It’s no secret that the retail pharmacy business is facing an era of transformation while undergoing many new challenges amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As the fight against COVID-19 continues in 2021, pharmacies are becoming a centralized healthcare destination poised to play even more important roles in rapid testing, vaccinating patients and supporting the long-term health of our population. All the while, retailers are working tirelessly to stay ahead of shifting patient and caregiver needs while also managing inventory hurdles along the way. These complexities — while running a healthcare business — can be overwhelming. Pharmacies, no matter how big or small, often need to collaborate with strategic partners to better serve their patients.
Now more than ever, large retail pharmacies are collaborating with partners to meet customers’ needs during the pandemic and simultaneously planning for long-term growth. What we have learned this year is that we can achieve better visibility, security and control into areas like compliance, quality and inventory levels when we constantly communicate, listen and collaborate with provider customers on a daily basis. This creates enhanced visibility, transparency and constant dialogue. This also gives us and our pharmacy partners the ability to identify areas of risk and take proactive steps to mitigate the impact quicker. What we also learned during the height of COVID-19 is that we could still help our partners plan for long-term growth despite the intensity of the pandemic. In fact, the public health crisis allowed us to think even more outside of the box; it gave us the ability to be radically curious and explore bigger ideas with customers. Here are a couple of things that we learned:
Personalized Guidance to Grow Your Pharmacy Business
When planning for long-term growth, pharmacies may consider conducting a deep analysis and think about their unique role, value and position in the marketplace to identify their individual story compared with other competing dispensing providers. Analyzing patient behaviors and adherence rates within specific disease states, for instance, can help determine the most effective cadence and types of interventions needed to improve outcomes. Once pharmacies identify their niche within day-to-day operations and patient experience, they can develop a strategy to help grow the pharmacy business and nurture loyal customers through unique offerings like weight management, nutrition counseling, travel clinics and cardiac health programs.
Whether it’s developing a diabetes care center or adding an immunization program, pharmacies can then leverage relevant data and trends to determine which services will help increase their value and enhance patient care. Cutting-edge retail pharmacies are tapping into internal information, known preferences and even social media data to better understand how, when and what to communicate with their customers.
When optimizing operations for maximum efficiency and effectiveness, pharmacies may want to consider implementing programs that allow them to analyze ongoing performance in the areas of inventory management, third-party claims collection to merchandising and shopper conversion. Pharmacies can seek support to help manage issues related to returns processing, cost control, inventory optimization and regulatory compliance so they can make sure that the right product is at the right place when the patient comes in. With these programs, pharmacies can also leverage specific tools to enable better forecasting to meet the needs of their patients. Ideally, capabilities and support will scale too.
With everything that has happened this past year, this is an appropriate time for pharmacies to expand their capabilities and grow the business while having an acute awareness of the consumer shift that is occurring. Rather than steering customers toward a predetermined strategy, I always find it best to deliver a collaborative process to identify and deliver on the strategies that make the most sense for the business.
In today’s dynamic market, retail pharmacies require strategic allies with whom they can co-create solutions that will benefit their communities.
George Rafferty is president of corporate partnerships at AmerisourceBergen.