The community pharmacy revolution is here. Join now or run away, warns Mouhamad Zoghbi
The community pharmacy is fighting to survive.
Aggressive price disclosures cost the average pharmacy $90,000 in net profit before tax last financial year, according to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, though many pharmacists I have interviewed recorded losses greater than $150,000.
Meanwhile, expenses are higher than ever. A study conducted by Business Monitor International finding that purchasing costs now account for 65% of a pharmacy’s expenses.
Other expenses include wages and salaries (almost 17% of expenses), utilities (7%) and rent (3%), leaving the profit margin of the average pharmacy at just 7%. (And if 7% is the average, it doesn’t take a scientist to realise that many pharmacies are running at a loss.)
Overheads are part and parcel of many industries, yet with wholesalers cutting down payment times significantly, pharmacies have to cough up the cash much, much earlier than they used to.
To solve these issues, over time more and more pharmacies have turned to the retail model – slashing costs and pushing discounts to bring in more business.
This retail strategy is destroying the community pharmacy.
Once upon a time a pharmacy’s focus was on improving the health of their patients and the community, the moment the ‘community pharmacy’ became the ‘retail pharmacy’, we lost the true essence of the community pharmacy.
The moment that patient numbers, up-sells and the bottom line became more important than building a genuine connection, listening to questions and reassurance, the idea of the ‘community pharmacy’ lost its value.
At that moment, the ‘community pharmacy’ became replaceable with any large discount chain or supermarket.
With the rise of the retail pharmacy, no value is placed on the pharmacy serving a deeper purpose, the pharmacy nurturing its staff and providing a nourishing culture for them, or the pharmacy genuinely supporting patients. Instead, the focus is making the sale.
Health is now a commodity and it is only available to the highest bidder.
And things are only going to get worse with the $1 discounted co-payment in full swing and the proposed deregulation of the industry intended to further ‘stimulate competition’.
This is despite Stephen King admitting in his speech at APP that the current pharmacy model is not sustainable!
The result? Pharmacists only ever make short-term gains, like an up-sell, rather than building a genuine relationship and helping the customer improve their health, and retail pharmacies will continue to cannibalise each other as they compete for every last cent.
There is a fundamental difference between economists and health care professionals – economists focus on saving costs by enhancing competition, while health care professionals find ways to improve the health of a patient (not a consumer or customer).
But if we continue to take the retail focus of the economist, nothing will change.
It’s time for a revolution!
It’s time to cure today’s ailing pharmacy industry.
It’s time to go beyond amputating your sense of purpose, your team members and your level of service.
It’s time to de-commoditise health and reinvigorate the pharmacy industry’s culture of care.
Having worked with thousands of pharmacies in my years as a nurse, pharmaceutical sales rep and entrepreneur, I’ve discovered a secret pharmacy community.
This community believes in caring for the health of others. This community believes in creating loyalty by valuing the lives they touch. This community believes in collaboration. This community believes that unless we all win, no one does.
And the stage is now set for this community to rise and reclaim their rightful leadership – for the community to reclaim the community pharmacy.
It will be a rocky road. To navigate this terrain, we need leaders who are not focused on politics and power. We need leaders who are focused on health, community, collaboration, and a win-win for all.
Whether you are a pharmacist, health care professional, pharmacy assistant, manager or student, we need you!
We need you to support Amy, the single mother struggling to raise her sick baby and keep her pharmacy assistant job.
We need you to listen to John, a much-loved grandfather who walks through the doors once a month to pick up his prescription and chat about his grandchildren.
We need you to diagnose the real problem when Sam and Leila, two devoted parents struggling with fatigue and sleepless nights while working full time jobs, come in for something to help their feverish daughter sleep.
We need pharmacy leaders who are prepared to look beyond the short-sighted tactics of discounts and patient poaching, and will instead turn their attention towards improving the lives of Australians every day.
This is the key to revitalising our industry, one pharmacy at a time.
Mouhamad Zoghbi is the author and founder of ‘The Prescription For Pharmacy,’ specialised in the training and development of pharmacy teams and leaders. His goal is to create high performance pharmacy environments based on enhancing pharmacy communication and selling skills that improve health outcomes and increase profitability.
He invites pharmacists seeking change in the health care industry to e-mail on email@example.com with your name, profession, position (Pharmacy owner, assistant, student etc phone number and why you feel there is a need for change.
He is organising a national pharmacy forum that addresses the everyday struggles of pharmacies and their teams and provide tangible solutions to the everyday problems pharmacy is facing.
Visit www.theprescriptionforpharmacy.com for details.