Mom and Pop is the Future of Pharmacy

July 24, 2018

How independent community pharmacies can stand out from the crowd and find success.

The rise of big box stores and e-commerce is a boost for independent community pharmacy. That’s the prediction from marketing researcher Michael Dart, who focuses on how retailers can tap into changing demographics and consumer expectations to boost business.

“When people can buy anywhere, where they buy becomes incredibly important to them,” Dart said during a keynote presentation at ThoughtSpot 2018, Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s annual trade show. “Increasingly, consumers want local. They want a personal, positive experience with someone who cares about them as an individual. As an independent pharmacy, you have all that, and the big boxes and online sellers don’t. Independent pharmacies have an incredible future.”

Good Neighbor Pharmacy helps members exploit those local advantages. Operational and organizational changes put the local pharmacy brand front and center with Good Neighbor Pharmacy as the support team.

“As the industry evolves, both pharmacy and retail, our customers have a huge opportunity to leverage their independence and become stand-out, one-of-a kind destinations,” says Jennifer Zilka, group vice president of Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s Field Programs and Services. “That’s the personalized care advantage.”

For Good Neighbor Pharmacy, personalized care means looking at the whole patient, not just the prescription. Customers buy prescriptions. Patients expect their pharmacist to help them minimize sickness and optimize wellness-prescriptions are just one element of care.

“It’s talking to that patient about their concerns, other prescriptions they might be taking, helping them manage their weight, clinical interactions, focusing on the whole person and not just that one script,” Zilka continues. “That’s the key to personalized care.”

Independent community pharmacists already know about caring for the whole patient. AmerisourceBergen is learning. The wholesaler spent nearly two years listening to its pharmacy customers and adjusting the Good Neighbor Pharmacy program in response. The idea is to help pharmacists build on their own strengths rather than telling them how to run their pharmacy.

“Take the current iteration of our ABC Order platform,” suggests Andy Porto, senior vice president of Community & Specialty Pharmacy Field Sales at AmerisourceBergen. “Pharmacists told us that our prior systems had challenges, so we started creating a new system. We got a group of pharmacists together to create the ABC Order they would want to use. It’s an ordering platform created by retail pharmacists for retail pharmacists. We apply the same thinking to our other solutions.”

In addition to changing guidelines to emphasize the store brand, Good Neighbor Pharmacy has reorganized its pharmacy services into four value centers: in-store experience, marketing, managed care, and business performance.

The in-store experience is how the retail customer and patient experience the pharmacy, from driving into the parking lot or walking in the door through the time they leave. How employees act with each other and with patients is part of the experience.

Marketing is all about promoting the pharmacy and its services through the most appropriate channels. In 2018, that means a growing focus on digital.

“Every independent should be on Google, Facebook, and other digital channels,” Zilka says. “Everybody is getting information from social media whether they are preteens or over 65. We can help owners navigate through the digital era and get them comfortable. It’s a very tangible shift in marketing and one where we can very accurately measure the results.”

Managed care is focused on negotiations with payers and pharmacy benefit managers and all the ancillary services such as claims reconciliation.

Business performance is the business side of pharmacy.

“Pharmacists are busy taking care of patients, that’s why they went to pharmacy school,” Zilka says. “They are also running multimillion dollar businesses. We can help them with inventory, HR, front end, protecting their profitability. Our goal is to be a second set of eyes. We focus on the business so they can focus on the patient.”