In this debut podcast series of What's on Your Mind podcast, Perry Cohen, Pharm.D., CEO of The Pharmacy Group, recently shared his thoughts on the current state of healthcare and especially the management of pharmacy costs. This new monthly series brings listeners into the minds of Managed Healthcare Executive's® Editorial Advisory Board members. Cohen has decades of experience in managed care and has been on the editorial advisory board since 1994.
Below is an brief excerpt of the conversation with Perry. The transcript was edited for clarity and length.
We're almost a quarter done with the 21st century. That's pretty remarkable. I'm wondering what you are thinking about in terms of managing pharmacy these days. Whether you see one or two overarching themes or threads through your career.
I always start with the paradigm of are we talking about the delivery of healthcare or about the financing of healthcare, and underneath those, where does pharmacy fits in and how does pharmacy affect total cost of care. Even that phrase, total cost of care, is now coming out of the mouths of employers.
So employers are looking at the total cost of care, not just unit cost of components. And I think it's time that we integrate care more, and (consider) the role that technology can play to facilitate that. So that's one trend.
But I think an equally important force these days is how consumers choose what they use in healthcare and what they're willing to pay for. You ack into the role of the physician, the pharmacist, the dentist, the healthcare system. It used to be the other way around, where the physician was at the center, and everybody else was on the periphery.
The key component that's different now than all that I've seen in all my years in healthcare is the impact of digital health — the fact that all of us have these little thing called smartphones. This is the main invention of the last 100 years that empowers the consumer to do so many things, whether it's making a phone call, taking a picture, or listening to music, or buying a prescription drug or making an appointment with a doctor. It’s right there in your hand, and everybody's got one. So I think that's really going to be the main driver.
The consumer has this powerful computer their hands. They still are going to depend on the doctor for deciding which drug to take, right? And their insurance plan will have a network that will guide them, probably, to a particular pharmacy or a chain of pharmacies. Is the consumer really in the driver's seat?
I think the consumer can be in the driver's seat if they want to be. They’re going to have more information served up to them in a way that they'll digest, and then they'll act.
I just had a medical procedure last week, and they sent me a text that said, I can go to my chart and get the results. So that gives me the access to information— just touch the screen, and there it is.
The other thing that is important in today's world, especially, is the information coming from a trusted source. I think the physician is going to be more important than ever, because the physician has always been a trusted source with patients.
Then there is the question of how do you get your pharmaceuticals, pharmacy care? How do you access your pharmacist?
If you're a 35-year-old woman who's married and has two kids, and you need to get a prescription refilled, you're just going to touch your smartphone and have it brought right to your house.
Where somebody else who's 65 may still make the journey to the pharmacy.
But they'll both have the option now be aware of be informed of other ways to do things. and healthcare.