In the rivalry between small community pharmacies and corporate national chains, independent pharmacy’s competitive advantage is the personal patient experience. Unlike at a chain pharmacy, patients who go to local pharmacies get to interact with staff that knows them on a personal level. As an independent pharmacy, your focus should be on increasing patient engagement to create a quality customer experience that builds loyalty and customer stickiness. This will help expand and retain your customer base by providing a service that has a high perceived value to each individual patient.
As one of the most trusted and accessible healthcare providers, pharmacists are a key member of the healthcare team. Instead of simply filling prescriptions, pharmacists can also provide value-based care that improves a patients’ overall health and quality of life. In addition, independent pharmacies have the flexibility to quickly adapt their business and build meaningful relationships with their patients. There are multiple different strategies for increasing patient engagement, and your pharmacy software system can help you effectively work these strategies into your practice.
How Your Pharmacy Software Can Help Increase Patient Engagement
- Patient Mobile Apps - Some software vendors will offer additional mobile apps to use in your pharmacy, including patient-facing apps. These apps will typically enable the patient to perform actions such as refilling a prescription through their phone or direct messaging the pharmacy. Offering this to your patients can increase their engagement with your business and provide a modern, convenient experience.
- Messaging and Notifications - If your software system has the ability to send direct messages to patients, you can use this to keep them up-to-date with health related notifications, or even just to send them a “Happy Birthday!” message to show that you care.
- Patient Profile Notes - Take notes about each patient in their individual profile within your pharmacy software, if available. Taking note of useful information will ensure that you give each person the most accurate care, and allow you to keep better relationships by remembering personal details.
- Patient Centric Staff - Train your staff to be patient centric and focus on building relationships with the patients that they interact with. Use the notes in your software, as mentioned above, to bring up personal details in conversation and remember any preferences that the patient may have.
- Simple, Convenient Process - A common gripe about using national chain drug stores is the long wait times and difficulty to get issues resolved. Make your pharmacy stand out by making it simple and convenient for patients to get their prescriptions in whatever way works best for them. Offer delivery, curbside pickup, and drive-through if possible. Offer multiple different ways to refill prescriptions, such as mobile app refills, IVR refill assistance, or med sync automated refills.
- Patient Counseling- Counsel patients to learn more about their health history and deliver more personalized and effective care. Capture social determinants of health such as income level, occupation, access to transportation, access to housing, level of education, neighborhood environment, and other factors. Provide educational training and advice to help deal with disease states or mitigate outside factors that affect health.
- eCare Plans - As mentioned above, social determinants of health can also be captured in a patient’s eCare Plan, along with patient labs and other pharmacist interactions. Following goals and actions in an eCare Plan helps you work towards improving a patient’s quality of life and meeting health goals. This can strengthen a patient’s engagement with your pharmacy and foster trust and loyalty.
- Med Sync and Adherence Packaging - Offering medication synchronization to patients on multiple medications helps boost adherence and mitigate any outside factors that may hinder their ability to come to the pharmacy and pick up their prescriptions. This way, all medications are synced to be picked up at the same time, once each month.
- Medication Therapy Management (MTM) Services - Consider offering additional MTM services to help patients manage their chronic disease states, or help identify potential drug interactions using pharmacogenomics and other clinical knowledge. Find ways to add value to a patient’s care and engage them in working towards a more complete health plan.
- In-Demand Services - Listen to what your community needs. What specific services are in high demand within your community? By offering these niche additions to your pharmacy, you can engage more patients by providing them with the products and services that they are looking for.
Why Your Pharmacy Needs an Online Social Media Presence
Having an online presence and being active on social media is a crucial part of running a successful independent pharmacy today. While this is not directly connected to your pharmacy software, this is still an important strategy to include in your business operations. By frequently posting on your social media accounts, advertising and promoting your products and services, creating a persona for your business, and actively interacting with customers by replying to their comments - you will build a strong reputation for your pharmacy and expand your reach within your community.
Even if you have an older customer base, don’t let that stop you. It’s a common misconception that senior patients are not active online and are not “tech-savvy”. However, they are more active than you may think. 69% of adults aged 50-64 and 40% of those over 65 use social media. Especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, many seniors have increased their usage of technology. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to further engage with your existing patients and connect with potential new customers.
More Than Just Pills in a Bottle
Independent pharmacies today cannot depend solely on a transaction-based business. The industry has already started transitioning to more personal, value-based services and an appointment-based model. Adding this variety to your pharmacy business leads to better patient engagement and long-term customers that will help your business be successful in the long run.