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3 ways your pharmacy can fail

Pharmacy is a little like jumping out of an airplane.

It takes bravery, practice, training and most of all, a parachute. While the primary parachute is obvious, there is another essential need before jumping out of the plane: the back-up chute.

The back-up chute’s job is self-explanatory. Like the co-pilot of the plane you are jumping out of, the back-up chute saves your life if disaster strikes, such as the primary parachute not opening or becoming tangled upon ejection. The back-up chute is the item you never need, until you do.

What are the back-up chutes of pharmacy?

It is much easier to fantasize about the various ways your pharmacy can be successful. We can picture a rising prescription volume, inventing new workflow to get medication reviews done efficiently, conducting a vaccine clinic or implementing robotics for blister packaging.

However, the much harder mental exercise is imagining how your pharmacy can fail. It means predicting the unpredictable, without letting it control you.

True story: out of power

A few weeks ago, we had a short-term power outage in one pharmacy location in which the landlord has a generator in place. The trouble is, the generator did not start and time was ticking on our vaccine fridges.

Since maintaining a generator that we did not own was out of our control, we took matters into our own hands. We purchased a fridge for our other location where we are the landlords and thus own the generator.

Now as a step in our disaster plan, stock can be transported from the first location to the second. A one-time, $1,000 expense might one day save us $20,000 in stock. In the meantime, the staff have a new fridge for their lunches.

Visualizing your failures: equipment, cash flow and personnel

Analyze the equipment failures that can sink you during disaster and put a back-up chute in place. We have a spare printer that is plug-and-play ready and spare keys for everything in the building in a secret location. What equipment in your pharmacy can you not live without? What is your plan if that fails?

Like equipment, cash flow can get you out of many binds. Decide ahead of time what basic amount needs to live in your bank account to cover solutions that you do not yet know you need.

What if payroll fails? What new regulations may force you to implement expensive time-delayed safes on tight timeline? What if you have an opportunity to open a satellite location or expand your business with a new program that you need to act fast on? Since cashflow is king, having some extra padding can help absorb a fall.

Finally, the ultimate legs your pharmacy stands on require back-ups: its people. While there is no financial model that has a team of trained back-up people ready to step in, there are ways to keep doors open for yourself.

For example, cross-training staff on pertinent components of workflow like robotics or batch-filing sets you up for disasters, sick days or vacations. You can also interview before you have the need, having a list of two or three prospects you have interviewed and who are willing to accept your call with the next opening.

If you are lucky enough, a worthwhile investment may be having a part-time pharmacy assistant as an extra person on the roster, working two shifts per week and learning the ropes, ready to be flexed in during times of need.

Before jumping out of a plane, have the back-up parachute ready. Assess your essential equipment, cashflow padding and pedestrian staff to be ready for what you cannot see coming and better enjoy the experience of parachuting.

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