Original content from United Benefit Advisors (UBA) Mail-order pharmacy programs promise savings and convenience for employees, but some workers are starting to miss the face-to-face time with their local pharmacist, a new report suggests.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2013 U.S. Pharmacy Study finds that while overall satisfaction for mail-order pharmacies increased to 797 index points (on a 1,000-point scale) in 2013 from 792 one year ago, satisfaction in brick-and-mortar pharmacies jumped up 23 points to 837 over the same stretch.
The study found that consumer satisfaction levels among mail-order pharmacies dropped in cost competitiveness, delivery, ordering and customer service.
Although satisfaction levels for brick-and-mortar pharmacies also dropped, the data suggest that the appeal of mail-order prescription services is diminishing. “Acceptance of mail-order programs grew by offering customers convenience and lower costs,” said Rick Millard of J.D. Power and Associates in the company’s press release. “While this has been a successful approach, the mail-order business needs to continue to adapt and meet customers’ increasing needs.” Customer service has increasingly become an advantage for brick-and-mortar pharmacies, Millard said. “The pharmacist is at the heart of that service,” he added.
UBA’s 2013 Health Plan Survey noted that 95.9 percent of employers nationwide offered some type of mail-order plan design, with employers of 50-99 employees being the most prolific proponent of that method. By region, UBA’s study revealed that among regions, employers in the Northeast U.S. were most likely to offer mail-order prescriptions.
The J.D. Power survey notes that mail-order pharmacies can still save time and money if they’re the right fit. J.D. Power offers a few tips for employers and employees to maximize their drug benefits, including:
- Do your homework: Check the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy for a list of reputable sources before selecting a mail-order or brick-and-mortar vendor
- When in doubt, ask: Don’t hesitate to get information from a pharmacist if a question arises about a drug
- Go generic: Encourage employees to ask their doctor for generic alternatives
Generics have proven to be an especially powerful driver of savings, according to a separate report by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA). The research, reported in Employee Benefit News, notes that savings from generic drugs equals about $1 billion every two days in the U.S. — totaling $193 billion in 2011. The majority of generic savings (57 percent) stems from nervous system and cardiovascular drugs, the study found.