Stop competing against Amazon Pharmacy (and other big-box pharmacies) because you are not in the same business they are in.
Sure, you both sell prescription drugs, but that doesn’t mean you are in the same business. That would mean a drive-thru food joint and a steakhouse are in the same business because they sell food. You are a clinician. So let’s combine patient care and sound business so you can have a thriving profitable pharmacy business.
As an independent pharmacy, you can meet the needs of your patients that Amazon Pharmacy can’t. You know their history. Not just their medication, but often their family, activity, job, and travel. You are not there to fill any and all prescriptions; you are there to make sure you fill the best medications for them. Sometimes this means helping them afford their medications or telling them which vitamins they need with their script. By understanding your competitive advantage, you can excel in your niche; excellent patient care.
Many pharmacies aim to be wellness destinations. A great time to launch a new wellness service is to take advantage of New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of the year. Each year the #1 resolution is to lose weight. After a year of lockdowns, stress eating, sweatpants, and binge-watching, I think even more patients are going to want to get on the weight-loss bandwagon.
Are you ready? What services and products can you offer to your community? People will be willing to spend money come January; what will make them want to spend it at your pharmacy?
The Weight Loss Pharmacy
There are some great weight loss specialty pharmacists out there. An old friend of mine, Kathy, has a remarkable program. You can learn more about her program HERE. Many pharmacies have used Isagenix or Ideal Protein, while compounding pharmacies can create unique formulations to help their patients from a pharmaceutical perspective. You might be thinking those sound great, but how could I get my pharmacy ready in just a couple of weeks. Another program that has worked well for many pharmacists is weight loss coaching.
Using a turnkey weight loss coaching program can get you ready to help patients within a week. You don’t have to order a bunch of inventory, and you don’t have to set up billing to any insurances. It is a cash-based program that patients thrive on. You can read more about this program HERE or schedule a Zoom call with Dr. Mark Nelson. Dr. Nelson will have you ready to serve your community come January.
Once you have decided how you will become the weight loss pharmacy for your community, you will need to market your services. You can use free programs such as Canva to create marketing flyers. For more marketing tips, read High-End Marketing Graphics On A Low-End Budget.
The Right Prescription for the Right Patient
Amazon Pharmacy is a fulfillment center. Just like their Amazon Warehouses. While their pharmacists will ensure they fill the orders correctly, they do not use a high level of discernment. This deficiency can be your advantage. You can do more than just fill prescriptions. You can help your patients receive the best product that their insurance will cover, that they can afford. The best product to pick isn’t always such an easy choice, so sometimes what the doctor orders isn’t what is best. Because you are a local pharmacy working with local plans, you can have better insight into which products are covered on your insurances so you can help patients find the best alternatives.
Optimizing a patient’s therapy means you have to consider many factors.
- Goal of therapy
- Other prescriptions
- Insurance coverage
- Patient financial responsibility
- OTC medications
- Side effects
- Dosage form
- Compliance with therapy
Due to this, optimization will look different for each patient. Ibuprofen 800mg might be just fine for one patient with arthritis, while Indomethacin 20mg might be a better option for patient #2. You might need to add Lactulose Packets to a patient getting chronic muscle relaxers because you see them buying OTC laxatives every time they are in your pharmacy. No mail order pharmacist is going to look at patients the same way you do. They are just looking at prescriptions, not whole patients. Make sure your pharmacy isn’t just another fulfillment center. Your patients deserve a clinician when they come to your pharmacy.
Will The Real Pharmacists, Please Stand Up
I frequently speak with pharmacists who want to implement more clinical-based services in their pharmacy, but they are fearful. They worry about how prescribers will react. Will prescribers shun them or think they are trying to compete with them for patients? In a majority of cases, the answer is no. When the worst does happen, don’t be defensive (that is hard!), instead focus on clear and open communication and work with the provider to alleviate their fears. One silver lining from this terrible pandemic is the public and other healthcare providers have elevated pharmacists in their minds. Even states and payers have expanded our role too.
Now is the time to be bold as pharmacists. We are the medication experts, along with many other topics. Pharmacists can have specialties in different areas of patient health too. Insert and assert yourself into your patient’s healthcare team. Also, know that it is ok if you aren’t always successful with getting a prescriber to take your recommendation or to fully accept a new service you are offering. You do you and what is best for your patients, and it will work out. I have found that most providers end up appreciating an active pharmacist more than a passive one.
While Amazon Pharmacy will be great at the logistics of mailing prescriptions, you are the expert clinician your community needs. Pharmacists should be an active part of the healthcare team, working relentlessly to improve patients’ health. There are many opportunities you can choose to focus on. Pick an area you are comfortable with. Whether it’s optimizing prescription therapy, becoming a PGx expert, starting a weight loss coaching program, or bringing remote patient monitoring services to your community. You have more to offer your community than being just a fulfillment pharmacist, and therefore you are far more valuable than Amazon Pharmacy.
For more ideas on clinical services and products that you can offer your patients to improve their therapy, catch up on past blogs from this series.
- Part 1 – specific drugs that can be therapeutically and financially better for your patients that you can dispense that Amazon Pharmacy can’t.
- Part 2 – unique services, PGx, RPM, and POCT, that you can bring to your community that Amazon Pharmacy can’t.
- Part 3 – becoming your community’s local pharmacy expert.
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