Danielle Burkhart, PharmD, MBA
Joseph Favatella, PharmD, MBA
Beth Dewan, RPh
Richard Fiore, Rph
Natalie Goode, PharmD, BCACP
Jaclyn Barone, PharmD, MHA
Troy Rehrig, PharmD, MS
Eugene Carelli, PharmD
Penn Medicine Quality and Patient Safety Award, 2023
Specialty medications drive revenue for health systems, and adherence is critical for patients to achieve successful outcomes.
In the spring of 2020, Penn Pharmacy was processing 7,000 specialty prescriptions per month by phone for patients with conditions such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, and autoimmune diseases. Three call attempts were being made, with technicians typically reaching patients on day four.
With this highly manual process, Penn Pharmacy averaged 84 percent fill rates across patients with specialty prescriptions. However, there was no capacity to grow the program as staff was completely tied up with existing responsibilities.
In June 2020, the Penn Pharmacy team partnered with Way to Health to explore ways to enhance workflow efficiency for specialty prescriptions while maintaining fill rates.
The product of this collaboration is Refill Express, an automated system that guides patients through an easy-to-navigate text conversation to process specialty prescription orders in a matter of minutes. In addition to processing orders, verifying shipping and co-pay information, and confirming the delivery date of medications, the system is also equipped to assess medication adherence and capture side effects reported by patients.
When orders are processed via Refill Express, information is pushed directly into Penn Medicine’s electronic health record so that technicians can begin filling orders immediately.
Refill Express reaches most patients within 24 hours with no technician effort required. And on the whole, the program has cut administrative time for staff in half compared to traditional telephonic communications.
The increased efficiency of the automated system reduces the occurrence of missed doses due to lapses in access to medication, decreases expedited shipping costs for the health system, ensures patient satisfaction by maintaining an average net promoter score of 90, and increases the capacity for Penn Pharmacy to serve more patients in need of specialty prescriptions.
During the initial pilot, average fill rates for specialty prescriptions rose from 84 to 96 percent. Since then, the program has been scaled to seven Penn pharmacies across all specialty service lines – leading to increased revenue for Penn Medicine.