There’s no doubt that professional services represent the next phase of evolution for most community pharmacies

Not only do they allow pharmacists to engage with their patients in a way not previously possible and improve health outcomes for patients, those patients are embracing them eagerly.

A late 2016 Pharmacy Guild Customers Experience Index report showed that customers overwhelmingly supported such services: services which rated highly in consumer awareness included dose administration aids, blood glucose testing, in-pharmacy medicines reviews, and weight loss and weight management.

Elise Apolloni, a managing partner at the Capital Chemist Wanniassa— a finalist in the 2017 GuildCare Pharmacy of the Year—says that her pharmacy offers “a whole suite” of professional services on a regular basis.

This drives customer loyalty, but also means the pharmacy needs to be able to rely on technology to underpin the services and help provide them in the most effective way.

“So much has changed in the last few years since I’ve become a pharmacist in the professional services space,” Ms Apolloni says.

“I recall recording clinical interventions and conducting health services on the old MIRIXA software that was the Guild’s first rollout.

“That was very innovative for its time, and then we had GuildCare come out, which has literally transformed the way we do business.

“I don’t know how we could do business as we know it in this space without this kind of amazing technological support, because it’s simply integral that we record what we’re doing and keep proper, clinical records of what we do day-to-day.”

The Capital Chemist Wanniassa has a motto, she says: If it wasn’t recorded, it didn’t happen.

“You could have an amazing half-hour consult with someone about mental health, recommend they see their GP and psychologist, help connect them with other services… that’s an amazing intervention in that person’s life, and they’ll know you made that time for them and listened to them, and they’ll be loyal to you forever,” Ms Apolloni says.

“But if you don’t record it, the only people who know it happened are you and that patient. Isn’t it great to put it somewhere else, so when we as a profession feel the need to continue to represent ourselves doing the amazing things that we do all the time, that we have a proper record of that conversation?”

When aggregated, this kind of information helps prove to government and other stakeholders just why pharmacy should be relied upon to conduct such professional services, she says.

Simon Blacker, owner of the Priceline Pharmacy Woden, says he “gets a kick” out of recording a good intervention into GuildCare.

The Priceline Pharmacy Woden is another finalist in this year’s GuildCare Pharmacy of the Year competition – and the pharmacy has the same motto as the Capital Chemist Wanniassa. If it wasn’t recorded, it didn’t happen.

“Because I’m recording in the program what I’ve been doing as a professional, I get a real sense of satisfaction from it,” Mr Blacker explains. “It’s documented proof of what pharmacists are capable of doing in this challenging time.

“It’s important to have something that differentiates us from the other end of the community pharmacy environment.”

And Mark Leighton, from the Lanyon Pharmacy in Conder – the third GuildCare Pharmacy of the Year finalist – says that this kind of data will help move pharmacy closer to the centre of health care in Australia as the sector invests in professional services.

“This shows that we’re not just people who stock bottles and boxes – we have a lot to offer, and our skills, and the accessibility of those skills, can really benefit the community.”

Mr Leighton also says that embracing new technologies rather than outdated systems simply makes life more efficient.

“I’m always keen to reduce the amount of paper lying around the shop,” he says.

Mr Leighton says he’s particularly excited about GuildCare NG, which is set to launch at the upcoming APP2017 conference on the Gold Coast.

After a sneak peek at the new platform, he said, “It’ll make it quicker and more efficient to do what we’re already doing, and if you’re more efficient, you get more done”.

“We have to go down this path,” says Simon Blacker. “Pharmacy is changing, and the patients have greater expectations than they used to, and that comes from our connected world – people want services to be available more quickly and more accessibly.

“So the challenge for community pharmacy is to demonstrate the value of what we do – and professional services are a way to do that.

“It’s vital that we explore ways to help people, as part of the integrated health system, working more closely with e-health.”

All three finalists agree: professional services not only provide pharmacists with the knowledge that they’ve helped their patients, but they build customer loyalty—and loyalty drives business.