Don’t just change — improve

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Don’t just change — improve

By Bruce Kneeland - 03/05/2020

Like it or not, change is inevitable — and, not all change is good. This fact makes it all the more important that industry leaders, chain managers, pharmacy owners and other pharmacy personnel find ways for pharmacy to not just change, but improve. Improvement takes careful planning and an astute sense of what can be done to meet the ever-changing demands of consumers, providers and payers. 

So, how does a pharmacy owner, manager or staff member help a pharmacy improve? Here are four suggestions:

1. Despite all the technology and overwhelming need for accuracy in the pharmacy, you should remember pharmacy is — at its core — a people business. Pharmacy personnel would be well advised to emulate the philosophy that drives Disney; that being, everyone who works for the pharmacy should think of themselves as an actor in a play, and their role is to help patients get and feel better. This is a tough job, but finding ways to make this happen is a mile marker on the road to improvement.

2. Realize the template for retail pharmacy success no longer primarily is how many prescriptions you fill. Margins are eroding and the cost of doing business continues to rise. This means retail pharmacies must find other services to offer or products to sell that generate revenue. The front end, whether it be clinically oriented or if it features a wide variety of non-healthcare items, is a critical factor in your success. 

Your plans to improve sales will need to include improved merchandising, better point-of-purchase signage, clinically appropriate and socially acceptable recommendation, enhanced procurement procedures and dramatically improved marketing. Yes, this takes time, effort and money, but if you want to improve, you will need to invest in these areas. 

3. Recognize that everyone on the pharmacy team, no matter their position or tenure, should be encouraged to look for ways to improve. The best ideas rarely come from the top, and even small improvements in attitude, customer service, cleanliness or professional recommendation can make a big difference. A regular item on your staff meeting agenda should be asking for suggestions on what can be done to help the pharmacy attract new and better serve existing patients. This means keeping track of how many new people come to the pharmacy and how many people you serve each day, not just how many prescriptions you fill. Then, soliciting ideas and implementing ways to increase those numbers. 

4. Get out of the pharmacy and look around at other retailers in your area, and see what they are doing that is working. Legend has it that one of the early secrets to the success of Southwest Airlines came from an executive watching a NASCAR race who noticed how the pit crew worked so well together to get the car back on the race track — fast. The practice was modified and then implemented by the airline, allowing Southwest to get their planes back in the air more quickly. This meant the same plane and crew could make one or two more trips per day, which drastically improved profits. Learning from others is another mile marker on the road to improvement. 

Not all change needs to be expensive or complicated. Motivated pharmacy personnel can find simple things they can do to improve their area of responsibility. Chain managers and pharmacy owners would be well advised to nurture and tap into the customer service skills of the entire pharmacy staff. The point being, everyone working in the pharmacy can do something that will improve customer service, employee morale and pharmacy profits. Remember, change is inevitable, improvement is up to you. 

Bruce Kneeland is a community pharmacy specialist and industry consultant

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