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pharmacy hunger games: business woman with bow and arrow

Pharmacies are now being forced to compete more ferociously than ever: are the odds in your favour? wonders Mouhamad Zoghbi

Governments have used the technique of divide and conquer for centuries to increase their power and profits, so it didn’t come as a surprise when the Minister of Health stated that the reason behind the $1 discounted co-payment was to increase pharmacy competition.

That means it’s pharmacy against pharmacy while the reformer watches the 6CPA Hunger Games with excitement.

With up to $400 million in government savings, the $1 discounted co-payment is a difficult pill for pharmacy to swallow, so the ministry has intelligently changed the mechanism of administration, donned on the gloves and swapped a pill for a slippery suppository.

Pharmacy is under threat by the very people who are supposed to be protecting it, while the politics of cost savings are turning pharmacists against each other.

In a world where the bottom line has become king, we have been made to focus on paying the banks, paying the bills, paying the wages, paying… paying… paying… but we haven’t been paying attention to the most valuable asset we have, and that is the value community pharmacies can provide to the health of the people of our nation.

We do not have a choice on what is imposed upon us, but we do have a choice to pursue what is most valuable to us.

The ‘community pharmacy’ is the breeding ground for customer health outcomes, whereas the ‘retail pharmacy’ is the breeding ground for customer financial savings. With the current financial crisis, can you blame a father of three wanting to get the cheapest price because he can barely make ends meet? No, you can’t. So, what are we arguing for?

Please, do take this personally. Pharmacy has a great gift for self-destruction; pharmacy academics, proprietors and leaders are too busy making competitors out of each other.

I suggest that we stop criticising each other, stop the attacks on the warehouses and the discount models, stop the attacks on your next-door neighbour and, whether our hearts are together or apart, unite for the one cause: providing first-class service to the young father of two who is obese, depressed, over-worked and is more likely to die at 60 due to a heart attack or stroke.

How can we explain his illness and death when something could have been done about it, but we were too pre-occupied about competing and undercutting each other and forgot to serve a true purpose.

It is time to rise against the bottom line focus and wake up our flatlined hearts. It is time to fight the dollar with sincerity in our service to others, because sincerity creates loyalty, and loyalty is someone buying from you regardless of price.

That is your most valuable asset. It’s about looking beyond profit to make more profit.

Loyalty is created by focusing on the most valuable assets that you have direct control of, which I call the four pillars of pharmacy: your leadership, your team, your customers and your community.

Leadership is the foundation of a thriving pharmacy. Having the ability to inspire your team to advance in the cause of health and wellbeing for the people of our nation breaks the ‘working for the paycheque’ epidemic and ignites a deep desire to serve with pride.

Teams are the beating heart of our pharmacies. Yet I rarely see pharmacy teams. I see working groups who only focus on their pay and who constantly look at their watches, wanting to take a break.

Sadly the most energetic time when I see individual pharmacy staff is when they’re going home. Whereas a true team works in synergy for a common cause, they wear the same uniform, have the same signature on their paycheques and are united to serve as a great team should.

Customers are the soul of your pharmacy. I agree that many customers have become price conscious, and it’s hard to deal with, especially when you can’t feel your aching legs because you’ve been standing all day and you have to sneak a sandwich between scripts, you have customers waiting for your advice, representatives waiting to promote products and staff stretched to capacity.

Then in strolls a customer with two catalogues in his hands, arguing over a $1 difference in the shampoo.

Of course it’s ridiculous, but then again, he might only have $20 to last his whole family the next two weeks. A lot of us have been there. I know what that’s like, because I was once like him, and it doesn’t mean I didn’t value my health and wellbeing, I just couldn’t afford it.

Community is the greatest untapped potential in pharmacy. Do you consistently seek to educate your local schools on the implications of drug abuse, or the local crochet club on how to reduce pain in their joints diabetes?

The majority of pharmacists are confined to the pharmacy walls: the only time they know how the weather is outside is through customers. Seldom do they ever reach out to the community and educate them on community-based health and safety issues such as anti-drug abuse at high schools and the importance of medicines compliance at local church groups.

Pharmacies need to be in touch with their communities’ health issues by getting out of their pharmacies and connecting with the community.

I believe that the time has come for pharmacy to prescribe its own destiny. Stop focusing on what we can not control, and focus on the factors that you have control over: your leadership, team, customers and community. With this focus, you can defeat the tyranny of cost saving reforms and raise your community pharmacy flag in the heartlands of your communities.

Be the leaders that will help transform your pharmacy from just another job into a team connected by purpose:d like any tightly knit team who all wear the same uniform and have the same signature on their pay-cheques… you can all have the same mission, to put customers first and advance the health and wellbeing of your community.


Mouhamad Zoghbi is the author and founder of ‘The Prescription For Pharmacy’. He would like to give away 50 copies of his book ‘The Prescription For Pharmacy’ to pharmacists who have a sincere desire to improve their customer service.

Please e-mail Mouhamad at mouhamad@theprescriptionforpharmacy.com and include your name, pharmacy, address and the word “AJP”.

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