Successful retailers long ago realized it is faster and cheaper to resell and upsell a repeat customer than to acquire a new one. And in pharmacy, where consumers and patients can choose from big box, chain, mail order, online, and community retailers, improving the customer experience is key to repeat business.
“The whole basis of our business is to lighten our customer’s life, even by five minutes,” says Cliff Holt, PharmD, president of Hurricane Family Pharmacy in Hurricane, UT.
One of the surest ways to lighten customers’ lives is to make it easier to communicate. Amazon and other major retailers have gotten customers accustomed to using mobile applications on smartphones and tablets. Healthcare has been slower to adopt mobile applications, in part because of privacy concerns and HIPAA regulations
“Mobile apps, mobile refills, and text messaging are a very strong consumer preference,” says Kurt Proctor, RPh, PhD, NCPA senior vice president of Strategic Initiatives and president of the NCPA Innovation Center. “We see that chains are somewhat ahead of some independent pharmacies. In today’s pharmacy marketplace, customer convenience can make a huge difference.”
For Beverly Schafer, RPh, customer convenience for her Ketterman’s Pharmacy in Seattle, WA, includes a full line of immunizations and travel advice. Ketterman’s was the first pharmacy in the country to offer flu shots, she says, and the first to provide routine vaccine administration by pharmacists. The pharmacy administers 20 to 30 vaccines daily.
Vaccinations filled the gap for Ketterman’s Pharmacy when Schafer decided a large contract was unacceptable. “Without that low-ball contract,” Schafer says, “we had the time to come up with ways to allow these families to keep using our store even if we weren’t filling their prescriptions.”
Schafer notes that Washington state gives pharmacists broad scope to prescribe and administer vaccines, but she adds that pharmacists in other states can set up collaborative practice agreements with prescribers as needed. Almost any pharmacy can boost vaccination rates by 10% or more simply by checking current patients for tetanus boosters, shingles, pneumonia, flu, and other common vaccines.
Providing travel advice is a natural outgrowth of serving patients who might need measles, typhoid, cholera, Japanese encephalitis, and other vaccines for work, school, vacation, and other travel. The need is there, she says, and it takes little more than letting patients know the pharmacy can provide the vaccinations.
Schafer notes that the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy and APhA have solid online modules that help with creating and running a pharmacy-based travel clinic. The CDC Health Information for International Travel, better known as the Yellow Book, updates health advice and precautions yearly.
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