Between well-known chain stores, mom-and-pop community pharmacies, and the ever-expanding world of online pharmacies, patients have more pharmacy choices than ever. But how do patients choose where they will fill their prescription? What makes one business more likely to attract and retain customers than another?
Obviously there are a lot of elements at play, and not all of them are things that pharmacy owners can control. But understanding what patients want is essential in differentiating your business and thriving in the complex healthcare landscape.
What Patients Want
Thanks to the internet, patients have a wealth of resources to help them select a pharmacy. From Consumer Reports to Wikihow, online guides counsel patients to consider a store’s location and hours, their prices and inventory, wait-times and discounts, and whether the store offers preventative care.
Patients are genuinely interested in the latter. According to the J.D. Power 2020 US Pharmacy study, patients are are willing to try – and spend more on – health and wellness services at their pharmacy. When they do, they tend to experience greater customer satisfaction.
Why might that be? In short, patients want two things out of their pharmacy experience. Number one: convenience. Patients want their pharmacy experience to be simple, streamlined, and stress-free. Health and wellness services can increase a pharmacy’s convenience quotient – after all, it’s pretty handy to have one trustworthy location for prescriptions, OTC products, flu shots, and COVID-19 tests.
The second thing patients want: caring customer service. Health and wellness services tick that box, too. Pharmacists are already considered highly honest and ethical [according to Gallup polls] (https://news.gallup.com/poll/274673/nurses-continue-rate-highest-honesty-ethics.aspx), so patients are willing to trust them with a diabetes screening or a vaccine.
But health and wellness may not be in the cards for every pharmacy. Those services present a lot of challenges: extra staff must be hired, stores may need to remodel to include exam rooms or private counseling areas, and pharmacists and techs have to pursue additional training.
Nevertheless, there are still many ways pharmacies can differentiate themselves in the areas of convenience and customer service. Let’s take a look.
How to Level Up: Convenience
In general, patients don’t want to wait days for their medication. The sooner they can get their prescription, the happier they will be. Pharmacies can’t magically fill prescriptions in an instant, but they can streamline a patient’s experience in several ways. Improved inventory management and organization can speed up dispensing, and taking the time to devise efficient workflows can cut down on bottlenecks.
Consider additional services like curbside pickup or delivery, too. In general, Americans have grown used to getting their purchases very quickly, partly thanks to Amazon’s 2-day shipping. Offering same-day or on-demand delivery ensures that patients get their medications without even leaving the house. That’s a key element right now, with rates of COVID-19 still high across the country. It also helps your store remain competitive with digital and E-commerce pharmacies.
How to Level Up: Customer Service
Pharmacy work isn’t easy. It requires constant attention to detail and endless multitasking, and sometimes customer service isn’t a primary focus. But good customer service is a major way to differentiate your business.
Even on the best of days it can be difficult to make every patient feel welcome and cared for, especially if they are under stress. Patients may be upset about their diagnosis, confused by their prescribed therapy, angry about their copay, or just want someone to listen to their concerns. Make sure staffing is adequate to allow pharmacists to conduct patient consultations without rushing through them.
Go to the next level by adding additional services that show you are invested in your patients’ care. Adherence packaging is particularly useful for older patients who may struggle with traditional pill bottles, but it’s also popular with younger patients who don’t want to fuss with separating their medications into pill boxes. Prescription compounding is more challenging to add to your pharmacy services, but can turn a store into a destination for many patients. It’s also a high margin service that patients often pay for out of pocket, which can help your business stay financially stable.
In short, patients want convenience and great customer care. Focusing on those needs will differentiate your store from the competition and ultimately benefit the profit side of your pharmacy business. For example, investing in delivery can improve your patients’ drug adherence, but can also reduce your return-to-stock (RTS) rates. By reducing RTS, inventory management becomes easier and less time-consuming.