This article is sponsored by Medication Management Partners (MMP). In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with MMP President Dave Doubek to learn why MMP only works with assisted living and memory care, what a good senior living – pharmacy partnership looks like and why operators are smart to change their pharmacy partner even in the midst of a pandemic.
Senior Housing News: What are the most important experiences that you draw from as president of MMP?
Dave Doubek: I was born into three generations of pharmacists: my grandfather, father and sister. And my mother was a nurse. I think just being born into health care and understanding how it’s evolved over the years is really important. My grandfather owned a corner drugstore, which my father took over, and the retail pharmacy space was very patient-centric. Everything was one-on-one. You had time with the pharmacist.
Obviously, things have evolved since then, but being patient centric still helps in today’s environment. It allows us to always make the right decision. I am not a pharmacist — my background is finance, and I spent the bulk of my career running a family business, which spurred out of the pharmacy. It’s a durable medical supply company, family-owned. I ran that for around 20 years. A lot of challenging times, a lot of barriers, a lot of obstacles. I was happy to be president of our state association, right before something called Medicare Competitive Bidding came along.
That was a very complicated bidding process through Medicare, and it significantly changed the environment overnight. We had to adapt quickly, which was an experience that certainly, in the pharmacy space and the long-term care and senior housing space, has been something I’ve certainly leaned on.
Tell us about MMP.
Doubek: We were in the DME (durable medical equipment) business, and we were starting to service the senior housing space and we solved some problems for them with their diabetic supplies, incontinence supplies and those types of ancillary supplies. We were asked, since we had a pharmacy, would we be interested in servicing them from a pharmacy perspective? We asked why, and the answer we got from the communities was that it’s because it’s a space that’s not really known well. The larger long-term care pharmacies treated them like a SNF (skilled nursing facility).
MMP was created specifically to solve that problem in the senior living space. It was less institutional. What was great about MMP was that we were able to build it from the ground up. We didn’t have to modify, we didn’t have to change, we didn’t have to adapt. We created MMP from the ground up to service senior living, and even today, that’s the space where we spend most of our time.
Why does it matter to you and to MMP to only work in assisted living and memory care, as opposed to also working in other levels on the care continuum?
Doubek: Again, it goes back to why MMP was started. Medication Management Partners was started to service this space. We are strong believers that if you’re trying to do five, six, seven things, that you’re not going to do them really, really well. They’re going to be watered down and you really can’t concentrate on five and six things at once. From our standpoint, concentrating on just one or two specialties has really allowed us to become best in class.
I think we are known in this space for our accuracy and for providing solutions to these communities in the assisted living and senior housing space. That’s why we haven’t looked to branch out. Let me tell you, we get tempted all the time. Yet for close to 11 years now, we’ve done a really nice job of saying no to all those things that are dangled in front of us and we remain true to why MMP was started in the first place.
A senior living operator has many institutional partnerships, including with its pharmacy and pharmacists. What does a good partnership look like?
Doubek: From our standpoint, the most important part with our partnerships is communication from top to bottom. When somebody is making a significant change in their operations at a high level, we want to know about it. I will make the analogy: If MMP decides that we’re going to change our courier service from Company A to Company B and we’re not ahead of the game in notifying our partners and letting them know we’re going to be there to support them, and if it shows up at 8:00 instead of 7:30, then we’re going to work out the kinks.
I think the partnerships that we’ve created are built thoroughly, with focus on creating open communication channels with every single point of contact inside of these organizations. When we do run into problems — and listen, we all do, nobody’s perfect — the collaboration that we get means there is no finger-pointing game. It’s, “What went wrong? What protocols can we put into place to make sure that it doesn’t happen again?”
We focus on finding solutions, and lean on our innovative strength to do just that. We started this thing from the ground up, we were one of the first pharmacies to bring on a visual inspection machine back within the first year of MMP’s existence. Technology and innovation are part of our DNA.
How does having the right pharmacy partner help senior living get over the hurdle of census challenges in 2021?
