Lauren Biscaldi: Okay. So, can we start by introducing you?
Jeff Harrell: Hello, my name is Jeff Harrell, I own an independent pharmacy based in Long Beach, Washington. We have approximately 26 locations in 3 states, Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
LB: So the first question is what helped spark your interest as a pharmacist in the adoption of technology, particularly AI, in the independent pharmacy space?
JH: So I realized many years ago that we, as independent pharmacists, do a very poor job of pricing our prescriptions on the spot. We take a lot of emotion into consideration, we don’t really look at market data, and our prices can be all over the place. And I noticed that as our location started to grow, the prices at each pharmacy were very different and really controlled by the pharmacist or the technician who was entering the data, and so I found this product with Prescryptive, this AI pricing model that we deployed and it really helped us become more accurate, I should say, in our cash prescription pricing. You know, it uses artificial intelligence to look at market data as well as our position, you know, on a sort of average curve so to speak. So we started adopting this AI product recently and it works very well for us. It takes away the emotion, you know, and technology is… I’ve always said, you know, people don’t lie, you know, and they don’t want to lie, it’s just if you don’t count them not quantitative and you don’t know. And so the AI product really maximizes the data and puts it as accurately as possible when you’re pricing cash prescriptions for your patients.
LB: The emotion is really interesting, can you tell us a bit more about it? Because I wonder, you know, that independent pharmacists have such a good relationship with so many of our customers. I know that I have with my independent pharmacists, how is it going?
JH: Absolutely, yes, so the emotion is, you know, we have this relationship with these clients, these patients, these neighbors and these friends. And often, you know, they get a prescription and if they don’t have insurance, we’ll just go five bucks, or four bucks or three bucks or try to you know, competing with a chain is your mindset but you haven’t really researched this drug. You know, it could have gone up in price, it could have gone down in price. And so, basically, picking a number out of a hat and throwing it into a pricing scheme is what the majority of freelancers do. I mean, there are very sharp ones that use their pharmacy management systems to dial in their pricing structure, but from what I’ve seen as we’ve gone to 26 locations, it’s not the case in many pharmacies. And so this piece of emotion is, do you feel sorry, or are you connected to, and you set it below the market and you leave, you leave dollars on the table.
LB: Can you tell us a bit about how you’re using Prescryptive’s AI-powered pricing in your pharmacies and what benefits you’ve seen with this system so far?
JH: Absolutely. So we rolled that out, I think, in February 2022. That was our first location. We did a market analysis. So we made our top 50 or 100 claims and compared them to what our 4 or 5 competitors were in the area and found that our prices were way below market. Their data analytics, their artificial intelligence has peaked and so what we’ve been able to do next is identify the prescriptions that we’re already filling and adjust those prices and not often or not all the time, but sometimes we’re adjusted it down, we were priced out of the market by pricing too high. And so what it did was it allowed us to stabilize the prescriptions that we were filling and to be more competitive in the marketplace. We were still below market when we repriced them, and that really increased our revenue. I mean on those particular 58% claims, I believe that’s what the prescriptions and the data that we’re seeing are telling me and that’s how it opened my eyes. But still, very encouraging. And no patients have left us because, again, we’re priced just below market, so you’re always better than your competitors around the corner.
LB: It’s amazing, like it’s such great technology. I’m like I almost want to go to my pharmacy when I get home and say, “Hello. Can I tell you about it?
JH: Exactly. No, because I mean, it just takes away the… we’re human and it takes away that human element. And in a market where we are completely pinched by PBMs. We need to be able to control our cash prescriptions as well as possible and ensure that our patients are taken care of.
LB: So, you know in the past, obviously, you’ve discussed, you’ve worked with the NCPA Steering Committee committee on innovation and technology. But right now, as an independent pharmacist, what kind of work or initiatives are you prioritizing in terms of bringing technology to your pharmacy in the coming months?
JH: Well, obviously, the AI that we’re going to roll out to all the pharmacies. So now that we’ve gotten things sorted, we’re working with Prescryptive to fix some of the bugs. We will definitely implement this in all of our stores. It’s obvious. We’re certainly looking at, you know, the clinical services and the platform that we’re going to build there. We are working with Assure Care on some things and looking at which platform could potentially fit in or is easy to fit into the workflow. I would probably say those two things, you know, we’re looking at robotics now that you know, the chains are having issues and we’re getting an increase in prescription volume and we’re having staffing issues. And so, we’re looking at automation a bit. I would say those are probably the 3 tech things we are focusing on for late 2022, 2023.
LB: What I read about automation is very cool. Certainly like in over my head, like I’m a word person, not a tech person, but it’s like super interesting, like what you can do with our technology.
JH: Well, you know, with the lack of staff, we are installing a new robot here in a few weeks in one of our 3 main stores and our goal is to have 65% to 70% of prescriptions filled by the robot. . And so, so you know, we don’t necessarily have to rehire, we can just repurpose and have the bot just pick up the mundane filler.
LB: What’s your best advice for a pharmacist who might be a little reluctant to embrace technology or AI or anything like that in their pharmacy? How about that?
JH: To be honest, if you don’t, you’re going to be left behind, and you’re going to leave money on the table, and you’re going to have a hard time competing in today’s market. I think pharmacists who are also planning to exit their stores in the next 3-5 years need to keep abreast of technology because what I see when we acquire stores I see pharmacists who haven’t done any technology upgrades and it drives down the value of their store. And I also think the AI pricing part that we’ve been discussing throughout this podcast is so important because it’s an instant way to increase your pharmacy revenue by doing the same thing you do every days you just implemented The technology. And like I said, our patients, you know, understand that the fluctuation and the prices are there. I mean, drugs are like the stock market, they go up, they go down, they go up, they go down and we have to be able to adjust and act in no time.
LB: So that was all I had, but I wanted to give you the opportunity if there were any final thoughts, key takeaways, anything that you kind of want to end and we don’t have we not discussed?
JH: I just think all independent pharmacists need to take a close look at technology. AI is coming out for, you know, not just with Prescryptive which other people are also looking at. And anything we can do to be relevant and competitive in the market we find ourselves in today, you need to consider. And, you know, cost obviously plays a big role in that. But whether the revenue generation or the revenue generated by the technology outweighs the costs every time and we see it in what we do today.
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