Pharmacy work is an around-the-clock job. For many, getting called in and filling in for another person are part of the job. It’s simply part of the program.
For 24-hour pharmacies, the “around-the-clock” bit is a literal element of the work. 24-hour pharmacies are a part of the industry that doesn’t get discussed much.
If you're an aspiring pharmacy owner, consider the following financial, logistical, and patient care aspects of a 24-hour pharmacy.
It’s a Potential Gold Mine
There are many things to consider when opening your very first independent pharmacy. Location, community demographics, and even the kind of building all come into play.
Then there’s the subject of your operating hours. Most independent pharmacies operate under the standard 7-7 or 9-6 time slot, with modified weekend hours.
This makes sense from a business perspective, and there’s nothing wrong with it. However, patient care and your patient’s health journeys never sleep. This could be reason enough to operate under the 24-hour model.
Some patients are likely to fill at pharmacies that are open later in the day. Their work day may end during the evening when other pharmacies are closed for the day.
Then there are late-night emergencies. Whether it’s a patient picking up an ER script or forgetting to pick up their diabetes medication earlier that day, a 24-hour pharmacy offers your patients a different level of convenience.
Greater convenience means better word of mouth, meaning repeat visits and a growing customer base.
Though you’ll have to leave the lights on the whole day, your 24-hour pharmacy can be the pharmacy that never sleeps. Patient care knows no closing time after all.
Think About Your Staff
If you already own a pharmacy and have opening/closing hours, adopting a 24-hour model will be next to impossible. Though your patients will appreciate the new level of convenience, your staff will rightly drag their feet over this new change.
If you’re just now opening a pharmacy, however, a 24-hour model isn’t out of the realm of possibility. It’s all about logistics, so coordinate and clearly communicate with your staff about scheduling.
You will likely not need a fully manned pharmacy staff into the wee hours of the night, but make sure there is a pharmacist present at all times. A pharmacist is usually enough to handle the overnight workload, but having a tech by your side never hurts.
A 24-hour pharmacy can be a scheduling challenge, so make sure everyone is on the same page.
Consider the other side: finding workers for overnight or early morning shifts may be difficult, especially in the first few months. The first months of opening a pharmacy can be a workload tidal wave, so don’t let some growing pains discourage you.
The road to pharmacy ownership is a rocky one, but the roads get a little clearer with time, especially with 24-hour pharmacies.
Think About Security
Security should already be a topic of discussion in your pharmacy. That goes double if you’re opening a 24-hour pharmacy. Since a skeleton crew will likely run work those late night/early morning hours, your security system needs to be up to snuff.
Consider installing surveillance cameras in your pharmacy and your drive-thru (if you have one). Go one step further by purchasing cameras with night-vision capabilities.
Make sure your pharmacy’s security systems are also following state guidelines. For example, the Texas State Board of Pharmacy requires pharmacies to have an alarm system with motion sensors.
They also require you to “maintain written documentation of authorized individuals, other than employees, who [accesses] the prescription department when a pharmacist is not on-site.”
Think about your medication storage, especially with controlled substances. Your state board requires you to store Schedule II medications in a secure safe. Consider going above minimum requirements when opening a 24-hour pharmacy.
Invest in Technology
Every pharmacy’s workflow is unique. Your patient base and community’s demographics help shape the tempo of your workday. As such, you need technology that helps you meet your daily goals and objectives.
That’s what your pharmacy software system is all about. Though a pharmacy software system plays a key role in any pharmacy, it can either make or break a 24-hour pharmacy.
As mentioned earlier, the general appeal to a 24-hour pharmacy is that it will stay later than other pharmacies. It brings a new kind of convenience to patients, and can even give techs some flexibility with their schedules.
Your pharmacy might become busy in the late night hours, namely from 9pm to 11pm. As such, you need a pharmacy software system that can carry the load.
Because your pharmacy’s late-night crew will likely consist of only a couple of people (one pharmacist and one tech), have a pharmacy software system that streamlines your pharmacy’s workflow during a rush.
If you’re a high-volume 24-hour pharmacy, consider investing in automated services, such as dispensing and answering systems. These kinds of services let you and your staff focus on more urgent tasks while maintaining a consistent workflow.
The industry is always evolving. Investing in technology ensures that your 24-hour pharmacy is a symbol of innovation and not a relic of what came before.
“24-hour pharmacy” might be a curse word for many pharmacists. To some, it might sound like a total disregard for work-life balance. But once you look into 24-hour pharmacies, you see some opportunities ripe with immense potential.
The 24-hour pharmacy model is a worthwhile way to generate different methods of profit, appealing to a demographic generally untouched by other independents.
Running or opening a 24-hour pharmacy doesn’t come without growing pains. Make sure you have the right security, technology, and staff in place. It’s all about communication and preparation, whether that concerns your staff or your patients.
With the right pieces, a 24-hour pharmacy becomes less of a logistical headache and more of a financial and healthcare goldmine. Patient care doesn’t have a closing time, so why should your pharmacy?