Healthcare is multifaceted, and physicians and office staff constantly search for new ways to simplify care and deliver a better patient experience. One solution many medical practitioners have turned to is in-office dispensing. This service allows patients to receive over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs from their doctors directly, instead of needing to go to a separate pharmacy for medications. 

In-office dispensing proves beneficial for patients and doctors. On the patient side, it makes getting medicine more convenient, eliminating an extra stop before they can start treatment and get better. For doctors, it provides more oversight to ensure patients take their medications as directed and with the proper dosages. Ultimately, it enhances patient outcomes. 

For providers new to in-office dispensing of medications, this guide offers an overview of the most important aspects to consider with this service.

Setting Up an In-Office Physician Dispensing Program 

Before a doctor decides they’ll offer medications through their practice, they must thoroughly understand how in-office dispensing works. Pharmacies operate under different federal and state regulations than physicians and similar providers, so doctor’s offices require special medical licenses to dispense medications. 

Federal regulations are issued by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and in conjunction with agencies like U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Physicians need a DEA number that enables them to write and dispense controlled substances. Doctors can fill out Form 224 on the DEA’s website for approval. Renewal is required every year.

State regulations for licensing and certification vary by state, and some states are more lenient while others are more restrictive, such as Massachusetts, New York, Utah, and Texas. In addition to approval from the DEA to dispense controlled substances, common state requirements for dispensing include:

  • Physician’s state license to practice 
  • Physician’s credentials, as well as the credentials for physician assistants and other medical staff who will work in the in-office dispensing pharmacy 
  • Certification from the state Board of Pharmacy 
  • Documentation of patients and their medications (quantities, dates prescribed, etc.)
  • The financial status of the practice
  • Information about staff training and eligibility for in-office dispensing

Inventory Management and Product Selection 

In addition to following labeling requirements and adhering to best practices for logging prescriptions, another core task of maintaining compliance is inventory management. Monitoring inventory not only ensures a physician’s office complies with regulatory guidelines but also optimizes patient care. A clear system for inventory management makes it easier to confirm a drug is available and locate it quickly to deliver prompt service. It can also help medical practices lower costs.

A key consideration with inventory management is selecting the appropriate medications to stock your dispensary. It’s recommended to keep a larger supply of popular medications and OTC drugs, as many patients require them during any season. Dispensing doctors may want to stock more of a particular medicine at times of year when more patients require them. 

Other tips for improving inventory management include:

  • Utilize a secure storage system where medicine is contained in bins with clear labels
  • Review inventories for drugs nearing their expiration dates 
  • Devise procedures for ensuring receipts for deliveries match the drug types and quantities and then added to the inventory so all medication is accounted for
  • Collaborate with pharmaceutical repackaging services like Proficient RX for any guidance or questions.

Patient Safety and Quality Care 

For all the benefits of in-office physician dispensing, it still faces scrutiny from some opponents. Some concerns include the lack of checks and balances that pharmacies traditionally provide, the potential for conflicts of interest when prescribers are also dispensers, and leniency with tasks like storage, labeling, and record keeping. 

Given these challenges, it’s paramount for dispensing physicians to establish and enforce safety protocols to ensure a transparent and secure process. Some strategies for preserving patient safety include:

Following Best Practices for Labeling 

Physicians should incorporate the same standards for labeling prescription medication as pharmacies. This includes verifying that all pertinent information appears on the label, such as: 

  • Drug name 
  • Patient’s and prescriber’s names
  • Dosage and frequency
  • Strength
  • Route of administration (oral, intravenous)
  • Special considerations for administration (i.e., should it be taken with food, which foods to avoid taking it with) 
  • Potential side effects 
  • Expiration date 
  • In-office pharmacy phone number

Proficient Rx’s cloud-based software does all the verifying for you. When the practice dispenses the medication all the patient information prints out and is attached to the bottle just like at the pharmacy. 

Educating and Counseling Patients on Dispensed Medications 

Historically, it’s the pharmacist’s responsibility to educate patients on their medications. When physicians offer drug dispensing on-site, they take on this duty themselves. Therefore, doctors must ensure both they and other staff working in the dispensary have sufficient knowledge of a wide range of drugs to counsel patients. 

Education also involves addressing the common misconceptions patients have about in-office dispensing. Staff wants to reassure patients this service is advantageous for meeting their health needs. 

With the right training, teams will stay informed on the different medications the practice dispenses, which can help boost patient compliance with dosages and other parameters for their drug therapies. 

Providing Internal Checks and Balances 

Pharmacies act as an additional step between the physician and patient during the dispensing process. If errors occur with prescribing, pharmacists can identify them and make changes to ensure patients receive the proper medication and dosage. 

In-office dispensing removes this precaution, potentially increasing the chance of errors. This is especially concerning for high-risk drugs that must be administered in exact dosages or might otherwise cause harm to patients. 

With Proficient Rx’s in-office dispensing system the medication only comes to the physician’s office in exact dosage. This dosage is ordered by the physician with the exact strength and quantity needed. Meaning there is no pill counting or packaging being done at the office which greatly reduces the risk of error. 

Optimizing In-Office Physician Dispensing With Software 

While in-office dispensing streamlines the patient experience on its own, physicians can improve workflow processes with technology like dispensing software. The software allows medical practices to handle all tasks associated with in-office dispensing from a computer, including inventory management, labeling, ordering, and tracking, which helps them maintain a well-organized dispensing system. 

Physicians can also find software that enables seamless integration with electronic medical records (EMR) systems to help simplify data entry and ensure information on patients and their medications stays up to date. Another feature of dispensing software is reporting capabilities for controlled substances.

Empower Your Practice With In-Office Medication Dispensing  

Because of the many ways that in-office dispensing improves the relationship between physicians and their patients, implementation is only expected to grow as hospitals and practices continue seeking ways to augment the patient experience and simplify processes. When providers obtain the proper licensing, adhere to regulations, develop a reliable approach to inventory management, and factor in patient safety, they set the stage for successful in-office dispensing.

It can be challenging to figure out where to begin with in-office medication dispensing, especially while balancing the countless other tasks physicians handle each day. Providers searching for reliable dispensing solutions can turn to Proficient Rx for help. We’re a leading pharmaceutical repackaging company that supplies prepackaged medication to numerous healthcare providers nationwide, from private practices to urgent care centers.

Our web-based system provides physicians access to a wide range of generic and brand-name drugs. You can create a formulary that meets your needs and order prepackaged medications to have them shipped to your clinic in sizing that meets your needs.

Once the medication is received, physicians can dispense the right drugs to patients with the click of a button using our software. All that’s needed is a computer, printer, scanner, and an internet connection to enter the patient’s information, select the necessary medications, and dispense. Our software also provides the most updated information on your inventory and accurate pricing. 

Get Started With Proficient Rx Today 

When doctor’s offices and hospitals offer medication dispensing at the point of care, it promotes a better patient experience and can help drive practice revenue. Partner with Proficient Rx to realize these advantages at your clinic. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you with in-office physician dispensing.