Challenge the status quo

While most pharmacies offer advice, most don’t use the pharmacist to do this

Instead pharmacists dispense and the retail assistant gives the advice. This has to change says business advisor Bruce Annabel.

The case for cultural change was furthered when on 1 April Susan Ley, The Minister for Health, announced the Healthier Medicare package saying ‘As many as one-in-five Australians now live with two or more chronic health conditions.

“The most prominent are diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental health, eye disease, respiratory conditions and arthritis – requiring a range of health services from their GP through to specialists, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, psychologists, dieticians and weight-loss programs’. (3)

Clearly a groundswell is building regarding the pharmacist role and with it the opportunity to grow non dispensing income, enhance patient relevance, participate in a national health initiative plus access the proposed 6CPA $600m pool of services funding.

But first the door to cultural change must be opened by both pharmacists and employers grappling with one of the biggest imbroglios in community pharmacy.

The imbroglio

Most pharmacy employers in trying to hold net profit together treat pharmacists’ wages as a cost reduction target seeking cost efficiencies by pushing dispensing pharmacists harder. In addition cutting wages helps fund unnecessary price discounting with the cost savings temporarily deferring the pain of patients defecting to increasingly sophisticated competition.

On the flip side employed pharmacists want high hourly rates to dispense scripts, a technical task, which is unaffordable now that will only worsen in the future as dispensary profits continue sliding.

The solution

Employers first accept that cost cutting of itself is unsustainable and does nothing to improve profits in the longer term or achieve growth.

Redeploying pharmacists into the patient health solution service and advice role improves patient satisfaction, patient visits, income from funded services and sales of therapeutic lines such as s3/2, practitioner lines, wound care and others through solving minor ailments. In other words regard pharmacists as the most important productive resource in the pharmacy who, properly trained and focussed, drives the top line. Rewarding them appropriately and lifting their professional job satisfaction is the key.

On the other hand pharmacists who want to be paid more must respond by recognising they will never earn much for dispensing. Getting out of script processing (a theme at APP 16) and into productive activities described is more likely to be rewarded accordingly.

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