For many pharmacies operating today, being profitable can seem like a pipe dream. Some months, even breaking even can be questionable. In a perfect world, the desire to improve the health of your community and help the people you see every day would be enough to sustain your business. But that’s not where we live.
To keep helping the people of your community, you have to keep the doors open and the lights on. To improve how you help the people of your community, you need to make enough money that you can afford to reinvest in your business. After all, innovation is rarely cheap and never free.
How Offering Vaccinations At Your Pharmacy Helps Your Business
One of the first pharmacists in the country to administer vaccines was Beverly Schaefer of Katterman’s Sand Point Pharmacy in Seattle, Washington. In an article for PBA Health, she explained that she originally started offering vaccinations to bolster business. She had recently turned down a contact with a major payer and lost 300 patients, and she aimed to make up the difference with vaccinations. She ended up doing much more.
“We were hoping to do 300 flu shots the first year,” said Schaefer. “We did 1,200.”
You can’t say there isn’t demand.
Pharmacy Benefit #1: Give Your Revenue a Shot in the Arm
Looking for a way to add revenue (and profit) to your store? Offer vaccinations. “If you want to add profit to your bottom line, increase the number of immunizations that you’re doing,” said Schaefer. “Every single immunization you do adds to your bottom line. There are no exceptions.”
Just make sure not to sell yourself short. Payers should reimburse you for both the vaccine AND for the service of administering it. You are more than just a dispenser of products.
Once you have a vaccination program up and running, consider adding travel vaccines to your catalog. People are traveling internationally more and more, and travel vaccinations are a necessity when venturing to certain countries.
According to Schaefer, the least amount of profit you will ever make on a vaccine is $15 to $20. And that’s the least. “How many prescriptions do you make fifteen to twenty dollars on?” she added.
Pharmacy Benefit #2: Increase Your Front-End Sales
Offering vaccinations tends to get more people into your store. The more people you have in your store, the more opportunities you have to sell them products that didn’t come from a prescription pad. Maybe they’ll come in for a flu shot, then stock up on over-the-counter pain meds and bandages. Maybe they’ll remember they’re running low on their vitamins.
Studies have shown that a 20 percent vaccination rate can drive an additional 6 percent in front-end sales. If they’re already in the store, they’re more likely to buy what they need from you. Let convenience give you a hand here.
Pharmacy Benefit #3: Distinguish Yourself From Online & Mail-Order Pharmacies
With services like Amazon’s PillPack or ExpressScripts, convenience has become an important factor in how and where patients get their medications. The ability to order prescriptions online or through the mail and have them arrive right at the patient’s door is causing a shift in the industry. And if you don’t think it will affect your pharmacy, Blockbuster Video would like to have a word with you.
To survive this shift, you must find ways to differentiate yourself from those kinds of services. While you may pride yourself on your customer service and all the amenities your store offers, that won’t matter if you can’t get people out of their houses.
Offering in-store vaccinations is a way to do that. Patients can’t order vaccines online, and self-administered immunizations — while it is a topic being discussed — aren’t a thing yet. If a patient wants a flu shot, they have to make an appointment with their doctor, visit a clinic, or visit their neighborhood pharmacy. With enough promotion, we think they’ll choose the latter.
Offering immunizations moves your business toward the New Era Pharmacy model: from medication-focused to patient-centered care. Pharmacies have been offering health services for decades, but it’s time for them to be recognized — by both the general public AND third-party payers — as the healthcare providers they are.
The pharmacy industry is moving toward a new era. Offering vaccinations is a step in the right direction.