Pharmacy U

How can pharmacists move to more patient-focused business model?


Pharmacies must move to a patient-focused business model in which they empathize with their customers and position themselves as providers of healthcare solutions rather than mere sellers of products and services.

By Talbot Boggs

Photography by Brandon Gray

“Sales is about demonstrating how your services address the patient’s needs, while being patient-centred is doing what addresses the patient’s needs,” Mike Boivin, president of CommPharm Consulting, told delegates at the fifth annual Pharmacy U conference in Toronto. “There’s a big difference between the two. Pharmacists need to change the perception patients have of them and maximize the care they provide. This will be transformational for all aspects of your business.”

Howe Sound Pharmacy in British Columbia has implemented a pharmacist-at-intake medication management and prescribing system which has proved very successful in helping pharmacists identify drug therapy and other problems and improve the level of patient communication and care.

“It gives us better control, more contact with the patient and ultimately leads to better outcomes,” Christopher Juozaitis, co-founder and clinical director of AdhereRx Inc. and co-owner of Howe Sound Pharmacy, said during a luncheon panel discussion. “It takes time and effort to train staff and integrate such a system into your workflow, but it’s very rewarding to see how you can help people solve their problems and actually make a difference in their lives. Pharmacists simply have to jump on the bandwagon and make the shift to this new model.”

Drug non-adherence is a huge problem that costs the healthcare system and individual pharmacies millions of dollars each year. Half of patients in Canada are non-adherent, but tools are now available to help pharmacists identify the main causes of non-adherence, such as forgetfulness, side effects and costs, and help them develop solutions.

“The point of care for medication adherence is at the community pharmacy, not at the doctor’s office or even at the hospital,” said Jim Danahy, founder of CustomerLAB and leader of the Medication Adherence Collaboration. ”Adherence should be every community pharmacy’s highest priority to improve both public health and business viability. The first law of healthcare is that patient care is greater than, and leads to, commerce (good business).”

The sold-out conference was fully CCCCEP-accredited and featured presentations, workshops and panel discussions on a diverse range of clinical and business topics such as how to maximize expanded scope of practice services, legal and financial considerations for pharmacy owners, improving leadership skills, developing patient care services, getting better outcomes for type 2 diabetes patients, and integrating a travel medicine practice into your pharmacy.

“The topics are very good, well timed and really pertinent to what is happening in pharmacy today from both a business and clinical perspective,” said Alicia Chin, manager of program development, pharmacy services for the more than 2,000 McKesson pharmacies in Canada. “It’s a great opportunity to get together with your peers in the industry and share experiences and best practices in a congenial, learning environment.”

As the population ages and people develop more chronic diseases, the demand for pharmacy-based patient care services will not go away. Pharmacies need to invest in robotic dispensing and other technologies and thoroughly analyze their customer base and what their customers’ needs are and then develop their service offerings to meet those needs.

“Listen to your clients, don’t just hear them,” advised Dr. Alan Low, a clinical associate professor with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia. “Patients can’t tell you what they want from you – they don’t know what you can do for them. Recognize what patients value – they are telling you but you just don’t know it – and remember that it’s too difficult to be everything to everybody, so choose what has the most mutual benefit. Patient care service is patient-centred, pharmacist-delivered, and intended to improve health outcomes.”