Using unique patient care services to drive traffic and outcomes
By Phyllis Houston, MSOL , Gold Eneyo, PharmD
Pharmacies provide pivotal health services for their communities. Because this fact became even more apparent during the pandemic, many independent pharmacies are now exploring how they can offer even more unique patient care services. This is an important step to take for your pharmacy's future. Not only can these services drive traffic to your pharmacy and increase revenue, but they can also improve the overall health outcomes of your community.
During the pandemic, pharmacies were suddenly front and center when it came to healthcare services and vaccinations, playing a critical role in their communities. This was particularly important in rural communities where pharmacies are usually closer and easier to reach than primary healthcare providers. For many patients, it was their first exposure to just how much a pharmacy can do.
Now that communities are more aware of what they can really receive from a pharmacy, it's the perfect time for you to springboard from short-term COVID-19 outreach into expanded services that play a longer-term role in your community's health.
Offering care services can help both patients and pharmacies
Why should an independent pharmacy expand its services? The simple answer is a two-pronged benefit: improving patient outcomes and increasing revenue.
As the cost of care keeps increasing, both patients and providers are seeking ways to improve patient outcomes while decreasing costs. Adding pharmacies to the provider mix can help achieve this goal.
Patients tend to visit pharmacies far more frequently than they visit their own doctors. Because of this, pharmacies are better equipped to frequently monitor vitals like blood pressure readings or A1C levels. You can capture these vitals, monitor them, and send the information back to the prescriber. This means important health information can be caught more quickly right in your store, allowing for earlier intervention and improved healthcare outcomes.
On top of improved patient outcomes, you will also benefit from the increased traffic. You can often attract new customers when by offering extra services, which improves your revenue streams. The more services a pharmacy offers beyond dispensing medication, the more revenue it can put back into the business in the form of additional staff and even more clinical services.
Examples of patient care services your pharmacy can provide
There are numerous patient care services that your pharmacy can implement. Here's a look at four examples and why they can be so beneficial to your business model.
1. Point-of-care testing
With the traditional testing setup, patients spend a lot of time in the doctor's office. But often, getting an appointment in the first place can be difficult. Then traveling to the doctor's office or going to a secondary location for lab testing can create even more barriers to treatment.
When pharmacies offer point-of-care testing, they can expand patients' access to healthcare, improve health outcomes in their community, and simultaneously increase their own revenue flow.
First, point-of-care testing decreases barriers to entry, since often it's easier for a patient to visit a pharmacy for a test than a doctor's office or lab. In addition, pharmacists can often take more time to chat with patients and answer their questions than a primary care doctor can. It's also easier for patients to follow up on their test results. Sometimes follow-up is as simple as having a prescription filled at the same pharmacy where they had the test. In some states, a pharmacy can even assess the test results and prescribe what's needed in a one-stop-shop format.
Right now, many pharmacies offer basic point-of-care testing like flu tests, strep tests, and COVID-19 tests. But depending on your state's regulations, you may be able to offer testing that goes beyond these basics.
2. Immunization expansion
Vaccinations are a service that pharmacies are known to provide. But many independent pharmacies can expand beyond their current offerings of flu vaccines and COVID-19 immunizations. Consider providing travel vaccines and immunizations year-round to complement point-of-care testing.
3. Pharmacy discount cards
Prescription savings cards are another service you can offer that improves patients' access to care. Look for a savings card that is customizable to your pharmacy's needs, allowing you to choose how many patients qualify and why. Seek cards that offer transparent, fair fees, have the ability to easily look up prescription costs online, and work with a wide network of prescriptions.
4. Compliance packaging
Another service independent pharmacies like to offer is compliance packaging that helps patients stay on top of their medications. Some patients have complex medication regimens that need extra attention and care. Look into offering packaging that simplifies dosing according to what the patient needs to take at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for example.
The future of pharmaceutical care is expanding
More opportunities for patient care services will likely be added in the coming years. States like Washington are already allowing pharmacists to prescribe certain medications like birth control. These states are beginning to forge the future of pharmaceutical care, changing the landscape of what the pharmacy profession will look like in the coming years. Independent pharmacies would be wise to stay up to date on changing guidelines so they're ready to jump onto new opportunities as they arise.
How to get started
If you're interested in adding new patient care services, where do you start? The first and best step is to get help from a business coach. Another option is joining your local pharmacy associations to stay updated on new regulations in your state that might expand the services you can offer.
When you're ready to add a new service, remember to take things one step at a time. If your pharmacy isn't offering immunizations yet, for example, then take it step by step: get a collaborative practice agreement in place, ensure your staff has the training it needs, and add new technicians as needed. Don't add another program until you've fully implemented immunizations. Trying to add multiple programs at once can be overwhelming.
In summary, it's vital for independent pharmacies to get on board now and start introducing patient care services at their locations. Not only can these services make you more competitive and increase customer loyalty, but you'll also be helping improve the health of your community with every new service you offer.