What is physician dispensing?
Physician dispensing is a term that describes when doctors, medical practitioners, or physicians supply prescription medication to their patients. This is sometimes referred to as “in-office dispensing” or “point-of-care dispensing.” These terms highlight that the prescription medication is given directly to the patient at the physician’s office or clinic by the physician him or herself.
This practice is different from pharmacy dispensing, where a doctor writes a prescription for the patient, and the patient takes it to a pharmacy to have the prescription fulfilled and medication dispensed. Some clinics have an on-site pharmacist or pharmacy located on or near the doctor’s office; this still constitutes pharmacy dispensing. Physician dispensing only occurs if it is the physician him or herself who supplies the medication to patients.
Is physician dispensing legal?
Different laws apply in different countries around the world. The United States government considers physician dispensing to be legal (though regulated) but individual states, in particular these states’ Board of Pharmacy, have the ability to further regulate or prohibit the practice. This article deals with physician dispensing in the United States.
States that Allow Physician Dispensing
While 46 of the 50 states allow doctors to dispense their own prescriptions, regulations are not uniform across these states and requirements for physicians and clinics wishing to dispense medications vary between them. BRP Pharmaceuticals is experienced working with physicians in every state in which dispensing is legal, and can quickly get you up to speed about the process in your state; click here for more information. You can also consult your state’s Board of Pharmacy or equivalent regulatory body for up-to-date and detailed guidelines.
Physician Dispensing Benefits for Doctors
Doctors enjoy a number of benefits from dispensing their own prescriptions. The biggest benefit is to be found in the improved patient outcomes noted above. Most physicians chose a career in medicine because they wants to help people live happier and healthier lives and to heal the sick and injured, and dispensing medication at the point of care is a powerful way of doing so.
Secondarily, physicians can maintain and grow their clinics and help more people over their career by dispensing their own medications. Patients who enjoy the convenience of in-office dispensing are apt to refer others to their doctor or clinic, allowing the clinic to grow and thrive and to invest money in patient care instead of in marketing or other non-core activities.
There are further benefits to physicians. Often, dealing with pharmacies calling to verify prescriptions can be a time-consuming nuisance. Being able to dispense one’s own prescriptions eliminates this problem. Most prescriptions can be dispensed in under two minutes.
In addition, since patients (or their insurance companies) have to spend money to purchase necessary medication anyway, physician dispensing keeps these funds “in-house” instead of making patients spend it at pharmacies. This rewards dispensing doctors and clinics for the valuable service they are providing to patients as well as to the public health system at large, and provides a large revenue stream that they can re-invest into patient care.
Physician Dispensing Benefits for Patients
There are many benefits to physician dispensing. For the patient, the biggest benefit is improved health and convenience. Studies have shown that millions of patients skip filling their prescriptions each and every year. The convenience benefit is easy to understand. Instead of needing to find a pharmacy that has the correct medication, going to that pharmacy, submitting a prescription, and waiting for it to be filled, a patient can simply get the medicine that he or she needs from his or her doctor during the same visit in which that medicine is prescribed.
This benefits every kind of patient but is especially important for patients in some rural areas without a convenient nearby pharmacy or for old or infirm people with mobility issues. It is also a very important benefit for those pressed for time, such as working single parents.
There are also benefits to patient privacy and confidentiality since generally a doctor’s office will be more private than a pharmacy. This can lead to improved medication adherence and outcomes, since patients may be more likely to ask questions.
Health benefits for the patient stem directly from the increased convenience. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that over 30% of prescriptions were never filled (and approximately 50% of chronic disease medications are not taken as prescribed). That results in (according to an estimate in the same study) approximately 10% of all hospital visits and nearly 125,000 deaths. These are truly astronomical (yet well-researched) figures showing the extent of the problem that physician dispensing aims to solve.
Improved patient outcomes don’t just benefit individual patients directly; they also benefit society at large in a direct, tangible, and financial way. Current levels of non-compliance with physicians’ prescriptions and medication instructions are estimated to cost the health care system between $100 and $300 billion per year.
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