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E-Prescribing Vouchers Versus Handing Out Samples: What’s the Deal?

By Seth Flam, DO

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Blog Home    E-Prescribing Vouchers Versus Handing Out Samples: What’s the Deal?
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Today, pharmaceutical companies use both product samples and money-off coupons for patient acquisition in the physician's office. The pharmaceutical industry relies on these samples as a way to introduce doctors and consumers to new medications.

While most pharmaceutical companies have traditionally used physician samples as their main marketing approach to introduce doctors and consumers to new medications, the practice of giving doctors sample vouchers is actually more than a decade old. After having greatly reduced its sales rep force in the early 2000s, the pharmaceutical industry scaled back its drugmaker spending on samples left behind at physician offices. Today, a growing number of prescribers want the ability to use both electronic and printed coupons.

So, could the benefits of coupons outweigh samples for prescribers and patients?

The traditional approach to pharma sampling distribution may no longer be the most convenient option; many organizations are now going "sample free." Monitoring and tracking samples can pose problematic and a liability in some cases, for both pharmaceutical companies and physicians – especially within a large organization. Staff members just don't have the time to manually track boxes and packets of drug samples in the office and, as a result, they pile up and expire. Prescribers find themselves using up precious minutes per patient, running around, trying to find out if there are any samples left of a specific medication.

E-coupons and printed coupons has fast become a convenient, 24-hour access "virtual sample closet" service for prescribers and patients, alike. It provides physicians with direct and convenient access to order the broadest selection of pharmaceutical samples, along with cost-saving medication vouchers/coupons for their patients. The process resolves safety, control and recall issues, utilizing normal drug distribution process – and allows eligible physicians to order pharmaceutical samples via a web-based system. It's secure and compliant.

However, the common misconception is that patients don't always prefer vouchers, so many prescribers still choose to give physical samples to their patients when they can. But patients are web-savvy consumers (and will increasingly become more web-savvy in the immediate future) and recent surveys have shown that they're finding coupons to lower prescription costs and offer many discounts. The e-coupon/voucher solution helps a lot of patients who struggle to afford medicine and health care costs.

Having coupon and co-pay assistance options easily available in your EMR/EHR software solution can prove to be a win-win for practices and their patient population. EHR vendors should obey two basic rules regarding the presentation of coupons or discounts to medical practices.

  1. Only present a coupon for a drug that the provider has committed to prescribe
  2. Present coupons in a manner that does not slow down the workflow of the prescriber

More progressive pharma companies are beginning to allow patient coupons for drugs, selected by a provider, to be presented in the patient portal. This new approach reduces printing hassle at the practice.

Remember: The medical professional always selects the medication, first. Once the clinical decision has been determined, a coupon can go a long way in reducing patient expense.

Seth Flam, DO

CEO and President, HealthFusion

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The financial and clinical challenges you face now are evolving rapidly. Here are resources, solutions, and ideas we think will help.

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