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What to Do About the New York Times Article on Chain Pharmacies

Last updated May 31, 2020 | Pharmacy News

The recent New York Times article on chain pharmacies discussed how national chains are often putting their patients at risk. The article mentioned this is largely due to the high demands placed upon pharmacists. In fact, a few pharmacists spotlighted in the article have since left the chains to open up independent pharmacies of their own. As we know, independent pharmacies provide a place where someone knows your name and story, where customer service is key, and where employees want to help their patients in any way that they can. We also know that whatever the chains do, independents have to do at least as well, if not better.

At Digital Pharmacist, we often write about how community pharmacies can best compete with the chains. Having a digital presence, managing your online reputation, and advertising to your target audience all help. But, how can you use the weaknesses of chains pharmacies to help you win more business?

3 Things Independents Should Do About the Chain Pharmacies Article

Use Your Strengths to Maximize Opportunities and Minimize Threats

Conduct SWOT and TOWS analyses to determine how to use your strengths to maximize opportunities and minimize threats. You can better compete in the marketplace by thinking about chains and how your strengths and weaknesses relate to theirs.

Conduct a TOWS analysis of your pharmacy by creating a matrix like the one below:

TOWS analysis on chain pharmacies
Take a look at your own business and that of the national chain pharmacy nearest you. What are some strengths that you have that you can use to take advantage of the weaknesses of that chain pharmacy? How can you use your strengths to minimize whatever threats they pose?

Once you’ve completed your analysis, determine which items you can incorporate immediately. Which ones are long-term tactics to pursue at a later date? Implement one or two items and see how it increases your revenue or attracts new patients.

Schedule Your Day Around Your Chronotype

In the book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Dan Pink explains that every day you go through three stages: the peak (when your mood and cognitive ability rises), the trough (when your mood and cognitive ability declines), and the recovery (when you have a temporary rebound). He goes on to mention that analytical tasks should be done during your peak, creative brainstorming during your rebound, and administrative work during your trough.

As pharmacists, you are most likely busy all day long, and might not have the luxury to only focus on prescriptions during your peaks, classes during your rebounds, and emails during your troughs. But you can still ensure that you are vigilant throughout the day by acknowledging when you are most productive and when you are not.

You can also make a checklist to follow during your trough when you are most likely to make a mistake. Your checklist could be something simple like:

  1. Take a step back and read the patient name aloud
  2. Check the prescription label and verify that the name is correct
  3. Verify that the medication bottle and the prescription label match
  4. Check the quantity and dosage
  5. Dispense and bag. Check the name on the bag and make sure it matches the prescription

It may seem extremely elementary to create a task list for a job you’ve been doing well for years, but we all have a peak, trough, and recovery period. All it takes is a little less attentiveness during your trough period to make a huge mistake. To win business from chain pharmacies, you have to ensure you are not making the same errors they are.

Take Micro-breaks Throughout the Day

There have been numerous studies on the benefits of micro-breaks, which are breaks that typically last for less than two minutes. In one study of surgeons, two minute micro-breaks improved mental focus by 34% and physical performance by 57%. What’s more, this particular study showed that micro-breaks did not lengthen the time of the surgery nor did they cause any major distractions. In fact, the surgeons were able to address issues called “non-routine events” during their micro-breaks, rather than having to stop surgery to address those issues.

Stretch, fix your gaze on something other than a computer screen or medicine bottle, and take a micro-break to improve your mental and physical ability.

Do you offer wellness classes? Consider learning more about the science of breaks and productivity. Turn what you learn into a class for your patients. It may attract new patients who are interested in increasing productivity and reducing errors (especially busy families and working professionals). Pair it with your thoughts on supplements to tie it to your area of expertise.

Independent Pharmacies Are Already Winning

Independent pharmacies are already winning when it comes to customer service and care. You take the time to learn about the patient, understand their issues and needs, and build a relationship with everyone you serve. Ensuring that you are always performing at your highest level and using strategic planning (like the TOWS analysis) will help you win additional business from the national chain pharmacies. With the spotlight on the national chains for the mistakes they are making, it is more important now than ever for independents to stay vigilant and strategic about how they do business.

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