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14 Innovative Ideas for Growing Your Pharmacy Business

“Times are changing, and you’ve got to change with them or you die,” said Gary Warren, owner of Town & Country Drug in Odessa, Texas. “We’re always looking for niches because of the declining margins we see from PBMs,” said Warren, whose pharmacy is offering medication therapy management, immunizations, compounding and specialty drugs. They also have a 340B contract with the local hospital and are finding new ways to market through social media.

Despite increased competition, declining reimbursements and other market challenges, many independent pharmacies, like Town & Country, are finding new ways to diversify revenue streams, engage customers, prove their value to payers and expand their markets.

Dozens of nominees for the 2015 McKesson Pharmacy of the Year Award and Health Mart® Independent Spirit Award all have been successful because of multiple efforts each and every day. Here we offer one successful idea each from 14 nominees to inspire you to make improvements in your pharmacy business.

  1. Sync to Succeed
    Rex Pharmacy, Atlantic, Iowa
    Last year Rex Pharmacy began its medication synchronization program by focusing on patients taking seven or more prescriptions, and then expanded its target to those taking five or more. “It had a tremendous impact on our workflow,” said owner Josh Borer, “and minimized the chaotic times of day.” Medication synchronization also improved inventory control. Rex Pharmacy now is synchronizing medications of 230 patients, and prescription volume increased, in part because of additional refills from med sync customers. Inventory turnover is now trending to 12 times a year, improving cash flow. The pharmacy also has been in the top 20% of pharmacies on the Electronic Quality Improvement Platform for Plans and Pharmacies (EQuIPP™) for three adherence measures.
  2. Provide Compliance Packaging
    First State Pharmacy, Wilmington, Delaware
    Last year, First State Pharmacy began marketing compliance packaging to Medicare patients with hypertension, diabetes and lipidemia. Then owner Chas McCormick began to market the service among assisted living facilities, discharge coordinators, social workers at a local hospital group and home nursing associations. In the assisted living market, First State found that its strip packaging from a Parata PASS™ machine is a differentiator compared with other pharmacies that offer only “bingo card” packaging. McCormick estimates that the compliance program has generated an additional 20 prescriptions per week. By educating visiting nurse associations about the program, First State added about 20 new patients outside its target ZIP code.
  3. Put Diabetic Patients on a Regular Schedule
    Black Oak Health Mart Pharmacy, Medford, Oregon
    Diabetic patients used to come to Black Oak Health Mart in a panic because they needed supplies right away. Now most of its diabetic patients are on a 30-, 60- or 90-day schedule for supplies. One week before a patient’s supply is scheduled to run out, Black Oak calls them to confirm if they are still testing their blood sugar at the same frequency or if there have been any changes to their care routine. Then the pharmacy sends the supplies, or the customer can pick them up at the store. The program alleviates patients’ anxiety and enables the pharmacy to manage inventory more efficiently. In about 18 months, Black Oak’s diabetic patient-care coordination program doubled to more than 700 patients, owners Tim and Carol Lichlyter said, and the number is growing every month.
  4. Offer New Services
    Doctor’s Choice Pharmacy, Upland, California
    Purva Patel recently remodeled Doctor’s Choice Pharmacy to add a compounding area. “It’s not in my comfort zone” to do compounding, and there is a lot of competition, Patel said, but she saw opportunity and did her homework. She already knows, for example, that a gynecologist in the area is doing hormone replacement therapy, and primary caregivers want to prescribe more pain creams. The pediatricians she works with don’t know a lot about compounding, but because she has established a strong relationship with them, they are willing to listen to her about compounding opportunities.
  5. Become a Niche Expert
    Central Avenue Pharmacy, Valley City, North Dakota
    In early 2014, Central Avenue Pharmacy added essential oils, as well as gluten-free, dairy-free and organic food products. Owner Doreen Sayler estimates that foot traffic into the store has increased 50% due to interest in those products, and that has led to increased prescription volume too. Some customers travel more than 100 miles to purchase these products and benefit from the staff’s expertise. “We found that a lot of people were frustrated by a celiac diagnosis for themselves or a child and were unsure what to do. They looked to us as a health resource,” said Sayler.
  6. Integrate Interventions into the Workflow
    Towncrest Pharmacy, Iowa City, Iowa
    In one month, Towncrest Pharmacy documents 2,000 drug therapy interventions, in which it identifies an issue and resolves it with the patient and/or physician. That’s one of the reasons it has achieved five-star ratings on four of five quality measures. The PharmClin software that owners Mike Deninger and Randy McDonough developed pulls real-time information from the dispensing system and transforms it into a usable clinical record. At a glance and from one screen, the pharmacist can see everything that needs to be addressed, what interventions have been done and are pending, and with a few clicks, can flag the patient for follow up and transmit notes and recommendations to physicians. (Learn how Towncrest Pharmacy communicates effectively with physicians in “Be a Top-Performing Pharmacy on Star Ratings Measures: Make Every Encounter Count.” Discover how Towncrest improves adherence in “Improve Your Refill Rates and Revenue with Medication Synchronization.”)
  7. Expand Your Service Area
    Phillips Health Mart Pharmacy, Mauston, Wisconsin
    Phillips Health Mart Pharmacy opened a satellite location 13 miles away, where a pharmacy closed a few years ago. It has a full-time technician and four cameras, which allow a pharmacist from the main store to review prescriptions and consult with customers. “It’s a great way to bring service to that area, and it’s a great defense against my competition,” owner Wayne MacArdy said. The remote pharmacy is filling 30 prescriptions a day, with another 40–45 filled from the main location.
  8. Go to Seniors
    Ben Franklin Apothecary, Duncanville, Texas
    Ben Franklin Apothecary recently partnered with a local senior living center. Pharmacy owner Dan Jespersen sends a staff member to the center every Wednesday afternoon to counsel patients and answer questions related to medication adherence. Ben Franklin Apothecary offers the SyncRx™ program to residents, as well as prescription delivery once a month. To date, about half of the residents participate in the program, and that number is growing by one to two residents each week.
  9. Show Your Medicare Expertise
    Town & Country Drug, Odessa, Texas
    During Medicare open enrollment, Town & Country Drug assigned one person to schedule appointments with seniors to review their plan choices, booking consultations from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. By offering counseling with the iMedicare app, owner Gary Warren said the pharmacy receives word-of-mouth referrals among seniors, particularly retirees from the area’s largest employers. (Discover more ways to stand out during open enrollment in “Medicare Open Enrollment Allows Pharmacy Expertise to Stand Out,” and “Medicare Part D Consultations Can Build Patient Loyalty.”)
  10. Educate Providers
    Marble City Health Mart Pharmacy, Sylacauga, Alabama
    Marble City Health Mart Pharmacy sends a brief “fax blast” to more than three dozen local physicians whenever there is a new development, such as a new generic drug or a change in medication regulations. Pharmacy owners Danny Johnson and his sons, Jared and Jacob, used to take for granted that the prescribers were on top of things such as last year’s change of hydrocodone being moved from Schedule III to Schedule II, but found that wasn’t the case. Sending a fax takes just minutes. The pharmacy also provides continuing education classes for doctors and nurses. Physicians and nurses consider the pharmacy a medication resource they can call when they have a question.

