Customers, more than ever, have to be the centre of pharmacists’ business strategy.
By Talbot Boggs
“Customers today are in charge like never before,” Elisa Swern, retail strategy leader at PwC, told a Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada meeting recently. “They’re knowledgeable, tech-savvy, value-focused, and demanding. They know what they want, and they want it now. They’re adept at researching products and comparing prices and know how to uncover great deals in-store or online. To succeed in tomorrow’s retail market, a holistic strategy is required that we are calling ‘Total Retail.’”
Total retail requires a strategic focus that influences customers through engagement and dialogue on their terms, presenting products as customer solutions, aligning the multiplicity of digital, mobile and bricks and mortar channels to the shopping journey and creating a customer-focused, cost-effective operating model.
Initiatives in Canada, the United States and overseas are creating new opportunities for pharmacists and pharmacies in primary healthcare, chronic disease management and senior care.
The Alberta Pharmacy Services Framework – a join initiative of the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association and Government of Alberta to expand pharmacists’ role in advancing the health of patients in the province – is shifting pharmacy from a transaction- to patient-outcome model. Pharmacists are becoming agents of change and are being presented with opportunities to collaborate with other healthcare providers and community organizations to create multi-disciplinary teams and provide a more integrated circle of care for patients.
“These transformations create a lot of opportunities as well as a number of questions that pharmacists will have to ask themselves,” said Fred Horne, principal of Horne and Associates and former Health Minister of Alberta. “What are the unique value propositions they bring to this new model? Will they entertain shared compensation models? How will they resolve conflicting interests between their business and professional domains, and to what extent are they willing to invest in the digital infrastructure necessary to support these transformations?”
Governments and other stakeholders will have to see demonstrable results before they make the necessary financial, technological and human investments to create and support this new model. “There have to be measurable criteria in areas like admissions to hospitals, treatment of chronic diseases and medication adherence to prove outcomes,” Horne said. “Pharmacy needs to standardize operations across the country and develop a patient-outcome strategy that it can take to government.”
Pharmacies in the United States are beginning to embrace pay for performance models that essentially reward stores and/or organizations which meet and exceed core measurement standards in areas such as diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol care and management.
“More than seven million Americans will receive insurance coverage through pay for performance or similar incentive programs in 2016,” said Elliott Sogol, vice president professional relations with Pharmacy Quality Solutions in Durham, NC. “It’s up to pharmacy to create the model and solutions and bring them forward.”
That sentiment was echoed by Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long Term Care. Pharmacists’ expertise has not been fully used in the past – an “unacceptable” situation, he said – but they have stepped up to the mark and helped to make the province’s flu immunization program a great success, administering more than 9,000 shots in 2,400 pharmacies across the province.
“The success of the flu immunization program has been extremely important in proving the level of trust that the public has in our pharmacists and the sustainability of moving to a system of billing for services,” Hoskins said. “Anxiety from physicians and other groups has been unfounded. I would urge you to take this success and bring forward recommendations to move beyond flu and travel into other vaccinations and other areas of expanded scope of practice.”