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Bentley Research Confirms Negative Impact Upon Patient-Pharmacist Relationship with Implementation of Medicare Part D

June 2, 2008


In Photo left to right: Todd Brown (MIPA), Allison Andrade, Kristen Keikkinen, Stephanie Sweeney. Sarah McDonald (MPHA), Greg Gianoni, Evan Taylor (MPHA), Amanda Freedman of Bentley.

“Druggists report that they feel compelled to go above and beyond prior job descriptions to meet the needs of senior patients without adequate education or training.” – Helen Meldrum, Associate Professor Psychology, Bentley College

Bentley College students, at the invitation of The Massachusetts Pharmacy Association, Northeast Pharmacy Services, and The Massachusetts Independent Pharmacy Association, recently conducted research examining the relationship dynamic between patients and pharmacists since the implementation of Medicare part D during the 2008 spring semester.

The measure has changed the way seniors obtain prescription benefits; in Massachusetts, patients must select a plan from hundreds that are offered as vendors for Part D. Since the plan was implemented, both seniors and pharmacists across the country have expressed frustration with the system, says Meldrum.

“It’s not uncommon that an elderly patient on a fixed income approaches the pharmacy window to pick up a routine prescription refill and is very unpleasantly surprised at the tab for the medication bill,” she explains, “The pharmacist is put into the uncomfortable, awkward, and time-consuming position of explaining the Medicare Part D “benefit” and the pricing ramifications.”

In many cases, subscribers are not aware that they are card-carrying members of a plan with the Medicare Part D benefit until they are confronted with a bill for services previously covered. A particularly troubling effect of the legislation has been labeled the “doughnut hole.” This “hole” or coverage gap ends federal payments for a person's drug purchases once an annual spending limit is reached, resuming them only after the beneficiary has spent thousands of dollars out of pocket.

As part of the study, Bentley students contacted both elderly patients and a sizable number of pharmacists (from both independent and chain stores) to examine the impact of the legislation upon both groups from a relationship perspective. The goal was to help seniors navigate through the new system and to determine the change in attitude and level of service offered by pharmacy professionals. The research study findings suggest:

- Tension has increased between patient and provider since the legislation
- Both groups feel they were pushed into the system with little notification
- Pharmacists feel compelled to go above and beyond their job description for this group of patients
- Pharmacists do not feel adequately trained or educated to take on this new challenge

The results of the study are expected to be published this fall in the New England Journal of Pharmacy. Bentley students have been invited back to conduct further research on this widespread and pressing problem facing the elderly population and practicing pharmacists.



BENTLEY UNIVERSITY is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader – one with the deep technical skills, broad global perspective, and high ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Our rich, diverse arts and sciences program, combined with an advanced business curriculum, prepares informed professionals who make an impact in their chosen fields. Located on a classic New England campus minutes from Boston, Bentley is a dynamic community of leaders, scholars and creative thinkers. The Graduate School emphasizes the impact of technology on business practice, in offerings that include MBA and Master of Science programs, PhD programs in accountancy and in business, and customized executive education programs. The university enrolls approximately 4,100 full-time undergraduate, 140 adult part-time undergraduate, 1,430 graduate, and 43 doctoral students. Bentley is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the European Quality Improvement System, which benchmarks quality in management and business education. For more information, please visit

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