, they will come” may hold true for other industries, it is not necessarily the case for hospital systems. Just because you have a specialty pharmacy does not mean your doctors are going to prescribe to or utilize your new service.

There is an education process that needs to happen with your physicians, operations staff and even marketing and sales. While “sales” may not be a popular work in a hospital’s vocabulary, it is important to embrace the fact that there will need to be a fully fleshed out conversation and exchange of knowledge if your specialty pharmacy is going to be successful. The doctors also are most likely have a lot of reach and frequency from other reps coming into their office and have made a habit of referring to the same pharmacies over the years. They will need constant education and reinforcement that you now offer a specialty pharmacy within your health system.

Bottom line: If you think just going to be opening up your doors will attract business – guess again.  

Marketing & Branding Your Specialty Pharmacy

Initially, hospital systems have to do a lot on the front end to get their specialty pharmacy up and running. It’s important to remember that once your specialty pharmacy doors are open, that you continue to market and brand your new venture to help ensure continued success.

teamThe process of developing a sales and marketing organization within your specialty pharmacy starts with bringing in the right people and training them on the clinical aspects of each of the products and services you can provide.

These trained sales or marketing professionals people can then take that message out into the office space, and let doctors and nurses know what it is the specialty pharmacy within the health system you can do for them. A major key to success is positioning the specialty pharmacy as a vital resource to your staff to help increase adoption and retention rates.

Doctors and nurses then promote the specialty pharmacy within your current patient population in the hospitals. Patients need to know you can offer what other specialty pharmacies cannot. Ultimately, it is all about differentiation and the end benefits for the patient; in other words, focus on what you do best.

When you have put so much into building and preparing for market, it is critical that you are able to capitalize on the opportunities to keep those patients who are already in your system in your specialty pharmacy. In a recent Forbes article, it was reported that a 75 percent increase in revenue can be obtained by just retaining an additional 5 percent of your customer base. As you can see, retention and education are vital to accelerated growth of the specialty pharmacy within your health system.

Lack of communication within some larger institutions can sometimes lead to headaches when it comes to branding your specialty pharmacy. It is important to utilize resources like the internet and various education events to ensure employees are on the same page when it comes to your specialty pharmacy offering.

Patients may have benefits that will drive them to your specialty pharmacy, but there is so much work that can be done in the hospital pharmacy. From helping the patient get authorized to all sorts of different initiatives which will be discussed later in this book.

The ultimate goal is to improve the patient’s journey by providing a thorough education, which ultimately results in a better patient experience.

Navigating Your Entry Into Specialty Pharmacy

Part 1 | Why Should Your Healthcare System Enter Specialty Pharmacy?

Part 2 | Obstacles Standing in the Way of Starting a Specialty Pharmacy

Part 3 | Steps to Develop Your Business Case to the C-Suite

Part 4 | Importance of Building Strong Teams

Part 5 | Why is Accreditation Important?