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Ask any owner and they’ll tell you that the process of buying, opening, and operating an independent pharmacy is no easy feat. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a multi-location pharmacy owner, you know that there’s a lot to learn, a lot to do, and a lot of obstacles to get through in order to run a successful store.
You know that ownership comes with a learning, curve — but you have to start somewhere. That’s why when you’re just starting out, you should zoom in and focus on the essentials. Over time, you can expand outwards.
So what are the most important things you need to be doing to get your new pharmacy up and running?
To get the inside scoop on all things ownership, we talked to two of PioneerRx’s clinical pharmacists, Holden Graves and Dao Nguyen. Holden and Dao work with hundreds of independent pharmacists all across the country, including those that are new to the ownership game. Calling on their own professional experience and using their interactions with independent pharmacists everywhere, Holden and Dao have a few words of advice for pharmacies looking to get started quickly.
If you ask the experts, these are the 5 essentials for your new pharmacy:
By now, every innovative independent pharmacist sings the same tune: the future of pharmacy lies in clinical services. Every day, more and more pharmacists are moving away from the outdated fill-and-bill model and into offering services their patients need.
In the past 2 years, we’ve seen just how far pharmacists can go — and we’re not stopping now. That’s why, even when you’re just starting out, you should be thinking past prescriptions.
Holden Graves knows the power of clinical services: in caring for your community and improving your bottom line. That’s why he recommends new stores get in on the action, even when they’re getting their bearings.
Holden says, “It’s important to decide what services you will offer outside of dispensing. This needs to be fluid, but starting off with your services in mind can make it easier to pivot later on.”
Services will vary from pharmacy to pharmacy — depending on your interests, your resources, and of course, the needs of your patients. Holden has a few suggestions, though: delivery, vaccinations, medication therapy management (MTM), and point-of-care testing.
But it doesn’t matter how great your services are if no one knows about them.
Even in the beginning, it’s important to prioritize marketing. Take some time to think about how you plan to draw in patients, and more importantly, how you plan to make them stay.
As Holden explains, “A good marketing strategy is key for a successful business. This can propel your pharmacy forward years by targeting the appropriate patients and providers.”
The heart of marketing is knowing your audience, and using your resources to reach that audience via marketing materials. Marketing materials can include everything from:
In the digital age, online materials are more important than ever. As Holden says, “[Your marketing strategy] should include a website and social media profiles.” These platforms enable you to have an easy way to communicate with patients and share your services. If you’re just starting out, try using a simple website and a Facebook page.
For help on all things web-related, check out our blog on RxLocal, The Starter Kit for Pharmacy Website Design. And, for a helping hand with Facebook, read our blog, Social Media Best Practices: Facebook.
Whether you take to outside world or the online world, no matter how you decide to market, Holden has one piece of advice: “Focus on what makes you different and how you can help your patients.” That’s the best strategy of all.
Behind every successful pharmacy is a fully-stocked shelf, complete with all of the items your patients need. With so many bottles to arrange, labels to make, and products to pull, though, inventory isn’t aways easy. Before you get too far into things, you should come up with a comprehensive strategy to handle all your items — both now and later.
The importance of inventory can’t be stressed enough.
At PioneerRx, Dao Nguyen has worked with countless pharmacies to manage inventory. That’s why she believes that “Inventory is really the cornerstone for any business.”
A well-maintained inventory can keep your patients happy and your profits high, but an inventory in crisis can do just the opposite. As Dao says, “You need to be able to have what your patients need while, at the same time, not throwing away money on what’s not needed.”
How does inventory management play out in the day-to-day? Dao explains, “[Inventory] solutions ideally should be within the pharmacy’s software system,” which makes for easy access and easy use.
With features like Usage-Based Ordering, Automatic Reorder Points, Multiple Wholesale Ordering, and Multiple Inventory Ordering, PioneerRx has the most intuitive and elegant inventory solutions on the market. With these tools, you can stay ahead on your ordering and keep your shelves stocked — even when your store takes off.
Learn more about PioneerRx’s inventory solutions and how they can help you can manage all of your items.
If you want to optimize your inventory and improve your patient outcomes, you need to look into med sync. In 2021, 73% of pharmacies offered medication synchronization — meaning that there’s still plenty of room for your pharmacy to get in on the action.
With 21% of Americans taking 5 or more medications — and 10% taking 5 or more — there’s a growing need (and growing opportunity) for solutions that simplify medications and improve adherence. So why not start your pharmacy off with med sync?
Not only does the patient benefit from a streamlined medication regimen, but so does the pharmacy.
As Dao explains, “Med sync allows your pharmacy to better prioritize and allot resources,” which frees up valuable time, energy, and expenditure. In the process, Dao says, “Med sync ultimately opens up workflow [so you can] provide additional services and expand your business.”
If you start off with more time time and resources on your hands, you will ultimately be able to grow faster and go further. For more information on med sync and how to get your program started, watch this quick clip from the Catalyst Pharmacy Podcast:
The fifth, and final, essential item for new pharmacy owners also involves getting efficient early on — so that you can stay efficient in the hustle and bustle of everyday operations.
In this case, Holden recommends installing an interactive voice response (IVR) system. An IVR system is an automated phone service that answers calls, directs patients, and frees up your phone lines.
As Holden explains, “Setting up an IVR system can free up time for your staff to handle other responsibilities.” And it’s not only able to free up your team’s time, but also your patients’. Holden elaborates, “Some patients prefer to get their information from a phone call. This system can be used to provide your patients with 24/7 access to information.”
In order to keep the true spirit of independent pharmacy with new technology, Holden has a tip: “Just be sure it’s easy for the patient to still reach your staff so you can offer that personal touch.”
When it comes to picking an IVR system, Holden says, “Make sure that the IVR you choose can integrate with your pharmacy software system. Medtel integrates with many software systems, including PioneerRx.”
Click to learn more about Medtel, PioneerRx’s preferred IVR vendor, and free up valuable time to work on your pharmacy.