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Creating greater value for today’s patients

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As it matures, the pharmacy profession must create a new and greater value proposition for patients, placing them at the centre of the healthcare system with pharmacists acting as the quarterbacks of their care.

By Talbot Boggs

The pharmacy industry and the number of licensed pharmacists have been increasing steadily since 2006, but that growth now is beginning to taper off as the industry matures, according to Dr. Roderick Slavcev, professor of Business and Entrepreneurship and assistant professor of Pharmaceutical Science at the University of Waterloo.

Increased competition, cost cutting, access to cheaper healthcare products and strategies and new technologies such as remote dispensing all are contributing to a maturing industry that requires a new patient-centred business model.

By 2036, one-quarter of the population of Canada will be 65 or older. Already more than 16 million Canadians live with some chronic conditions and more than 40 per cent of adults have at least one of the seven most common chronic conditions. This demographic reality will provide great opportunities for pharmacies to improve their level of patient care and their business in the future.

“With competitive forces and a commodity-driven market, pharmacy as an industry is not looking too attractive right now,” Slavcev said. “New approaches are needed that (provide) value to the patient through offering a full cycle of care. If pharmacists could learn to practise and develop their profession rather than focus on the bricks and mortar, the opportunities that await, particularly in light of the current need, are untapped and enormous.”

Pharmacies must alter their focus from the organization to the customer and move up the value chain from merely selling commodities and products to bundling them, then grouping offerings that solve a problem and ultimately offering customized solutions co-created with the individual patient.

Pharmacists are the most versatile professionals in healthcare, acting as essential interfaces with virtually all areas of the healthcare network and working in and with pharmaceutical manufacturing, academia, hospitals, communities, government, insurance, entrepreneurs and consultant services.

In the new model, community pharmacies need to act as holistic health centres. Pharmacists act as a sort of “health broker” providing scheduling and hiring of other healthcare providers, managing patient health needs, physical space and equipment requirements, providing medications and follow-ups, and acting as the patient’s emergency point of contact.

“Identify your patient-focused value proposition,” Slavcev concluded. “Are you selling an experience or a product? Are you co-creating value with your customers? Determine what your offering is doing for the customer.”