Presenters at a NCPA 2023 session highlighted the importance of overcoming hesitations to implement new clinical services and taking an employee-centric approach in doing so.
The secret to successfully launching new clinical services at the independent community pharmacy level may be empowering pharmacy staff, according to a session presented at the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) 2023 Annual Convention and Expo.1
Clinical services, such as immunizations, point of care testing, medication therapy management, and more, fashion new pathways for independent community pharmacies to connect with patients and generate revenue. For pharmacy staff members who are already overworked and stretched too thin, however, implementing new clinical services that invite a wave of change to pharmacy settings can seem like a massive undertaking.
Together, Tiffany Capps, CPhT, operations manager at Galloway-Sands Pharmacy and CPESN Beacon, and Christine Cline-Dahlman, CPhT-Adv, president of PharmTechFoward, LLC, and CPESN USA Program Coordinator, demystified the change management process by outlining 4 critical steps and emphasizing the crucial part pharmacy staff play in achieving success.
Understanding The Change
To successfully implement a new clinical service, pharmacy owners must first choose and prioritize a change to make. Address and challenge any hesitations associated with making the change with questions such as, “Is it really not possible, or does it just seem that way?” Eliminating these excuses will lay the groundwork for success.
Then, understand the effects the change will have on current pharmacy operations. Although easy to be distracted by the dazzle of a new business venture, pharmacy owners must first acknowledge whether they have the proper time and resources to support and sustain new clinical services. Further, they must consider how the change will affect the workloads and shape the responsibilities of staff members.
“Identify what resources you do have, identify the resources you want to have, and then you can begin to take your staff and help move them in that direction,” Cline-Dahlman explained.
Planning the Change
Once the impact of the change is understood, pharmacy owners must create a well-measured plan with actionable steps and goals to execute it. During this step, communication is key; pharmacy owners must engage in conversation with each staff member about their individual involvement in the plan. Rather than assigning employees to preconceived roles based on their titles or assumed interests, owners should spark dialogue about skill sets, aspirations, and career trajectories to ensure employees fit comfortably into the framework of the new clinical service. Pairing this dialogue further with behaviors that foster employee growth has the potential to transform workplace culture altogether, creating a more productive and positive space.
“If you do have a technician that wants to start immunizing, give them the resources, pay for those classes that they need to take, invest in your staff, and then teach them the soft skills and hard skills that are necessary [for immunization],” said Capps.
It is possible that employees may express resistance toward the proposal of a new clinical service. In an instance like this, presenters explained, owners must make them feel heard. Listen to why they’re hesitant to accept the new change, accept feedback, and be open to compromise. By inviting employee input in the planning process and showcasing the value of their contributions, pharmacy owners can elevate their staff.
Implementing the Change
Establishing a well-defined standard operating procedure (SOP) is critical for the successful launch of a new clinical service: it acts as a roadmap for employees to navigate change without relying on a pharmacy owner. It tells employees what needs to get done, how it needs to get done, and who needs to do it, and in doing so, saves time and resources spent on training. Pharmacy owners should ensure that a SOP is established before implementing any change and encourage employees to refer to it often as the change comes to fruition.
Capps and Cline-Dahlman also stressed the importance of establishing an appointment-based model for any new services implemented, like that associated with administering COVID-19 vaccines in the throes of the pandemic, to make services more predictable. By incorporating an appointment-based model, pharmacy owners further take the guesswork out of newly implemented clinical services by cluing employees in on the volume of patients expected to be received, the extent of service each patient requires, which employees must be on-call to administer the service, and more.
Communicating the Change
Communicating about newly implemented clinical services with internal employees is critical, but communicating about them to external stakeholders is equally important. The best practices of doing so, Capps and Cline-Dahlman explained, include talking to key players who will best help funnel patients to your practice, like providers in the area, and marketing services to patients through established pathways of communication, like through social media or email lists. Owners should communicate with staff about the plan’s successes, limitations, and key performance indicators, so that they remain knowledgeable about changes and can further educate external stakeholders, as well.
If pharmacy owners are met with less than successful outcomes despite following the framework outlined and empowering their employees, presenters recommended that they try again.
“If you set a goal and you monitor your progress, [and] you’re not where you thought you were going to be two months from now, that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up and give up, just readjust your plan…And then communicate change again; make it clear and relevant,” Capps concluded.