DBN On Mandatory Mail

I’ve talked a few times about mandatory mail on the blog and after talking with Drug Benefit News (DBN), a few of my comments appeared in today’s publication.  One of the hypotheses in the article is that mandatory mail is growing (which doesn’t surprise me in this tough economy), and Ken Malley from Medco is quoted several times in there talking about their growth in the program.  He says they have 11M lives in the program which I believe would be more than anyone else.  I also think the Medco program with RiteAid which is described is probably something that clients would like a lot and similar to the Maintenance Choice product that CVS Caremark is offering. 

My comments in the article are mostly about the importance of communications which can ease the transition to mail.  The article also quotes Claire Marie Burchill from Cigna about communications and branding.  They called mandatory mail the “pharmacy of choice” which is not unusual.  When I was at Express Scripts, my team changed it to “Exclusive Home Delivery” and Medco calls it “Retail Refill Allowance”.  [This is the whole concept of framing which is core to communications.]  

The fact is that once members start using mail pharmacy, the overwhelming majority of them like it, “but the challenge is more the inertia of getting them started,” Van Antwerp says. “They need a good boarding experience at mail around first fill, and then it becomes more automatic.” Depending on the payer, mail-order customer retention rates vary from 75% to 95%. 

He adds that if more plans start implementing mandatory programs, “initially you’re going to get some disruption, because people push back against change.” However, once patients realize that they can receive 24/7 support and save money, “most people will be pretty happy,” Van Antwerp says. 


All of this plays into the other benefits of mail order – faster generic substitution, adherence, convenience, and savings.  The other key is aligning pricing and plan design to drive mail order which remains a challenge across the industry but is critical.  

The one thing we didn’t get into in the DBN article was the science of communications and how important it is to understand consumers and what motivates them.  I think this is the future of pharmacy.  A good segmentation and targeting strategy allows you to personalize communications and deliver the right message at the right time to the right person using the right channel with the right message to motivate them.  It’s not that easy to do, but it can be done.

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