Since 2017, Urology Austin Pharmacy has provided direct, convenient, affordable access to medications for patients within the UA system.
“It’s all about providing convenience for our Urology Austin patients,” says Rich Cuellar, RPh, who manages the pharmacy and its three-person team of pharmacy technicians. “We are a closed-door pharmacy, so we only focus on patients who are seeing physicians at Urology Austin. We have team members who specialize in specific medications, so we have lots of knowledge and can provide a quicker response when patients have questions.”
The UA Pharmacy offers a limited formulary targeting specific conditions commonly treated at UA, such as erectile dysfunction, kidney stones, low testosterone, male infertility and advanced prostate cancer. Because the pharmacy has a narrow focus on urology-related conditions, the team can provide better customer support for those specific medications, including intensive counseling for patients.
Going the extra mile to support medication access
Using the UA pharmacy can often save patients money on their prescriptions, as compared to large chain or mail-order pharmacies.
“Insurance covers a lot of prescriptions, but we also make medications more affordable for those who are uninsured,” Cuellar says. “Patients can get hormones and other medications elsewhere. But many insurance companies don’t cover things like ED meds or estrogen creams, and the out-of-pocket cost at some other pharmacies is $200 or more. We are able to get access from distributors at a better price for some medications, which helps those patients who are paying more at their local pharmacy. We try to do this with as many medications as possible.”
The pharmacy also offers convenient options for obtaining prescriptions. Many patients choose to pick up their prescriptions at the pharmacy in Round Rock, while others take advantage of the option to have their medication delivered to their closest UA office by in-house courier.
Because the UA Pharmacy is closely integrated with the UA Navigation team, the pharmacy team can provide better customer service and stay more in tune with patients’ needs. When a new prescription comes into the pharmacy, it’s not just a standalone pharmacy order. It comes with context from the ordering physician via the Navigation team, so there’s a liaison involved to ensure the patient receives the correct medication and understands dosing instructions and other relevant patient education aspects. When patients need extra help, the pharmacy team sends an internal message to Navigation to get them answers quickly.
The strong partnership between Pharmacy and Navigation means that patients have several layers of support as they move through treatment with their UA physicians and care team.
“We meet with Navigation regularly, work with them to perform quarterly patient chart reviews, and train them on medications yearly,” says Cuellar. “We mesh really tightly with Navigation, and we really do work well with each other.”
A safer, better patient experience
The pharmacy is certified and accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Healthcare (ACHC) for Specialty Pharmacy Services with a Distinction in Oncology. To maintain this accreditation, the pharmacy team takes extra steps every day to meet stringent requirements that protect patient safety. For example, the team maintains logs for refrigeration equipment temperature and lockbox security, ensuring that all medications are safe and effective.
“There are a ton of other little things we do to maintain our accreditation, which ensures we can always fill patient medications when needed,” Cuellar explains. “Certain medications, such as oncolytics, can only be sold by a specialty pharmacy, and because we have this accreditation, we are able to fill those prescriptions here, so patients don’t need to use mail order. We have an increasing number of prescriptions for oral prostate cancer medications and oral androgen deprivation therapy.”
Because the pharmacy’s service is limited to a smaller number of patients and a single specialty area of care, the pharmacy team can share more knowledge and offer more peace of mind to patients.
“We provide a much more personalized patient experience and have time to support those patients who might need little more handholding,” Cuellar says. “We are available to discuss medications with our patients, and we can really focus on them, talk about side effects and listen to their concerns. You don’t get that with a mail order pharmacy. We also call patients a week ahead to remind them that it’s time for a refill, so we can set up their delivery or pickup in advance to make sure they stay on track with their treatment.”
Even when a patient’s insurance requires them to use mail order or a different pharmacy, the UA Pharmacy’s phone lines are open to answer any questions about their medications. This makes the pharmacy team an invaluable resource for every UA patient who entrusts us with their care.