Increasingly, DME pharmacies are supporting sleep therapy
patients with a variety of devices and related products. As their
communitys’ resource for healthcare products, it makes sense
given the statistics around obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Roughly 25 million U.S. adults have either diagnosed or undiagnosed
moderate to severe sleep apnea, according to the National Healthy
Sleep Awareness Project.
While the main sleep products are the continuous passive airway
pressure (CPAP) devices themselves, the list of sleep products also includes
resupply items. Resupply items include mask frames, cushions,
headgear, tubing, filters, water chambers and chin straps, which need
to be replaced at regular intervals. Moreover, those resupply replacements
are reimbursable items.
Every first-rate sleep therapy equipment provider knows the
importance of a comprehensive resupply program, which is great for
the bottom line, but resupply is also important for care. Pharmacies
specializing in sleep therapy support know that resupply impacts patients’
therapy compliance, which in turn benefits patient outcomes.
Effective resupply programs are efficient, regular and accomplish the
ultimate goal of helping patients comply with their therapy regimens,
leading to satisfied clients and referral sources.
CARE HINGES ON COMMUNICATION
Consistent patient communication, a key element of any successful
resupply strategy, has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since most sleep labs have been temporarily closed
or operating at lower capacity during the crisis, providers are not
seeing the same flow of new patients seeking CPAP machines or other
sleep therapy equipment. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that
even as the pandemic is hopefully transitioning into more an endemic,
it will have left an impact on sleep resupply. Some patients will have
changed their habits as a result.
All this means that pharmacies with sleep practices must have a strong communications strategy in place,
particularly as they become increasingly
reliant on reorders from their existing customer
base to fuel dependable revenue
streams. This means they need to take a
multi-level approach that includes contacting
patients through emails, phone
calls, texts and app-based communication.
In doing so, DME pharmacies have a
better chance of completing reorders and
maximizing profit margins during a demanding
time for healthcare companies.
Also, as clients desire near-immediate
answers to questions on issues or reorders,
leveraging the growing suite of
patient communication tools available
from industry software companies is
crucial to increasing low-touch revenue
while delivering high-touch service.
MEETING YOUR PATIENTS
WHERE THEY ARE
Successful sleep therapy providers have
abided by similar principles for as long as
the business of providing home medical
equipment has existed: educating the patient
about their condition and the equipment
they require to treat it is absolutely
pivotal to ensuring the patient complies
with their therapy and reorders supplies.
As the population of sleep apnea
patients grows each year, providers must
meet demand without sacrificing their
level of engagement with patients — a
tough task when providers are already
overextended in the first place. Luckily,
technology options have emerged
to help deliver a high-quality patient
experience, which is particularly relevant
for younger customers who are more
accustomed to using mobile apps and
Generally, the sleep patient population
tends to be younger and more
likely to take advantage of technology
solutions than oxygen patients, who are
overall part of an older generation. That
said, no two patients are alike.
Bearing that in mind, pharmacies with
sleep practices need to support a variety
of communications methods to meet the
patient where they are. That will ultimately
drive the best patient experience
and sleep therapy outcomes. Start that
process by asking your patients upfront
how they prefer to be contacted so that
you can meet them where they are.
Fortunately, there are technology
solutions out there from the various
software vendors that can help you coordinate
with your patients in an integrated
and often automated platform. These
systems let pharmacies set up push
notifications to request more information
from patients or update them on order
and delivery status. In addition, patients
can upload financial information and
insurance updates as they happen.
Before choosing a patient communication
solution, pharmacies should
evaluate their specific business practices
and workflow issues before turning to a
technology partner for help. That means
the pharmacy should examine its resupply
processes and build out solutions that
accommodate those processes.
OPTIMIZING AND AUTOMATING
Breakdowns in communication, whether
they’re through unanswered phone calls,
unread emails, or ignored push notifications,
can lead to major issues for providers,
especially when it comes to the
retention of patients and referral sources.
If a patient is not reordering equipment,
that means they are likely not following
their therapy regimen — and their doctor
or primary healthcare provider will know
it. That’s the opposite of the reputation
that DME pharmacies hope to build.
Manual communication methods and
tracking of patient contact can quickly
lead to these types of issues. As providers
work to maintain multiple resupply
schedules, follow up with several payers
and meet resupply regulations, it’s easy
to see how making patient calls can fall
to the end of a provider’s priority list and
slip through the cracks.
Automated tools that take the guesswork
out of communication can make all
the difference in the sleep therapy space.
Providers should consider software solutions
that learn more about the patient’s
preferred methods over time and eliminate
ineffective business practices.
If an email outreach has been unsuccessful
in the past, these tools will switch
to guided call scripting or messaging
at different times of day to find the best
ways to reach even the most difficult,
The positive impact of patient communication
tools is doubled if patients are
given clear expectations at the outset
of their PAP therapy setup. Sending the
right message about the importance of
resupply and simplifying the options for
clients makes it easier for providers to
seek reorders during difficult times, including
the current COVID-19 crisis. And
if there are issues with the supply chain
or product demand, the patient may be
more likely to forgive a provider who has
sent regular updates in the past.
Letting patients express their preferences
and learn more about their
options allows them to feel like active
participants in the process. For example,
demonstrating a web portal for reorders
reduces frustration with communication
tools and improves the entire experience
for patients and providers.
Remember, most patients are on
therapy for their whole lives, and the
longest period of time that patients are
going to spend with therapy is in that
resupply phase. So the pharmacy wants
to make sure to deliver a seamless order
and reorder solution to deliver the strongest
patient experience possible.