Future bound


Moving pharmacy to the next phase of its existence means turning uncertainty into opportunity, says John Thornett 

Whilst pharmacy is undergoing yet another review, the uncertainty of the future of community pharmacy builds even more.

As a pharmacy owner, you would be excused for thinking “how can I plan and think forward when there is so many question marks out there? When so many people are trying to unravel what we have fought so hard to establish”. But I am a firm believer in the saying opportunity presents itself in the form or problems.

PHARMACY IN THE PAST HAS BEEN VERY MUCH A RETAIL DRIVEN MODEL

The key components of financial success being product volume multiplied by $margin. Now-days though this model is under pressure. Particularly as the volume factor is falling, as is the $margin factor. The result being the financial pressure many pharmacy owners are now facing.

That then leads to pharmacy being forced to find new sources of income. Hence the drive for pharmacies to embrace professional services. This is now the income source that will part subsidise some of the losses pharmacies are experiencing in dispensary. As we develop and grow this will become more prevalent in pharmacies across Australia and will extend to more innovative services.

BUT AFTER THE SERVICE ELEMENT, WHERE DOES PHARMACY GO INTO THE FUTURE?

Well one of the common issues I am hearing when talking to pharmacy owners is how do they get more people coming to their stores. This comes from the previous retail model of volume x $Margin. If margin is decreasing then we need to increase volume.

To attract more people to the store we simply can’t open our doors and hope they come. We need to get out there and engage with our community. Despite what industry ‘experts’ are saying, you (community pharmacists) are very educated knowledgeable people. You have a wealth of information in your mind that your community is wanting and needing. The element of education then starts coming into play.

I can see pharmacies engaging more with their communities by educating them more about how to live healthier lifestyles. Imagine holding regular workshops at your store about diabetes, weight management, baby etc.

Imagine a more interactive engagement with your community via blogs, workshops, even webinars. You start developing a different form of relationship with your community. A relationship where they come to you for advice, where education links with product and services. Where you then start to engage with people outside of your immediate catchment pools.

THIS BECOMES THE SELL, SERVE SHOW MODEL-

SELL

The selling of medications and products that aligns with business model.

SERVE

The services that you provide you to patients/customers.

SHOW

Educating your community on all things health.

These three elements also link very well to each other. Those who buy our products, may also be interested in a service or a workshop. Those who attend your workshops may then be interested in a product and/or service that will help with a condition they have. All three aspects link very well together.

A greater interaction with communities is where pharmacy needs to head to. When you can engage with greater numbers of people, over a greater area, you then have a greater ability to increase the traffic flow to your pharmacies.

Please note we aren’t expecting to engage with everyone, we just want to engage with more people than what we are now. We want to be present in their minds when they need to go to a pharmacy or when they need help. We need to be present in their minds when they have issues that need to be addressed.

So, think about your current product offering, and think about how you can extend and build on your service offering.

But also, be bold and think about how you can engage more with your communities. Sell, Serve, Show.

John Thornett is Director of Peak Strategies: pharmacy specialist chartered accountants Australia

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