Doing things a bit differently is the hallmark of Bright’s Grove Family Pharmacy.
By Jack Kohane
“We’re less about retail and more of a destination centre for healthcare in our area,” says Kelly Haggerty, co-owner, with her husband, Paul Haggerty, of the Remedy’sRx location in Bright’s Grove, a bedroom community of Sarnia, Ont. (best known as the childhood home of Canadian golf pro Mike Weir).
“We designed this business to hone our goals to maintain a professional image that helps us gain the respect of other healthcare providers and lets us stand apart from our competitors.” There are 20 pharmacies, all within a few minutes’ drive, servicing a population of 70,000. A big box pharmacy retailer is about 50 metres away from the Haggertys’ entrance. The fight for customers in this region is fierce.
Opening their 3,000 sq. ft. drugstore in 2009, the husband-and-wife pharmacist team brought a business plan based on years of experience. Though they do offer a traditional frontshop, all categories must feature a healthcare component; no cosmetics, grocery, or stationery departments here. “We focus on the core business of healthcare, integrating many specialty services into our service model,” nods Kelly. Some those services include conducting clinics and workshops specializing in anticoagulation, women’s health, flu shots, RN injection, and pre-travel health consulting and immunizations.
The Haggertys have applied the same methodical process of development to each new program they’ve introduced.
“A team approach makes it happen,” says Paul. “We identify gaps in services or access to services and then develop a professional, convenient way to deliver those services. We believe that being first to market in new services is key, but equally important is having the expertise, knowledge, and ability to deliver these new services in a highly professional setting.”
Paul runs the store’s dispensary. Kelly takes a shift, but is also freed up as required to leading the store’s INR program, expanding at-home services, and cementing relationships with local physicians and other healthcare providers.
Early on, Paul decided to obtain injection certification. “That meant we were one of only five stores in our region to offer pharmacist administered flu shots,” he points out. His enthusiasm and success (doses he administered this flu season surpass last year’s total of 700) prompted Kelly to obtain her certification this time around, and together they’re well on the way to being the community’s go-to vaccination venue.
As more people chose the pharmacy for their vaccinations, they also peppered the couple with requests to add pre-travel health and vaccinations. The interest sparked Kelly to become heavily involved in education in this field, attending conferences and dedicating hours to pursue independent learning. She now offers a pre-travel health clinic where she networks with local physicians to properly prepare patients for international travel.
“The only other travel clinic, run through our local health unit, now refers patients to us daily as they are generally booked one to two months in advance,” she explains. “As with anticoagulation, I spent time meeting with the health unit staff, so they would see me as a trusted collaborator. This relationship now is a driving force behind the success of our program.”
The Haggertys believe that education and planning are crucial for pharmacists expanding their services, and they should include a patient-friendly physical layout and pharmacy design. “You need professional spaces in order to fully implement professional services,” Kelly urges, pointing out that this Remedy’s Rx store includes in three professional counseling and clinic rooms, a comfortable waiting area with coffee and tea, a full children’s area, wide uncluttered aisles, and other features to support wheelchairs and strollers. “We want ‘family pharmacy’ to be more than just a name, but a culture,” she insists.
Always seeking ways to distinguish their pharmacy, this team aims high, to be first to market with a service to gain a strategic advantage. “And we are proof that if you can deliver the service in a different way that benefits your patients and their health, they will embrace it,” nods Paul. “Innovation is the key to success.”
Networking with physicians
- Invest time in meeting local physicians face-to-face. Opportunities include office visits or lunch-and-learns.
- Consider producing marketing materials that target physicians rather than your clients. It’s important the physicians know how your services will help them in their practice.
- Be prepared for pushback. Not all physicians will embrace your services.
Tips for clinics and flu clinics
- Don’t limit yourself to deliver a service because someone else is doing it. Look for a gap in the market and work it into your business plan.
- Involve your staff. Everyone should have set roles and responsibilities.
- Designate a professional space for the service. Keep it well stocked and ready to be used at all times.
- Develop procedures that work for your business and be consistent when you implement them.
Marketing to the public
- Utilize multiple forms of media: radio, print, road signs, etc.
- Ensure that your staff are adequately trained to answer questions and/or provide support for the new service.
- Consider brochures directed to consumers which detail your services.
- Consider doing community presentations to interested audiences.