    Marble City Health Mart was recognized as McKesson’s 2015 Pharmacy of the Year grand prize winner.

    Watch a video about this family-run operation »

  11. Market Around Town Every Day
    Sicomac Pharmacy, Wyckoff, New Jersey
    Sicomac Pharmacy is located in a neighborhood where zoning for store signage is very restrictive. To build brand recognition in the community, owners Tania Rotoli, Fabian Marcos and Frank Marcos wrapped Sicomac Pharmacy’s delivery vans with the store logo, as well as a note that the pharmacy accepts all insurance plans and provides free delivery. At least a third of new customers learned about Sicomac Pharmacy through the delivery vans they see around town, surveys show.
  12. Engage Customers Everywhere
    Hilton Pharmacy, Marysville, Washington
    Shortly after setting up a front-end display of summer travel items, Mary Kirkland was inspired by a niece’s Flat Stanley project to launch “Where in the World Is Hilton Pharmacy?” She invited customers to share photos of themselves on vacation with a small paper Hilton Pharmacy bag. In exchange, they received a Hilton Pharmacy tote bag and promotional items that were leftovers from another promotion. Almost 200 customers took part in the event.
  13. Promote Local Business
    Eden Drug, Eden, North Carolina
    Eden Drug helped its community see the impact of supporting local businesses. Owner Pete Crouch gave each staff member about 30 $2 bills stamped with the words “Buy Local.” The requirements: They couldn’t save the money or use it to pay a bill, they had to give at least 10% to charity, and they had to spend the rest at businesses owned by someone who lived in the community. Employees logged where they spent each $2, with a prize for the person who spread the money to the most locations. If anyone asked about the $2 bill, the employee had to explain the impact that locally owned businesses provide through taxes and more in the local economy. The pharmacy also distributed some $2 bills in change at its register, along with a note explaining the reason and encouraging people to support locally owned businesses. (Read about Eden Drug’s free backpack and school supplies giveaway in “Promoting to Kids to Build Relationships with Families.”)

Share your pharmacy’s success in the comments section below.

  • Nice list of positive actions for entrepreneurial pharmacy owners. I’m glad you omitted negative activities that don’t add value, like “Complain about reimbursements” or “Whine about PBMs.”

    Pharmacy owners should remember the key rule of industry consolidation: Get big, get focused, or get out. Winning in the retail pharmacy industry requires scale or differentiation. Otherwise, cash out gracefully.