Leaders in Pharmacy, including this independently written article, is supported by Pfizer Canada Inc.
Demonstrating value and propelling the profession forward
By donalee Moulton
Photography by Adam Blasberg
The 14 pharmacists you will read about here are making their mark on the profession of pharmacy. They are also marking a milestone. This year is the fifth anniversary of the “Leaders in Pharmacy” initiative. Since 2013, more than 65 influential and insightful individuals have come together to explore the changing role of pharmacy. They have shared best practices and paved the way for even stronger pharmacist leadership in this country.
The Leaders in Pharmacy initiative, sponsored by Pfizer Canada Inc., has resonated with pharmacists and with the profession as a whole. The leaders profiled over the last five years have told us that in a climate of constant and substantive change, learning from and connecting with each other is paramount.
Support is also critical—and it is at the heart of Pfizer Canada’s continued commitment to the Leaders in Pharmacy program. “Showcasing the work, the ideals and the knowledge of individuals propelling the pharmacy profession forward in support of their patients is essential,” says Gordon Cooper, Pfizer’s director of commercial channels. “It speaks to us all.”
Each year the Leaders in Pharmacy program has centred on a vital and timely theme. The inaugural launch looked at mentorship and gender-balanced leadership. This was followed by an exploration of effective advocacy and then strong partnerships in changing times. Last year, the leaders addressed issues of customer loyalty and enhanced adherence. These themes are still relevant, and our pharmacy leaders continue to focus their efforts on improving the profession and its delivery of services in these areas.
This year’s Leaders in Pharmacy spoke with us about a critical issue for the profession and for them as individuals: showing the value pharmacists bring to the health system. There was unanimous agreement that this is essential for the continued evolution of the profession. As one leader noted, “Pharmacy needs to realize if it doesn’t provide value to the healthcare system as a profession, it will be relegated to dispensing. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there is a much bigger world out there.”
Patients, of course, are at the centre of the healthcare system. That is pharmacy’s greatest value, says Cooper. “As a trusted and accessible healthcare provider, pharmacists can improve patient health outcomes effectively and efficiently. They are key players to enhancing healthcare in Canada.”
Highlighting the profession’s value to the healthcare system has been a longstanding need, adds Cooper. “We want to be a partner of choice in demonstrating this value—and helping to highlight how pharmacists can do even more for healthcare in this country.”
There is more to be done. As one leader noted, “At times we fall short of contributing our full value to the system. We need to get out of our comfort zone. We have to undertake a continuous quality improvement for ourselves, as well as our profession.”
The 14 Leaders in Pharmacy you will meet discuss how the profession is enhancing healthcare at both the highest and the most personal levels. There are actions that pharmacists take on a daily basis that improve health outcomes one patient at a time. Collectively, their impact is changing healthcare for the better at all levels: locally, provincially and nationally.
Gayle Romanetz is Loblaw Companies Limited’s senior director of pharmacy operations. Ensuring customers have a great experience is integral to her job. She spoke with Pharmacy Business about how a pharmacy team can stand out from the crowd – and stand out in their patients’ minds.
You have talked about striving to create an innovative experience for customers. Tell us why this is so important, and how you go about creating such an experience.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we confuse invention with innovation. Invention is a thing, whereas innovation is synonymous with continuous improvement. The implementation of innovative ideas keeps things fresh; it drives colleague and customer engagement while appealing to a new patient base. If you want to be an innovator, you have to think like one and that means resisting the status quo; start small and build upon the wins one at a time. No one expects you to be the next Thomas Edison!
Truly helping people to manage their health demonstrates value and builds loyalty. How does Loblaw achieve this goal? What would you recommend pharmacists do to enhance their value to customers?
Today’s customer wants more than a prescription filled with medication by a generic pharmacist; they are looking for a partnership and holistic approach to health. Challenge your team to take some risks and go beyond medication management.
Earlier this year we launched Wellness kiosks in our Loblaw stores which allow our patients to track their blood pressure, body mass index and more. By connecting this information to our pharmacies, we can better assist by providing our patients with a whole view of their health and help them to make positive changes.
You mentioned that one of your goals is to create a great experience for customers. What constitutes a great experience? How do you know when you have succeeded in doing this?
A great experience is just that; it doesn’t have to be complicated. You leave feeling valued and in our profession, it goes even deeper. A customer needs to know that their health matters.
I see hundreds of stories each week from customers who provide feedback about how the pharmacy teams help them. Sometimes the story is lifesaving, however, most days we hear from people who sincerely appreciate how their pharmacist helped them navigate a complicated healthcare system.
How can pharmacists enhance compliance? Are there essential ingredients to success?
Compliance is top of mind for pharmacists and we need to keep things simple amid today’s fast- paced technology and the need to satisfy busy lifestyles. With day-to-day demands getting in the way, it’s not surprising many people accidentally miss a dose or delay refilling a prescription.
Digital tools are a convenient solution that allows customers to access their drug profile, medication information, and order refills from their computer or smartphone anywhere, anytime.
Creating touchpoints with customers is vital. How can pharmacies of all sizes do this?
The customer experience starts anywhere your pharmacy can be seen through a website, advertisement, in-store marketing or in person. Map out your workflow and what touchpoints will have the most value always considering the customer’s perspective. The size, format, and value proposition of your store will drive your workflow; it is not one size fits all. The one constant and “do no wrong” is to develop a personal connection with your customer, and that always starts and ends with a name.
