Amazon Pharmacy has taken health care news by storm with their announcement of RxPass, a $5/month generic drug subscription for Amazon Prime members. RxPass, promises as many eligible medications, which treat over 80 major health conditions, for one flat fee, which includes delivery.
According to Dr. Vin Gupta, Chief Medical Officer at Amazon Pharmacy, “RxPass is [Amazon Pharmacy’s] latest effort to help patients save time, save money, and stay healthy.”
For patients this sounds almost too good to be true – is there a catch? What impact could this have on pharmacies? Let’s dive in.
Amazon RxPass Benefits
There’s no denying that RxPass presents some rather enticing benefits for Prime members, which now is estimated to include 172 million Americans. Let’s take a look at the perks RxPass offers from a patient’s perspective:
✅ RxPass Offers a Low Flat Fee – Including Shipping
The greatest benefit of RxPass is without a doubt the flat price. For only $5 a month, Prime members will have access to all eligible prescriptions. This could potentially be a huge cost-saver for patients, especially those prescribed multiple prescriptions on the RxPass list of eligible medications.
✅ RxPass Provides Convenient Delivery
Another advantage RxPass offers is the convenience of medications delivered directly to patients’ doors, eliminating the burden of a trip to the pharmacy.
✅ RxPass Simplifies the Process by Bypassing Insurance
Navigating insurance prescription coverage and understanding co-pays can be a daunting task. Therefore, RxPass might seem like an appealing alternative to patients that are able to receive their medications for similar, or in some cases reduced prices.
Amazon RxPass Pitfalls
❌ Rx Pass Does Not Cover Government-funded Medicaid or Medicare
RxPass doesn’t use insurance, and people with government-funded Medicaid or Medicare coverage are not eligible.
❌ RxPass is not Available Nationwide
RxPass is currently only in 42 states and Washington, D.C. RxPass is not offered in California, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington state.
❌ RxPass is Limited to Amazon Prime Members
While more Americans than not are members of Amazon Prime, there is still a large population that would have to dish out an additional $139 annually to first become a Prime member before being eligible for RxPass.
❌ RxPass Only Offers 50 Generic Drugs
The eligible drugs offered by RxPass are limited to generic drugs and include many fewer medications than traditional pharmacies and other online pharmacies such as Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company.
❌ RxPass Doesn’t Provide Personal Interactions
One of the major disadvantages of Amazon Pharmacy and other online pharmacies is the lack of personal care and connection one receives at an independent pharmacy. This level of service will also be missing for the patients subscribing to RxPass. Prescriptions will be electronically managed and delivered directly to patients, leading to very little interaction (if any) with a pharmacy team member.
Potential Impacts of RxPass on Pharmacies
Some patients will fill medications at both traditional pharmacies and RxPass due to the low prices, yet limited offerings provided by Amazon Pharmacy’s RxPass. This is helpful for saving patients money, but because Amazon Pharmacy is not processing the prescriptions through insurance, the medications will not fully show on patients’ insurance profiles. This will lead to dispensing pharmacists not having a complete list of medications so when calling for a medication reconciliation or looking at interactions, their workload will be increased as they search for answers.
Another potential problem is that patients might be considered non-compliant by their insurance company if they fill their medications out of network (ie: using RxPass). This becomes an issue for independent pharmacies because if their patients are no longer filling these medications with them, the patient appears to be non-compliant and the pharmacy is then hit with higher fees.
Ways Independent Pharmacies Can Compete
Amazon RxPass may conveniently provide many life-saving medications at lower costs, but there are still many advantages that independent pharmacies can offer that Amazon Pharmacy and RxPass just can’t provide. With more and more online pharmacies popping up, it is becoming increasingly important to embrace the areas where these alternatives fall short, while also investing in technology in order to provide as many of the conveniences they offer to your patients as possible. Here are a few ways your pharmacy can stay competitive:
- Maintain the Personal Touch
Personal interactions are independent pharmacies’ greatest advantage over online pharmacies. Take advantage of these opportunities by taking time to counsel and connect with patients. You might even consider expanding your pharmacy services to encourage more face-to-face interactions and build those relationships that will keep your customers coming back.
- Offer a Delivery Service
To stay competitive with online pharmacies, and even other brick-and-mortar pharmacies now, having a delivery service is imperative.
- Use Technology to Optimize Your Patient Experience
In today’s world, online self-serve options are becoming more of a necessity. Therefore, it is important to invest in technology that offers seamless and instantaneous services while also providing that personal touch that we discussed above.
Using a patient engagement platform can offer your patients a personalized digital experience, empowering them to request refills online or through a mobile app, send secure two-way messages, schedule appointments, and more.
Implementing an efficient IVR system is another way technology can be implemented to take your patient experience to the next level. Whether patients are calling in for a refill or someone has a question regarding their prescription, ensuring your IVR is equipped with helpful options for your customers will help you create a positive patient experience.