As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) hits record levels in many cities, pharmacists play an integral role supporting nationwide vaccinations. Times like these serve as perfect opportunities to discuss pharmacy service diversification.
In community and independent pharmacies, additional services can make a positive impact on patients, particularly in smaller communities or city neighborhoods. The pharmacist likely knows patients and their families as a part of that community. For these reasons and others, independent pharmacies can and should be included as testing and vaccination sites, but also much more. While the main goal is always patient care, service diversification can drive sales growth and, in turn, increase top line revenue.
Testing and Vaccinations
Following guidance from their state departments of health, some independents are already delivering COVID-19 virus testing and antibody testing as well as administering vaccines. This opportunity can expand to other diagnostic testing and vaccination services for common maladies (e.g. flu shots, strep throat testing). Offering these services in pharmacies improves convenience for patients (providing one 1 stop for testing and script fills).
Before offering these services, pharmacists should reach out to local area health care providers and determine the best service options to support patients. They should also educate themselves on state guidelines to know which services or products are allowed through pharmacies in their state.
Some independent and community pharmacies have experienced great success with compounding services. From creams and health supplements to pet vitamins and treats, compounding is another reason for patients to visit the pharmacy for additional health and wellness needs.
For example, compounding services support patients who have an intolerance or allergies to normally prescribed medications for their ailments.
To help the public understand the features and benefits of wellness packs, supplements, or natural remedies, some pharmacies offer free virtual events or “lunch and learns.” These events educate the community about preventative health care and nutrition. They can be a clear differentiator from chain pharmacies.
Patients want convenience, but they also want to be sure that they and their loved ones are taking medications at the right time and in the right combination for long-term health benefits.
Whether they are caring for children, have chronic issues themselves, or have older family members with memory challenges, community members rely on pharmacists to consult on how drugs interact and when they should be taken.
By investing in adherence packaging technologies, pharmacists can provide individually wrapped packets of medications for each dose –— with the date and time of dose right on the packets. The patient or caregiver simply opens that dose and has peace of mind that the medication is properly taken. This is especially important for patients who take several medications a day, or who take medications in different combinations throughout the week.
The benefits of adherence packaging evolve from patient requests, such as how people can combine their drug scripts with health supplements. These conversations can support the pharmacist with exploring options that best fit the community’s population, such as young families, active older adults, college students, or all of the above. Pharmacists may even consider creating “wellness packs” branded under the pharmacy name. An immunity booster pack, for example, provides patient convenience while also building loyalty for the business.
While the up-front equipment investment is substantial for the pharmacy, it can be managed through lease-to-own or other financing and accounting strategies –— with great tax benefits, too.
Med Sync Services
Combining adherence packaging with med sync services (e.g. automated refills), scripts can be refilled and delivered to patients in a timely manner, which supports patient convenience and more consistent revenue. As a bonus, some independent and community pharmacies now offer home delivery. They can invest in delivery vehicles branded to the pharmacy, and then write off the expense through their business tax returns.
Service Diversification Benefits Independents
With increasing competition from big box pharmacies as well as non-pharmacy e-commerce retailers, service diversification can help community and independent pharmacies stay open and remain independent. Through community engagement, use of technology and exploring new ways to partner with physicians and other health practitioners, the pharmacist remains central to quality patient care.
Bonnie Bond is a CPA and advisor for independent and community pharmacies at Sykes & Company. P.A.