Discounters, different models of practice… Community pharmacy is facing more change than ever before, but leading pharmacists and owners say it’s all about being sure of what you offer
Recognised pharmacists shared their thoughts on the future of community pharmacy during a panel session held at NAPSA Congress in Adelaide on Thursday.
Panellists included Pharmacy Guild SA Branch president and owner Nick Panayiaris, 2018 MIMS/Guild Intern of the Year Tim Stewart, pharmacy owner and Guild SA Branch Committee member Renee Wynne and 2018 Pharmacy of the Year winner Luke van der Rijt
Pharmacy is in the midst of recurring change – more change than ever before, Mr Panayiaris announced to delegates.
“Community pharmacy is facing a lot of change,” he said.
“It’s always faced change – problem is, we used to face those challenges once every five years when the agreements went out. This last agreement, this one is almost monthly, yearly – things are changing so rapidly at the moment.
“You look at any industry at the moment and it’s being disrupted. I hate hearing how the status of our profession has been devalued to some degree. People are pushing for this transactional commoditisation of our profession.”
Mr Panayiaris said the Guild’s CP2025 framework is a view forward and a way to drive change in the industry.
“CP2025 is basically a view forward that says: here’s where opportunities are, here’s where patients want you to go, here’s where government wants you to go – because they’re always telling us we need to do more. We need to make sure that we drive that,” he said.
Mr van der Rijt pointed to professional services as the future of community pharmacy.
“If you go back decades ago, patient services and patient care was always the core of health, but somewhere along the line it’s become this churn and burn, from GPs to pharmacists,” he told congress delegates.
“But for you guys, and how we’re going to drive this [CP2025] program forward and move into the future, it’s going to come from the workforce.
“I can tell you now, if you guys showed up to my pharmacy as a young career pharmacist with vaccination cards or doing diabetes education, you’re straight up going to be more employable than any other existing pharmacist or anyone else out there,” said Mr van der Rijt.
“Everyone should be really wanting to do vaccinations and things like that, that’s a really good opportunity and that’s what’s going to drive the future. It’ll make you an empowered workforce, it’ll provide direction and give you control. It’ll give you the freedom to move around and I encourage you to really embrace the changes.”
Pharmacy owner Ms Wynne agreed that pharmacy students should embrace professional services.
Be that person who has full scope of practice. Be someone who is outstanding, who is going to make a difference, who vaccinates and provide [specialist] health services.
“I will always be looking for those people who have that drive and interest in taking their skills forward,” she said.
How can community pharmacies compete with discounters?
Fielding a question from a student about how pharmacies can compete with “fast” big box discounters, Mr van der Rijt said that it’s all about being sure of the value that you offer—and making sure patients know it too.
“I worked for five years at Chemist Warehouse,” said Mr van der Rijt.
“There’s definitely a place for discounting pharmacies. I wouldn’t call them fast, but they are cheap and that’s the big thing we’re trying to work on. There’s always going to be people in the population that want ‘cheap’ and that’s totally fine, that’s why they exist.
“But we focus more on chronic care patients, they have a lot of comorbidities and whatnot. A lot of them are on multiple medications for multiple conditions and they end up staying as customers. They’re going to end up spending the same amount in a calendar year regardless if they go to a discount pharmacy or a professional services pharmacy.
“So we really try and track those customers because they want somewhere where they can go and they think that their health is being well looked after,” he said.
“So we say, look, spend x amount here either way take your pick, we’ve got six pharmacists here versus one at the local discounter, where’s your health better looked after? That’s what we really try and focus on to compete with those guys. You have to explain it [to patients], that message is hard to get out.
“The discounting model will still be out there but there will be a choice where a whole pile of people will want a more holistic health service, especially those with chronic disease.”
Top tips from leading pharmacists
Tim Stewart, 2018 MIMS/Guild Intern of the Year and pharmacist at Cooleman Court Pharmacy, ACT, highlighted the importance of mentors.
“You don’t only need one mentor, you can have multiple mentors. Your mentor will also learn from you. It definitely is a two-way street. You need to be on the same page but also have different experiences,” he said.
Mr Stewart said he’s “really excited” about the future of pharmacy.
“The best piece of advice was from my partner, also a pharmacist, who said: ‘Take everything that comes into your pharmacy as your job.’ There’s nothing that you can say isn’t. Leave no stone unturned. If something comes in that you’re not sure about delve deeper and it could be a service you present in the future.”
Ms Wynne said: “Pharmacy is really exciting and is what you want to make it. I’ve got two kids, working, run a business and doing uni. You can do it, you can find that balance. Make it happen.”
“I’m more confident today than I was five years ago, and I’ve been around 25 years in the industry,” said Mr Panayiaris.
He advised students to become aware of their environment, the industry and profession as a whole.
“Don’t just work in it, become a part of it and part of that decision making process,” he said.
“If you want that change, you have to become part of that change and influence that change, force the owners like us to make that change.”