At a point in time when 90% of Americans live within just two miles of a pharmacy, the question on the minds of most people isn’t, if they can get a prescription filled, but rather, where to fill it? While the abundance of choices is often confusing for patients, it stands to reason that it can be just as confusing for the prescribing physicians themselves.
Left to their own devices, many prescribers may select a pharmacy based on proximity to where their patients last filled a prescription or solely on the basis of where they believe a particular drug can be had for the lowest cost. Others might make referrals out of habit. Personal connections can also factor-in to the equation, but less frequent are those who choose a pharmacy because of any proven link to improved outcomes.
On the bright side, that is in the process of changing.
On the even brighter side, community pharmacies are uniquely positioned to lead the way.
Making the most of every touchpoint
Greeting customers by name is a hallmark of local pharmacy service. But increasingly, it’s just as important for pharmacy leaders to cultivate relationships with prescribers from the personal side as well as the professional.
Once dialogue begins, it’s common for opportunities to present themselves, particularly in terms of identifying ways a given pharmacy can better meet the prescribing needs of the physician within his or her specialty. Think of a therapeutic area such as endocrinology or cardiovascular health. With research, a community pharmacy can reference data that identifies complementary products and services they could offer that would appeal to those patients and their prescribers.
To put it another way, that’s legwork that can turn new customers into repeat customers. Even better, the closer tie between pharmacy and prescriber also contributes to overall improvement in adherence rates.
If cash-and-carry is king
Somewhere in the neighborhood of any serious discussion about growing a pharmacy business, the topic of raising cash flow is bound to emerge. For community pharmacies, there’s an easy answer to be found in reaching out to prescribers who are more likely to prescribe treatments not typically covered by insurance.
Cosmetic health clinics and weight loss centers are two options to consider, both of which are medical disciplines with plentiful populations of prescribers, likely far more than you might think—located not far from your front door. It’s also a worthwhile investment to seek out high-patient volume urgent care providers who can help keep a steady stream of patients headed in your direction.
The margins might not be there, but with many often comes more. Either way, reaching out certainly does no harm to the bottom line.
What prescribers don’t know can hurt you
All too often, physicians in any particular region may know far less about the community pharmacies nearest them than they should. The key is to avoid making an approach that looks and sounds like a sales pitch. Yes, you’ve got to tell your story. But to make it a good one, keep the sizzle on low; then, turn up the heat by sticking to differentiators like vaccination services, disease-state specific education, specialty packaging, medication therapy management (MTM) and comprehensive medication review (CMR) services.
Usually, those areas aren’t the bread-and-butter of the retail giants, but they are precisely the kind of offerings that prescribers will value most, especially as it relates to improving outcomes on behalf of their patients.
In truth, what you’ll cook-up is good conversation that brings physicians on your side and serves to remind them of the advantages community pharmacies bring to the table.
Never underestimate the basics
As much as customers detest being left hanging for service, prescribers won’t stand for it. More importantly, they’ll take it out on offenders by simply moving on to the next number on the list. So, naturally, answering the phone promptly is essential—as are having pharmacists on staff who can answer questions, provide adherence support, and medication reference—as well as front-office personnel capable of making life easier on billing and insurance issues.
Community pharmacies do all of those things better than most of the big names on the block. Still, that’s no guarantee word about what you do best will get back to those who can best use what you do.
If you’re looking for the right starting point, you’ve come to the right place.