Patient-centered pharmacy pays dividends


Help patients find solutions to challenges arising from their medical issues, and they'll be back

Don’t waste time trying to sell patients on things they don’t want or need. Help them learn about solutions and sell those instead. That’s the message delivered by pharmacy consultant Daniel Benamoz, RPh, to a crowd of pharmacists about the keys to surviving and thriving.

Dan BenamozWhen you try to sell an unnecessary product to a customer, he said, “you’re doing something to them. But when you’re helping people, you’re doing something for them. There’s a big difference.”

Benamoz, founder of Pharmacy Development Services, spoke at the recent McKesson ideaShare conference in San Diego. He advised independent pharmacists to focus on identifying the pharmaceutical needs of patients on the basis of their current health status.

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Take the time to talk

“Fifty percent of people will accept your recommendation if you give it to them,” he said. “Is it worth it to spend 10 minutes of a pharmacist’s time with a patient to sell something that’s worth $10, like calcium? Yes, it’s 10 minutes for $10, but this is something they’ll get every month. You’ll get $10 times 12 - $120 - for 10 minutes’ work.”

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He cited the example of a customer who was picking up a Tylenol prescription for his wife, who’d had hemorrhoid surgery. Benamoz told the customer about the soothing power of sitz baths and Tucks hemorrhoid pads, and he mentioned that stool softeners can help with post-surgical constipation.

“Do you think he walked out of there feeling like he got sold? Or did he feel appreciative?” The answer: “He was so grateful. That’s how you can enhance your image.”

Another example: According to Benamoz, 25% of metformin users experience diarrhea. Simply asking patients whether they’re experiencing digestive troubles can turn up those who may do better on a prescription metformin topical gel. “It’s all about asking the right questions,” he said, and spotting opportunities to help patients and make more money.


Target patient needs

Nicolette Mathey, PharmD, a consultant who works with Benamoz, said another strategy is to target patients who are on Fosamax and might appreciate being able to take fewer doses with generic Boniva.

“You’re calling them before med synch to say, ‘We have a new generic that you take just once a month and is covered by your insurance. Would you like me to call your doctor and get that switched?’ You can measure your profitability on that one thing, that one simple change.”

In other medical areas, pharmacist recommendations can lead to sales of OTC products such as probiotics and magnesium, insoluble fiber, chromium, vitamin D, and cinnamon supplements. Diabetics may be receptive to information about mobility aides, diabetic socks and shoes, injection supplies, and more.

Pharmacies can reap dividends, Benamoz said, by striking deals with doctors’ offices on DME test strips. A cash market in the test strips is developing because insurance hassles are pushing physicians to switch in order to avoid the paperwork. The good news: Pharmacies can create Diabetic Clubs that offer free strips under certain rules and conditions, providing invaluable connections and exposing patients to the pharmacies. 

“How many doctors would love to not have to deal with paperwork for these strips?” Benamoz asks. “Give them for free, and you’re ahead of the game.”


Stay in touch

There are other ways to improve sales and your pharmacy’s image. Benamoz recommends reaching out to former customers. “Call them up and say, ‘Is there anything I can do to earn your business back?’ How many of you have been called by the owner of a business asking to have the opportunity to earn your business back?”

In the big picture, Benamoz said, pharmacists have to focus on reaching out.

“We no longer wait for the business to come to us. We’re going to create opportunities, mine our databases and know what questions to ask,” he said. “People don’t buy products and they don’t buy services. They buy solutions to problems. If you want to make money, you have to learn how to solve more problems, to be seen as the problem-solver and the people-pleaser.”

Randy Dotingais a medical writer in San Diego, Calif.

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