Today’s customer wants more than a prescription filled with medication by a generic pharmacist; they are looking for a partnership and holistic approach to health.
Photo By Brandon Gray
Leaders in Pharmacy, including this independently written article, is supported by Pfizer Canada Inc. (plus LOGO)
Canada’s next generation of pharmacists is learning about the profession and the business of pharmacy. That requires understanding how to build customer loyalty and enhance adherence. David Edwards, Hallman Director at the School of Pharmacy and Associate Dean with the Faculty of Science at University of Waterloo, spoke with Pharmacy Business about preparing students to provide the service their patients need – and expect.
Customer loyalty leads to better health outcomes and better business. What do you say to students about this?
Building patient loyalty is a natural follow-on from providing them with the service they want to receive. Pharmacists, and pharmacists in training, see themselves as healthcare providers. We want people to come back because they value our professional services. That builds deep loyalty. It is very different from waiving fees or putting a product on sale, which is short term. The best way to build long-term
relationships with patients is by delivering the advice and medication management services that our patients need.
What is essential for students to grasp about customer loyalty so they can start to build strong relationships as soon as they are in practice?
Students realize now more than ever the importance of having strong relationships
with patients. Expanded scope of practice is business as usual for today’s graduates and they are ready to hit the ground running upon graduation. At Waterloo, the co-op program enables students to become actively involved in providing services during their education. They get to see what works and what doesn’t. Then they share these experiences with classmates, which is a powerful learning tool.
Equally vital is adherence. How are students trained to ensure adherence? Is it ingrained that this is part of their role as pharmacists?
Techniques, such as motivational interviewing and health coaching , happen at a classroom level and our students get to apply what they have learned during co-op placements and clinical rotations. One of the biggest challenges for pharmacists is figuring out how to manage workflow in order to find time to interact with patients and find out why a patient is not adherent. We need to address the root cause. I’m very excited about the appointment-based model. When patients just show up randomly, you have to be lucky to have the time to meet with them. All other health professions book appointments with patients and the ABM is long overdue in pharmacy. It’s really the only way to effectively integrate comprehensive medication management with the dispensing role.
How do you help to instill a patient-centred philosophy in the pharmacists of tomorrow?
That has always been a key component of pharmacy education and will continue to be. Providing the best possible service is the best way to earn the trust of patients. Patients can go elsewhere, and students understand that in today’s competitive market they must go above and beyond to keep patients and to help them optimize health outcomes.
Pharmacy schools are training pharmacists to take on new roles. Are improving adherence and building customer loyalty central to those new roles?
Patients see pharmacists up to eight times more often than they see their physician. That is a tremendous opportunity to build a long-term relationship. We are also encouraging charging for professional services. Pharmacists shouldn’t be afraid to ask patients to pay out of pocket. Expanded scope of practice gives us so many more opportunities but not all of these services are adequately funded by governments or other payors.
By Donalee Moulton
Donnie Edwards co-owns Boggio & Edwards IDA, a specialty compounding pharmacy in Ridgeway, Ont., and is a clinical coordinator at the University of Waterloo. He spoke with Pharmacy Business about making exceptional service a daily experience for customers.
How did you build a customer-service culture in your four stores? And how do you maintain it?
We started by looking at what other businesses in various industries were doing. The company that stood out was Disney. Customer service is their number one priority and so is ours. Their staff training is second to none, and we want to duplicate that. Staff need to put themselves in the patient’s shoes. It’s about how people would like to be treated and how they define great service. It’s not always about process and policies. We triage with consideration and understanding for those who require service first.
We use repeat needs assessments and customer surveys to monitor customer satisfaction, the results of which help to empower staff and ecourage effective employee training. Customer service is part of our culture. It’s the first item on our agenda at every staff meeting, and is included in appraisals. We encourage and reinforce the importance of service by rewarding staff for positive customer feedback. Every time an employee’s name is mentioned by a customer, that employee’s name is entered into an annual draw. Winners get to spend a long weekend at my cottage and are paid as if they were at work.
We understand you have a Random Acts of Kindness Day. Could you tell us more about this?
On Random Act of Kindness Day every customer who makes a purchase receives a 25% discount. We do not advertise this as the point is to encourage our patrons to pay it forward. It’s about inspiring people. It’s amazing when you see people’s faces light up because someone has done something nice.
How do you personally build a relationship with your customers?
We believe in leading by example. Our goal is to treat clients in a manner they would appreciate and emulate. Relationship-building is key to build strong ties that encourage the customer to feel valued as a friend and family member. For instance, if a patient has been diagnosed with cancer, I offer them my home and cell numbers to use at any hour. They’re shell shocked from the diagnosis, so they are relieved knowing they have someone to turn to. As a result, my staff and I often receive letters of appreciation that speak to the impact we are making and give us pride in our work. If your priority is to take care of your patients, the business will take care of itself.
What do you do to promote adherence?
Having a bond with a patient improves adherence. Education and trust are the key. Routine follow-up to ensure patients are managing their medications and adhering well to therapy is a necessity. The result of these calls is often one of surprise and extreme gratitude.
How important is customer loyalty?
It is essential. Great customer service is only as good as your staff. You need to be on your A game all the time, and this is what builds loyalty. We want to make sure our customers know we will address their concerns in a timely manner. Our goal is to have our customers be happy each and every time they leave our store.
Leaders in Pharmacy, including this independently written article, is supported by Pfizer Canada.
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