Always going the extra mile for patients and being open every day of the year has proven a successful formula for Wilkinson’s Pharmacy, Burnie, the sixth of our 2019 Pharmacy of the Year finalists
It has also led locals to recognise that “if Wilkinson’s can’t get it, there’s a reason why”, says Jack Muir Wilson, co-proprietor of the Tasmanian pharmacy.
Mr Muir Wilson said being open every day of the year showed the community the pharmacy was committed to the health needs of people in the area.
“We made a conscious decision not to play the numbers game – the game where we could say we won’t open on certain days because of penalty rates and so on,” he said.
“The needs of our community are more important than that.”
Filling the gaps
Wilkinson’s Pharmacy also prides itself in identifying gaps in health services and moving to fill them.
“We don’t just say we are patient-focussed. We provide real solutions to gaps in the community that prove we genuinely mean it,” Mr Muir Wilson said.
“Over the past few years we have identified and engaged with sectors of the community that normally aren’t in your regular community pharmacy.
“In the past 12 months we have identified a gap in the local community that we wanted to help rectify.
“The problem we saw too often was in the disability sector where there was a lack of support and education when it came to medication information.
“We started by linking in with all of the care providers in our area to arrange sessions with their staff to start with some medication education basics.
“The demand for our sessions took off – all of a sudden we realised that this was an area that was screaming out for assistance and we were perfectly placed and motivated to help.”
Sessions included safe medication disposal, different solutions for packing of dose administration aids, medication reviews and enhanced/alternative signing sheets for different circumstances.
“We started with free educational events and we are now 12 months down the track, packing and providing real solutions for a population of people who benefit greatly from support and most of all, we are seeing improved health outcomes.
“We have organisations wanting to work with us because they know we have a ‘go the extra mile’ attitude.”
Mr Muir Wilson said another gap the pharmacy had identified and acted on was IVF services. Located on the northern tip of Tasmania, the pharmacy found that IVF patients in the area were isolated.
“Support services and drugs for IVF patients in the north and north-west of the State had always been handled from Launceston and Hobart,” he said.
“So we invested thousands of dollars and undertook extensive staff training to kick start an IVF program so patients no longer need to have their medications couriered to their doorstep with no pharmacist input or counselling.
“Now they come in to us and it is a very important part of our work and they really appreciate being looked after during what is a very vulnerable time for them.
“Our patients are greatly appreciative of this service and come back to tell us they are pregnant. And we are now helping them on that journey.
“They will be loyal for years to come because we are looking after them and reducing their costs and barriers of access to these services.”
Mr Muir Wilson said the pharmacy now had a medication-review accredited pharmacist who was one of the partners who had undertaken the training in response to another identified area which needed addressing.
“Once again, this was recognised as a gap in our community so we took it upon ourselves to invest, study and implement real change,” he said.
The importance of promotion
Mr Muir Wilson said the pharmacy also had a strong focus on health promotions.
“We have good relationships with all the industries and businesses along the coast and we do health promotions in the workplace. We get asked to go into a workplace and give presentations about diabetes, cardiovascular risks, stress in the workplace, child health and so on,” he said.
“Health promotion is really big and it works well for the business. You do a free promotion and you might think you get nothing for it – you’re doing it for two hours on your morning off with an already packed week.
“But then you see the faces from that workplace come through the pharmacy, asking for your advice and building a relationship with the pharmacy. It’s a great way to connect with people who you might not otherwise have contact with.
“So much of what we do in our health promotion space is 100 per cent free of charge. We do it because we are passionate about our community and are a part of it.
“It is amazing to see these people come through the pharmacy doors and seek out advice with one of their trusted health professionals they are now on friendly and first-name basis with.”
Mr Muir Wilson said the promotions also helped to highlight the professional services the pharmacy provided and these include blood pressure monitoring, blood sugar level monitoring, cholesterol monitoring and MedsChecks among a large range of service offerings.
Mr Muir Wilson said over the past few years the pharmacy had worked hard to expand services such as the provision of vaccinations, and this year had administered some 1100 doses.
“We are one of few pharmacies in Tasmania which operates a full no-appointment necessary, seven days a week, 9am-9pm flu vaccination service.
“We’ve also grown our DAAs by more than 50 per cent in 12 months to a significant 150 regular customers. Throughout this period of growth we have linked in with different healthcare providers in Tasmania to improve service delivery to our north-west patients.
“Our health promotions have grown considerably and each event is run by at least one owner/pharmacist. We care about our community and we genuinely want to give back – hence why at 7am on a cold winter’s morning, one of us can be at the Burnie City Council Depot doing a health promotion.”
Mr Muir Wilson said this approach recognised that while service delivery was important, it was also essential to maintain the character of the pharmacy that made it so popular.
“We are very much a traditional community pharmacy at heart which has adapted to the model of delivering professional services and we really pride ourselves on that.
“What makes us stand out is our commitment to our community. All our three owners are local and are involved heavily in the community – we work hard, provide professional services, give out great advice and have extremely helpful and educated staff. It’s a winning combination.”