McKesson's new prototype design for independent pharmacies puts the emphasis on pharmacist counseling and wellness products and services.
Surveys show over and over that the reason consumers prefer independent pharmacies is that they like and trust their pharmacist. And that's the reason McKesson Corp.'s new pharmacy of the future has turned the traditional floor plan 180 degrees to put the pharmacist at the front of the store, not hidden in the back end.
Capitalizing on the consumer's perceptions and the overwhelming importance of the prescription department, McKesson has designed a 3,600-sq. ft. concept store that positions independents as health and wellness centers built around their biggest asset: the pharmacist.
"The emphasis is to make sure consumers know they are in a healthcare environment," said Tim Canning, McKesson VP-retail marketing. "As they walk in, they see there's a very clear path to the pharmacy, which juts into the front-end floor space. There's a tremendous opportunity for the pharmacist to help patients right from the front end. There's a semi-private counseling area at the counter and a private counseling area, where the pharmacist can also do health screenings."
Site visits and research showed that "the pharmacist's counsel is what truly differentiates independent pharmacies from competitors," said Scott Lucas, managing director for Interbrand, a brand management consultancy. "Leveraging the uniqueness of this experience, we helped McKesson create an identity for pharmacies that prioritizes the pharmacist-to-customer interaction."
The pharmacy has four focal points in the healthcare environment: diabetes care, remedies, home health care, and staying healthy. Product categories include cough and cold and gastrointestinal remedies, analgesics, and vitamins and supplements.
McKesson worked with Interbrand, its retail design subsidiary Design Forum, and its independent pharmacy customers to come up with the most efficient and attractive layout. But it's still a work in progress, said Canning
The heart of the back end of the pharmacy is new robotic technology to actually fill the prescriptions and improve work flow efficiency. There's also a compounding room for independents cashing in on that niche.
The concept store was designed for McKesson's 240 existing Health Mart franchisees and its Valu Rite network of about 4,000 independent pharmacies. Customers can opt to buy the whole prototype, including automation technology, or pick and choose among the concept's features. Depending on the configuration and features they want, independents can spend from $5,000 to $80,000, which does not include the cost of the new small-footprint robot.
The prototype debuted last month at McKesson's annual trade show attended by 1,000 pharmacists. Their reaction was "overwhelming," according to Canning. "They walked in and said, 'I want this,' or 'This is what we're all about.'"
One McKesson show attendee who is building a new pharmacy was so carried away by the concept, Canning said, "he bought the prototype right off the showroom floor."
Carol Ukens. Prototype pharmacy puts R.Ph. front and center.
Aug. 9, 2004;148:24.