Medication synchronization is catching on across the nation.
More than 23 pharmacy chains in the United States have implemented medication synchronization programs, or the appointment-based model (ABM), totaling more than 20,000 community pharmacies, along with roughly 2,000 independent pharmacies, according to the APhA Foundation. Some states have even passed legislation to remove barriers to help streamline the process for patients.
Medication synchronization involves a pharmacist looking at a patient’s medications and then syncing them all up for pick-up on a single, convenient day each month. It also creates an opportunity for pharmacists to provide a monthly check-in call before the patient comes in, and medication therapy management (MTM) during the appointment.
A campaign from the APhA Foundation, called Align My Refills, is creating awareness among consumers around medication synchronization. The campaign kicked off in October 2014, during American Pharmacists Month, with a national media tour and engagement with stakeholder groups focused on caregiving, patient safety and chronic disease prevention.
The APhA Foundation has an implementation guide on its resources page for pharmacies interested in medication synchronization, and a map for patients who want to find a nearby pharmacy offering medication synchronization. Pharmacies already offering med sync can register to be listed on the map.
“Our goal through this campaign is to make patients aware that pharmacies are providing this service and promote how valuable developing a relationship with their pharmacist is to their health,” said Mindy Smith, BSPharm, Executive Director of the APhA Foundation.
One of the biggest challenges with medication synchronization programs is the cost to the patient.
According to Bri Morris, PharmD, Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives at the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), pharmacists often have to do partial fills—less than a 30 days’ supply—in order to align the patients’ medications. Those partial refills are normally not covered by the patient’s insurance, however.
As of January 1, 2014, changes under Medicare Part D required plan sponsors to offer prorated copayments, accomplished through new submission clarification codes, to Medicare beneficiaries for medication synchronization. The medications must be Part D–covered drugs, and oral antibiotics are exempt.
“That helped for all Part D patients because they now have a way to get those prorated copays for the short fills to be able to initially synchronize their medications,” Morris told Pharmacy Today.
Following this regulation, some states have been interested in passing legislation that applies the same principle to the private insurance sector. Thirteen states introduced bills during the 2014 legislative session that forbade insurance plans from denying coverage for refills made to synch multiple prescription refills.
Legislation has been passed in Connecticut, Colorado, Oregon, and Utah. Although a bill wasn’t passed in Vermont, the state’s two major health insurers said they would allow patients to synch their medications at no additional cost without the need for a law.
“The activity we had during this last legislative session really gives us an idea of where state legislators are headed,” said Morris. “We anticipate that several states will introduce legislation on this is the 2015 session too.”
Still, Morris said education about medication synchronization is needed across the board—from student pharmacists understanding medication adherence to prescribers knowing what a partial fill is and why a pharmacy would request one.
“I think education with all stakeholders would really help increase participation in medication synchronization programs and help it grow,” said Morris.
Nearly 3 years ago, NCPA launched a medication synchronization program, called Simplify My Meds, in independent pharmacies across the country. Morris said the number of patients participating in the program has tripled in the past year.