The pharmacy industry is full of different avenues and roads, for both patients and pharmacists. Patients can go to a pharmacy of their choosing and then go to another if they seek better or more specialized services.
For pharmacists, you can be the one who provides that better, more specialized service. Pharmacists wear many hats and those hats can lead you to new ways to provide excellent patient care.
Specialty pharmacies are the epitome of this idea. While a standard retail pharmacy rightly provides a slew of excellent patient services, specialty pharmacies live in that unique and niche space.
Here’s what you need to know about specialty pharmacies.
What are Specialty Pharmacies?
The National Association of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP) defines specialty pharmacies as a “state-licensed [pharmacies] that solely or largely provide medications for people living with serious health conditions requiring complex therapies.
Specialty pharmacies provide much more specialized services than their standard retail counterparts. While you may already offer specialized services in your independent pharmacy, these facilities make those services their specialty (no pun intended).
Kinds of Specialty Pharmacies
As you might expect, there are several kinds of specialty pharmacies. Explore these avenues if you’re searching for a change of pace with your pharmacy work.
Specialty pharmacies typically focus on specific chronic ailments or diseases, such as:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Crohn’s Disease
Standard retail pharmacies rarely stock up these kinds of medications, mainly due to insurance plans not covering them without a prior authorization. What’s more, the prescription still might have a high copay after the prior authorization goes through.
Ordering these medications is usually burdensome for standard retail pharmacies, whereas specialty pharmacies directly invest in these products.
Though investing in a specialty pharmacy might be a sizable endeavor, you can at least implement some of these services into your independent pharmacy’s arsenal.
Know Your Patient Demographics
Specialty pharmacies are a niche market in the pharmacy industry. Your usual patients likely will not come in for a standard antibiotic or other ER drug.
As mentioned earlier, your patients will need more personalized services and medications, whether that means ordering a specific medication or compounding an entirely new one.
That’s what makes knowing your patient’s demographics incredibly important. Elderly demographics usually need more cancer or arthritis medications. Knowing your patient base lets you enhance your approach to patient care.
That might mean taking more time to counsel your patients or having greater empathy for them. Though you’re providing specialized services, you also need to provide a refined and specialized form of patient communication.
Figure Out the Finances
As you may already know, opening your own independent pharmacy is already a sizable financial investment. You’re running a small business, and businesses need to generate a profit to stay afloat.
This is especially true for specialty pharmacies. Everything ranging from your location, patient base, and inventory plays a hugely consequential role in its financial health.
Then look into the cost of specialty medications. Think about the training and certification costs for future employees.
You will likely want pharmacy staff with more clinical experience, though you may welcome newer people later on. You can welcome newer or less experienced workers later on when you’ve established your pharmacy’s training routine.
What matters most is you do your research and have a plan of action. The ownership process is a long, often confusing one, so make the path ahead as smooth as possible.
Check our “How to Open a Pharmacy” for more detailed steps, tips, and advice on your ownership journey, especially for specialty pharmacies.
Implement Specialty Services
Opening your own specialty pharmacy is an enormous leap. However, you don’t have to own a specialty pharmacy to perform specialty tasks.
With the right pharmacy software system, your independent pharmacy can effortlessly provide specialty services. In short, your independent pharmacy can also be a specialty pharmacy — and still provide exceptional patient care.
Find Your Niche
As we alluded to earlier, it’s important to know your pharmacy’s demographics when deciding to open a specialty pharmacy. The same idea applies here.
Offering any kind of specialty pharmacy service is a costly investment, so provide the most appealing and beneficial ones.
Take the flu shot for example. It might seem innocuous at this point, but elderly patients will go to your pharmacy if you reliably carry the high-dose vaccines.
Same with the shingles vaccine. Specialty services work best if there is an audience for them. Otherwise, those vaccine doses will sit on the shelf, expire, and put a dent in your independent pharmacy’s finances.
If your independent pharmacy fills a considerable amount of blood sugar or cholesterol medications, look into A1C or cholesterol testing services.
Services like these give your patients an up-to-date look at their health. They also give your independent pharmacy a new source of profit, which allows you to implement even more specialty services in the future.
Have the Right Pharmacy Software System
When you’re offering specialty pharmacy services, you need a pharmacy software system that effectively juggles these new tasks.
Whether vaccinating or checking a patient’s glucose levels, your pharmacy software system should adequately record these in your patient’s records.
Your software should also expedite the process of implementing these services, which prevents any slowdown in workflow.
This will require some careful coordination among your pharmacy staff, as is the case for all new services. Come up with a steady plan of action so these new services won’t become a productivity monkey wrench.
When it comes to pharmacy software systems, there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution. Know what your pharmacy workflow is like and what services you intend to offer. Visit our “Compare Software” page to learn the ins and outs of some of the industry’s leading software systems.
Specialty pharmacy — whether as a whole facility or individual service — is a vital part of the pharmacy industry. These services help patients become a healthier version of themselves and can be a great source of revenue for your small business.
If you’re looking to open your own specialty pharmacy, know that the ownership process is a long but fulfilling one.
If you’re a pharmacy owner and want to implement these services into your workflow, make sure you have the right staff, training, and pharmacy software system for the journey ahead.