You’ll never walk (or transform your pharmacy) alone

The advice from one pharmacy undergoing the transformation to a service-focused business model is simple: Don’t try to do it yourself.

Proprietor of Harden Pharmacy in NSW Mark Douglass speaks from experience when he warns that trying to go it alone is a lot harder than it sounds and can lead to failure.

“We knew we had to change; we knew we had to have some sort of differentiated model because, even though we are in a one-pharmacy town, we have a social contract to our community to offer a full range of services,” he says.


“We made that decision ourselves but being able to deliver on this need was a lot harder than just putting it into words.

“We tried a few times to implement a new business model and failed. We failed not because of lack of commitment or will but because we didn’t have the information and skills behind us to do it properly.”

Douglass says that he then turned to Heath Advice Plus for help in moving the pharmacy into a new direction.

Developed by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Health Advice Plus is a support service for member pharmacies who want to get started, or need additional support to integrate and deliver successful health programs and services.

The program has been developed in partnership with established professional services provider Instigo which has a strong track record of delivering targeted solutions to community pharmacies of all sizes and in all demographic areas.

The Health Advice Plus program provides a suite of resources and operational processes which have been especially tailored to the unique demands and needs of each individual pharmacy.

“We looked at Health Advice Plus and saw that it was what we needed,” Douglass says.

“We had tried to transform our business on three or four occasions and it hadn’t worked. Any change management starts with the knowledge that you have to change. And with this in mind we joined the Health Advice Plus program.”

Douglass says his philosophy is that he and the pharmacy have an obligation to the local community to deliver a wider range of services through the pharmacy.

“This is what people want and just because we are a single pharmacy in the town doesn’t mean we can be complacent – just the opposite in fact.

“We believe we have to offer value in the context of the prices we charge; in the hours we trade and in the services we deliver.

“So we had the mental attitude that was willing to change, but we couldn’t achieve the outcome because we didn’t have any formalised way of changing our work practices.

“What Health Advice Plus has done is present the change process in such a way that means we can achieve the outcomes we want to achieve. We knew we had to do it, but not how to do it.

“What Health Advice Plus has done is given us the matrix to build on. It’s given us the scaffolding and stops us from failing provided we do the things we have to do and follow the mentoring.”


Douglass says the Opportunity Analysis, which is the first stage of the process, was an eye-opener and showed the pharmacy how to achieve results by simply doing things that were easy and that it had to do.

It showed how to achieve an almost immediate return on investment by “doing things better”.

“It sounds simple but it’s not and that’s why you need the program. This is you concentrating on what you should be doing better, and doing it better every day. The investment is in your activity and focusses you on the simple activities of being a better pharmacist and a more empathetic and more involved pharmacist,” Douglass says.

“It’s also about deciding whether you want to be in the band or be the conductor and the program shows that you often have people in the pharmacy better equipped or more able to do some jobs than you and it makes sense to delegate to them so you can concentrate on your customers.

“It frees the pharmacists to wrap the medicine up in better value. For your customers the medicine is a tool to a better lifestyle or to regaining their lifestyle after an illness or something that has disrupted their life.

“The medicine is a way to reestablish their lifestyle so the pharmacist has to understand the emotional aspect of the script. The script is given because of a disease state and to help correct it. Therefore the medicine is not a product – it’s a belief, it’s a lifestyle outcome, it’s a dream, it’s their ability to play golf, to interact with people, to walk to talk. There is an emotional attachment to this medicine so the pharmacist has to be part of this process and they can’t do that from behind the counter.”

Douglass says the program showed how to effectively better communicate and empathise with customers and how to build the business model around this important area,

“The medicine becomes a powerful lifestyle tool but only if taken correctly and this again is where the pharmacist comes in. But this can’t happen unless you’re there to talk to them and advise them.  You’re not out the back mixing up stuff. You’re there for them.

“But to do all this transformation you need help, and Health Advice Plus is that help.

‘This is all about a mindset change and a workflow change in the pharmacy which is driven and guided by the program.

“Health Advice Plus provides a structure and a method to achieve the change and release the main asset of the whole pharmacy which is the pharmacist.

“It stops you making mistakes because if you do try to do it yourself you will fail and that will cost you in the long term. The program helps you to do this change well from the get go. I know. I failed before I went to the program and followed it.”

More details about the program are available here.



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