Industry conventions remain valuable if you know how they’ll benefit you
With the closing of the National Community Pharmacists Association Annual Convention in San Diego on Oct. 29, the 2019 show season has about wrapped up. So, it seems like a good time to reflect on the value of these pharmacy shows.
While the number and variety of conferences and conventions are many, the basic reasons for attending any pharmacy conference are twofold: to sharpen your professional skills and find ways to run a more successful pharmacy. So much is changing in both the profession and industry that attending a conference or two would appear to be sound advice.
Deciding which shows to attend and who to send are critical management decisions. Registration fees, travel and time away from the pharmacy are expensive. Finding ways to weigh the cost and benefits can be tough. Indeed, an email survey conducted by NCPA in 2015 found that less than half of the respondents attended a convention in the past year.
Knowing what your problem areas are can be one factor to consider when deciding which shows to attend. The need or desire to take fuller advantage of your pharmacy dispensing system could be one reason to attend your system’s user meeting.
One general manager said that because her pharmacy system vendor’s show was within driving distance, she sent seven people to their pharmacy dispensing system company’s annual users meeting. She said they came back with improved technical skills, and that interacting with so many others at the meeting gave them an increased sense of pride in the value of the work they do.
Many pharmacy group purchasing organizations, or GPOs, host their own shows. Since most GPOs are cooperatively owned, participation in these events not only allows for networking, education and visiting with vendors, but also provides an opportunity to listen and provide feedback to the groups’ professional staff. Making your voice heard is a big reason to attend your GPO’s meeting.
Most of the wholesalers, large and small, produce a show. Since the types of products they stock, the services they offer and the buy plans wholesalers provide are similar, the most unique thing they bring to market is their corporate culture. How they treat their customers, vendors and employees is all on display at these events. Attending their show may help you decide if your wholesaler is really a good fit for your long-term goals and values.
State pharmacy associations’ shows generally are within driving distance and registration fees are modest. Since each state’s legislature, board of pharmacy and regulators play major roles in setting practice standards and reimbursement rates, active participation in your state’s association provides a good return on investment. Unfortunately, a significant number of pharmacy owners feel these organizations merely are “good old boys’ clubs,” and thus they do not participate. Perhaps the more appropriate action would be to join, get active and help set the agenda.
The NCPA Annual Conference and the NACDS Total Store Expo attract thousands of practitioners, vendors, industry leaders and prominent public figures. The excitement one feels at one of these shows is palpable. There is power in numbers, and these organizations provide a vital service to the industry. Participating in one of the large national shows can provide a genuine boost to your attitude and pharmacy’s performance.
With so much to gain, perhaps this modified old saying applies: “If ‘it’s one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready,’ and four, go to the shows that are best for you. But go.”
Bruce Kneeland is a community pharmacy specialist and industry consultant.