“When it comes to filling prescriptions, consumers still prize the friendliness, courtesy, and expertise of the local drugstore,” writes Consumer Reports staff writer Lisa L. Gill. Her article, “Consumers Still Prefer Independent Pharmacies, CR’s Ratings Show,” illustrates what often sets independent pharmacies apart from big chain drugstores like CVS and Walgreens, and why customers prefer the community pharmacy experience.
Gill continues, “Independent pharmacies earned high scores on such measures as courtesy, helpfulness, and speed of checkout and filling prescriptions, as well as pharmacists’ knowledge and accuracy.”
For over 80 years, Consumer Reports has been an institution of America’s consumer culture. It is a trusted source of unbiased reviews on thousands of consumer products, read by nearly 4 million subscribers. So when they come out and say something like that, it’s worth noting.
Consumer Reports just gave every pharmacy owner out there a huge win. The article laid out exactly what customers want from their chosen pharmacy. They want courteous, helpful pharmacists and pharmacy techs. They want a quick prescription-filling and checkout experience. And they want to trust that their pharmacists know what they are doing and are dispensing medicine correctly.
Some Simple Traits Aren’t As Simple As They Sound
Looking at the list, the characteristics customers want in their pharmacies don’t sound like anything extraordinary. Courtesy, helpfulness, knowledge — these are all attributes that are generally expected of any business that serves the public.
But with a pharmacy, it’s not just about being courteous; it’s about greeting your customer by name and asking if they’re feeling better after that cold they had last week. A Consumer Reports survey of 78,000 subscribers revealed that 53% of independent pharmacies greeted their customers by name, compared to 14% of chain pharmacies.
It’s not just about being helpful; it’s about working with someone on a fixed income and figuring out ways to make their medication more affordable. According to that same survey, twice as many independent pharmacists were willing to suggest a less expensive drug compared to their big chain competition.
Finally, it’s not just about knowledge; it’s about being able to immediately recognize which of a patient’s medications might conflict with each other when the prescriptions are coming from different doctors with different care plans.
Most times, these traits make pharmacy visits more pleasant. But every now and then, these traits can save a life.
Time: The Elusive Key Component
Ask any pharmacist and they will tell you: the one thing they always want more of is time. They want more time to focus on helping their patients; more time to manage the day-to-day aspects of running their pharmacy; more time to consider new opportunities and ways to grow their business. Outside of the pharmacy, they want more time to spend with their families and participate in their communities. There’s just never enough time for everything.
To provide the kind of care and attention they know their patients deserve, many pharmacists put in hours that go far beyond opening and closing. Clarence Lea, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for FDS, stated that a typical pharmacy owner could easily work over 70 hours in a standard week. “And those were my short weeks!” he added, reflecting on his own time in the industry.
Suffice it to say, many pharmacists’ work-life balance is non-existent. When it comes to their time, the sacrifice they make often leads to better results and better relationships with their patients. But it’s still a sacrifice.
How Independent Pharmacies Can Get That Time Back
The best pharmacists are the ones who are able to put their patients first; the ones who make an extra effort to get to know each customer who walks through the door. These pharmacists don’t just fill a prescription and send their customers on their way; they make care recommendations, offer to sync up refills, and even make arrangements for customers who have trouble picking up their medicine.
But what if pharmacists didn’t have to put in extra time to do it?
With advances in integrated pharmacy technology, pharmacists now have the opportunity to provide the kind of care Consumer Reports applauded — only without the sacrifice. Claims reconciliation software can automatically track missing or partially paid claims and identify slow-paying third parties. Patient management software allows pharmacists to get proactive with their patients, increasing patient outreach and building clinical opportunities. Data analytics tools can help identify areas of the business that can be improved while also prioritizing business opportunities for the best results.
When pharmacists automate the health of their business, it gives them time to focus on the health of their patients.
Consumer Reports praised independent pharmacies for giving their customers what they wanted most: courtesy, helpfulness, convenience, and knowledge. To do this, many pharmacists have to put in far more time than they should. But thanks to integrated pharmacy technology, they can get some of that time back without sacrificing the wellness or well-being of their customers. They can take care of their patients and keep the doors open. And, honestly, we think it’s about time they had that peace of mind.
From medication synchronization and medication therapy management (MTM) to a robust immunization program that includes yellow fever vaccinations, Balls Food Stores (BFS) has maximized clinical services and outcomes with the help of ENGAGE from FDS, Inc. On the operations side, FDS’s MYDATAMART enables BFS to monitor and measure pharmacy performance to ensure each of its 21 locations is operating at peak efficiency for maximum profitability.
“Data drives pharmacy services in today’s patient-centric healthcare environment. But there is little value to even the most robust database if pharmacists cannot act upon the information promptly,” said Mike Halliwell, Director of Pharmacy & Whole Health, Balls Food Stores. “By integrating ENGAGE directly into the clinical workflow, pharmacists can access the real-time data needed to identify and close medication gaps and determine patients who would benefit from medication synchronization or other patient-focused services, thereby optimizing patient engagement and clinical outcomes.”
ENGAGE is an interactive platform for pharmacists and technicians to manage patient-focused activities and to meet the growing demands of Star Ratings, adherence, and pay-for-performance measures while strengthening patient relationships. With ENGAGE, pharmacists are empowered to create and manage medication synchronization plans easily, take advantage of additional revenue from MTM and immunization opportunities, and extend patient relationships with automated patient messaging by phone and text. The patient management platform also streamlines Star rating management.
BFS also utilizes MYDATAMART, a comprehensive business intelligence tool that enables a deeper understanding of performance across the chain and delivers insights to increase profits and enhance patient care. It features interactive dashboards and easy-to-use, customizable reports for monitoring a variety of performance metrics, including the most frequently dispensed medications and the best National Drug Codes (NDCs) for dispensing. Other metrics include the overall financial impact of each NDC on the pharmacy and fills returned to stock by patient or drug. MYDATAMART also tracks patients and helps identify questionable claims, and features compliance reports to identify Star Ratings and non-adherent patients.
“We expend a tremendous amount of energy and talent to help build non-dispensing functions to differentiate ourselves, such as our travel clinics and pharmacogenomics programs. As we integrate these programs with the dispensing side of the house, it is imperative that data not be siloed. That’s why it has been so important to have ENGAGE and MYDATAMART, to enable us to continue to evolve with the industry and our patient populations while maintaining our high standards of care,” said Halliwell.
To learn more about ENGAGE and MYDATAMART …