With ongoing pressure on pharmacy income some pharmacists are charging for MDS. This agonising step feels like a last resort as the risk of making this change when others don’t is drowned out by the dread of the daily bank account logon.
We all know that manually producing a MDS can be an expensive activity taking up significant staff time and requires a similar activity to check it. This regular process which is time critical for the customer gets even more stressful at Christmas and Easter with extra weeks to cover. While the team is under increasing stress so is the bank balance which is why Pharmacy teams are considering a fee.
Our analysis during last year indicates that the cost of producing an MDS is about £15 per cycle. We have seen pharmacies introduce a fee of £15 per month or £5 per week which would help to recover some of those costs.
If all pharmacies made this choice then we think there would be universal approval but its a competitive world and some will see an advantage in staying fee free.
If you introduce a fee and your neighbour doesn’t then you risk existing customers who might have been loyal for years going down the road. Will they understand that this choice has been forced upon you?
Pharmacy is a caring profession and uppermost in our minds is the good we do and not commercial realities and this conflicts with customers we know who cannot afford a fee.
This is the conundrum that the stressed pharmacist faces “to fee or not to fee” but is there another way?
Manually produced MDS has a fixed cost that no matter how talented your team it cannot be reduced in any great number. The team will know there is a fixed number any dispenser can do in a day and so any increases in MDS is inevitably followed by increases in staff numbers adding to cost. Many pharmacies have imposed an unofficial “ceiling” on their MDS for this very reason.
The issue is not MDS but in the way most Pharmacies do MDS.
To reduce cost you must automate as this allows for a reduction in manual activities, reduces staff time, improves accuracy and allows for your pharmacy to accept more MDS.
Our calculations indicate a reduction in cost to about £7 per cycle if MDS is automated.
If you are a small pharmacy group of three or more pharmacies then using Hub & Spoke principles to send work into one of your existing pharmacies will spread the efficiencies across the branches bringing down the cost for all MDS customers.
Even if you are a single pharmacy but look after more than 200 MDS customers (or could grow to this) then automation for MDS will provide a return on investment.
With Pharmacy teams across the country looking at ways to reduce costs or introduce fees then by automating and making space to increase your own MDS customers you will be in a perfect position to grow your items numbers.
If you are considering a fee for MDS then first have another look at automation as with systems from £55k then this could be a better alternative.