Doubek: As their partner, we support them any way we can. Whether that’s clinical, educational or operational, we are there to lend them a hand, and in some cases be the leader and the pioneer. We’ve all been challenged with the pandemic. You’re starting to see this in the news, but getting the vaccine out has obviously been slower than we’d like. What a lot of people aren’t aware of is there are many people, including staff, who have doubts surrounding the vaccine and don’t know if they want to get it. That’s been a major problem in some of our communities.
Because of this, we’ve created multiple educational pieces, including a YouTube video done by our partner success team, that educates the staff so they know why it is crucial that people are going to get vaccinated. Our partner success team has gone live to the buildings and done talks on the vaccine. Sometimes it’s literally a last-second, “Hey, we’re having problems getting people signed up.” We’re there to educate them on the importance of getting the vaccine, and to provide whatever resources we can to give the most up-to-date information.
That’s one example of just dropping everything to come to the communities and help them. We can’t change the census challenge, but with the right partner that you can trust and lean on for support, your team can spend their time on what is important keeping the residents you have safe and happy.
Why is it not just okay, but smart, for a senior living operator to disrupt its clinical routine to improve its pharmacy relationships, despite the fact that we’re in the midst of a pandemic? I can see why operators might push back on that.
Doubek: One of our internal core values is, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” I think it’s human nature for people in a situation like this pandemic to just focus on one thing and have blinders on. For ourselves, we realize that there are a lot of other things that we can be doing to make our partners’ lives and jobs easier. We standardize the process. We pride ourselves in operational excellence, and that translates into less time and fewer headaches for the operator. It frees up their time to do things like address the COVID protocols or PPE (personal protective equipment) or whatever they may have to deal with to prioritize the safety of their residents and staff.
We’ve had a couple of studies where we’ve been told that after switching to our system and our strip packaging, we’ve reduced med passes by over 30% in some communities. If it took them four hours, we knocked it to roughly three. That frees up staff, it saves money and it allows them to put the patient back to the center of the community.
With that said, what is your favorite customer success story?
Doubek: I don’t know if I have a favorite, but I have one that happened very early on in MMP’s career. It was a defining moment that led to our philosophy today and it has stayed with us ever since. This was with our largest partner at the time, and really, our only partner at the time. They had around eight or nine communities at the time.
We were early adopters of eMAR, and we were trying to implement this eMAR for these communities. That was the root of the struggle, but there were other issues. We were young and figuring it out. I remember having lunch with one of our partners here and we were complaining about this eMAR and how the communities weren’t doing the right thing. The partner looked at me and said, “Should we just go ahead and fire the customer?”
It was a jaw-dropping moment and we realized that we can’t control everything that goes on inside the communities, and that our job in that supporting role is to simplify the process. One of our philosophies that we stick with today is that we define all of our protocols and procedures to simplify the process. We can’t control what’s going on in those communities, so we make sure that we create the process, we educate on the process, and we provide ongoing education to support the continued implementation of the process.
2020 was a year of unprecedented challenges. What makes you hopeful about the senior housing living in 2021?
Doubek: This was one of the most challenging years in senior living, certainly since MMP’s existence just about 11 years ago. One of the things we talk about here a lot is overcoming barriers. How do we remove those barriers? Sometimes it’s innovation, sometimes it’s technology, sometimes it’s changing the protocol.
But I think with the vaccine being developed in record time, and the distribution happening, I think the pandemic itself and the accuracy rates are going to continue to improve from quarter to quarter. It may be a bit slower recovery than we all wished for, but our support of the clinics and making sure that we do everything we can to help them move forward makes us feel like 2021 is going to end on a really good note.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Medication Management Partners’ mission is to improve quality of life and simplify pharmacy by providing efficient and scalable processes, seamless integration and a dedicated partner success team. To learn more about how MMP can help your organization’s pharmacy utilization, visit mmprx.com.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more — shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact email@example.com.