Pharmacosynchrony: Road Map to Transformation in Pharmacy Benefit Management

Published Online: April 15, 2014
David Calabrese, RPh, MHP; Neil B. Minkoff, MD; and Kristine Rawlings, PharmD
As the healthcare market in the United States evolves, important new opportunities are emerging for today’s pharmacy benefit management industry in helping to drive care coordination, quality improvement, and increased cost efficiency in healthcare delivery. In an effort to capture the untapped value that pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) bring to the table and help guide this transformation, we have developed, and introduce here, the concept of “pharmacosynchrony.” Pharmacosynchrony is the application of innovative clinical, analytic, and technologic pharmacy solutions to drive improved care coordination and a higher-quality, more patient-centric model of care. PBMs can employ analytics and reporting of prescription claims data to target new opportunities to monitor and improve care and drive improvements in key quality metrics. Through increased connectivity with the provider community, near-real-time prescription data and patient-specific clinical alerts can be made available to healthcare providers to allow more timely and targeted intervention. PBMs can also leverage clinical and technology solutions to increase communication and education with patients through comprehensive medication reviews, clinical education and alerts, preventive care reminders, adherence monitoring and intervention, and medication reconciliation after hospital discharge to prevent costly readmissions.

Am J Pharm Benefits. 2014;6(2):76-80
Across the country today, our healthcare leaders are moving forward in an attempt to reengineer our healthcare system and drive much-needed improvements in access, coordination, quality, and cost-effectiveness of care delivered to our US citizens. As this reengineering unfolds, the pharmacy benefit management industry is also presented with an ideal opportunity to transform itself as a critical contributor in helping to drive these national objectives. In an effort to capture the untapped value that pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) bring to the table and help guide this transformation, we have developed and introduce here the concept of “pharmacosynchrony.” Pharmacosynchrony represents the application of innovative clinical, analytic, and technologic pharmacy solutions to drive improved care coordination and a higher-quality, more patient-centric model of care.


It appears to have become universally accepted that the healthcare system in the United States is highly dysfunctional. Care remains highly fragmented and increasingly more complex, with a lack of coordination being the norm.1 Population management has still not been widely adopted except as needed for a few commonly reported Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) measures. Meaningful use legislation has led to a significant increase in implementation of electronic health records (EHRs), but the lack of health information exchanges limits flow of information.2,3 The Institute of Medicine’s seminal work, “Crossing the Quality Chasm,” states that all of the above leads to higher cost of care.4

As a response, payers and providers are embracing newer healthcare delivery models as promising means of improving the healthcare system. Adoption of new models such as the patient centered medical home (PCMH) and the accountable care organization (ACO) is being accelerated by healthcare reform. PCMH has become defined as a full-service primary care practice model that supports integrated care, with emphasis on quality improvement, care coordination, and population management.5 ACOs are integrated units that coordinate primary and secondary care across inpatient and outpatient domains and are dedicated to population management for chronic disease. They are built to enhance cost effi ciency through reduced waste and to drive improved outcomes through tighter care coordination.6 Early evidence is encouraging enhanced adoption of these models across market sectors, demonstrating that both PCMHs and ACOs can produce better-quality outcomes with lower costs.7-10

Currently, fewer than 5500 practice sites are accredited by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as PCMHs.11 The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) initially identified only 32 organizations nationally with the experience and maturity to be included in its Pioneer ACO program to test provider organizations’ ability to bear high levels of shared savings and risk.12

While this transformation is encouraging, most of the provider community lacks appropriate infrastructure to support the underlying functions that turn a traditional practice into a PCMH or ACO.13 Most physicians do not practice on a site that can support these functions, and contracting entities such as independent physician associations have not fi lled this void. Consolidation in the provider market may be changing this dynamic, but current estimates are that the majority of healthcare is provided in offices of 1 or 2 physicians.14


Currently, PBMs perform many functions for the safe and effective use of medications, including managing the preferred drug list or formulary, processing prescription claims and payment for insurance, controlling prescription costs, and utilizing programs to limit inappropriate medication use. The PBM’s existing programs, claims, and communications platforms put them in the best position to support the strategic objectives set forth by health plans, provider groups, and health systems as they transition toward more sophisticated delivery models. Expansion of PBM services to increase value for patients and providers has included reducing barriers to initiating medications for chronic illnesses, improving adherence for chronic medications, and encouraging cost-effective medication use by suggesting generic medications and formulary compliance.15 PBMs need to advance their role in the delivery of healthcare during this time of dramatic change in the US healthcare system. Change is necessary to improve medication use and avoid adverse events, expand connectivity to real-time prescription use, enhance reporting to evaluate patient outcomes, and leverage the clinical resources of PBMs to improve medication use by harnessing the data and making them accessible to healthcare providers.


Development of the PCMH and ACO infrastructure is a key opportunity for PBMs. Approximately 75% of healthcare costs in the United States today are driven by chronic illnesses including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer.16 Pharmaceuticals represent the most powerful tools in effectively managing these conditions, decreasing their progression, and improving overall patient functionality and quality of life. While new models of care are adopted, more comprehensive and advanced means of managing prescription drug therapy remain widely overlooked and undervalued as components of these models.

PDF is available on the last page.

Issue: March/April 2014
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