Keeping Drug Costs Affordable In Healthcare- one doctor's journey and missionFeb 27, 2023
If you've filled a prescription from your doctor recently, you may have noticed that the price has gone up...and maybe more than a little! A few years ago, dermatologists and patients were shocked to see the prices of generic topical medications like steroids go from being $30-40 to $200-300! This exponential rise in costs for drugs meant that patients oftentimes didn't get the prescription they needed, or had to choose between other necessities in their lives.
The interplay between the pharmaceutical companies and prescription drug pricing is opaque and antiquated. Did you know that the very same prescription can cost one thing at one pharmacy and triple at another pharmacy down the street? And that using insurance to pay for your prescriptions can often cost you more? And this is not just frustrating for patients, but also for your doctor. Creating a treatment plan for patients without knowing how much a medication is going to cost is challenging as most patients won't be able to follow the plan if the prescription costs too much.
This battle to give and write prescriptions for patients that are efficacious and affordable drove one such dermatologist, Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali to create an online pharmacy, Skin Medicinals, for common dermatologic prescriptions. At Skin Medicinals, both patients and doctors know the cost up front, and patients can receive their medications directly. Ground breaking right? It shouldn't be, but yes, in this day and age it is.
How does Skin Medicinals work?
Once a participating dermatologist creates a customized treatment plan based on your skin concern, the prescription is then sent to the Skin Medicinals platform that forwards the prescriptions to a licensed compounding pharmacy. When your customized, compounded topical medication is ready, you will be contacted to provide your billing & shipping information and your medicine is shipped directly to you for a flat rate. You can also reorder via email or text once you're about to finish the medicine.
As of now, Dr. Bhanusali is working with two compounding pharmacies, one on the east coast and one close to the west coast to manage the shipping and volume of orders in an efficient manner. The Skin Medicinals platform even offers a feature to find and make appointments with participating dermatologists across the country.
Dr. Bhanusali is certainly shaking up the pharmaceutical space and it is estimated that his company, Skin Medicinals has saved patients over a quarter of a million dollars since it started in 2018! What started as a small initiative focused on providing high quality medications to every patient has turned into a whole new paradigm shift. Hopefully it will motivate other companies to step up and make more efficient, effective, and affordable products for our patients.
In my recent podcast interview with Dr. Bhanusali, he shared a few tips for patients navigating the healthcare space in general:
1. Focus on prevention
Too often we only seek medical care when something is wrong. What would happen if we proactively sought help and guidance when we were well? Your doctor can help you create a plan to stay healthy and active. Don't wait until you are sick to see your doctor.
2. Be proactive
Simple things like checking your blood pressure monthly, or doing a self skin check, can help detect problems early and lead to better outcomes. Don't wait until it's too late to seek care.
3. Ask about costs upfront
Insurance and pricing is confusing and complicated, it seems to be so by design. Your insurance company sets the price of things so give them a call to inquire about what is and isn't covered, and make sure you understand your plan. It's always ok to ask about the cost of a test or procedure before you have it done. Don't ever be afraid or embarrassed to ask. Your doctor's office can help you with codes to give to your insurance carrier as well.
This story of a doctor seeing a problem and coming up with a revolutionary solution to better serve patients is quite inspiring to me! It shows that perhaps what we need more of in the current healthcare space is doctors bringing solutions to the table.
Check out my latest podcast episode with Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali here.
A new podcast episode comes out weekly on Tuesdays!