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It's time to think beyond the pill

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera

2020 brought exponential change to the world of retail pharmacy (and not all of it Covid-related). So, what will things look like as we’re getting on with our new world? No one knows for sure. However, one thing for sure is that it’s evident there’s been a major shift in the public’s perception of healthcare delivery.

One of the big shifts is retail pharmacy and pharmacists included in the essential services and front-line healthcare worker acknowledgements by politicians and almost every person I speak with. Positive public perception of the great things that pharmacists do is at an all-time high. It’s refreshing.

Forward-thinking pharmacists are preparing for new horizons in public health, and the opportunity to build paid patient services into the business model of community retail pharmacy has never been better. The problem is that some pharmacists are unable to make any promising connection between a troubled today and a vague tomorrow; they fall into a weary pattern of doubt, cynicism, and disillusionment. Status quo becomes the norm and it’s the riskiest place to be right now. Especially when considering new competition coming from online pharmacy, for instance.

Don’t fall into the trap of applying old thinking and the old ways of doing things to the new world of retail pharmacy. I could identify a wide range of other factors that are reshaping our world and the way we work and live. But let’s focus on a few major forces that can make a difference to make the most of change:

It isn’t the changes that do you in; it’s the transitions.

Change is not the same as transition. Change is situational, the new website, the new patient service, the new team roles, the new policy. Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal. Unless transition occurs, change will not work.

The starting point for transition is not the outcome but the result that you will have to realize to leave the old situation behind. Once you understand that transition begins with letting go of something, you’ve taken the first step in the task of transition management. The second step is understanding what comes after letting go: the neutral zone. This is the no-man's land between the old reality and the new. It’s the limbo between the old sense of identity and the new. It’s a time when the old way is gone and the new doesn’t feel comfortable yet.

The neutral zone is both a dangerous and an opportune place and it is at the very core of the transition process. It’s the place and time where old habits are left behind and when innovation is most possible, and revitalization begins.

It means that in order to move ahead with implementing a patient service you’ll have to switch gears and do more, maybe with limited resources, in a shorter period of time. Is that fair or reasonable? Doesn’t matter. That’s what’s staring you in the face.

Don’t try to play a new game by the old rules.

Many people make the mistake of trying harder instead of trying differently. They realize their pharmacy practice situation is changing and, in an attempt to cope, they react as if more effort were the answer.

But trying harder won’t take you very far if you’re failing to do the right things. This rapidly changing world demands a higher level of adaptability with new moves. Our old reaction patterns will bring us nothing but more of the same challenges. Things are changing. It’s a different ball game now. And status quo management won’t work.

We need to respect the fact that our rapidly changing world requires actual changes. Maybe you think it’s stressful having to make all the necessary adjustments. But if you think adapting is tough, just see how difficult sustaining your business becomes if you don’t.

What’s necessary now is to make the changes work. Study the situation intently. Figure out how the game has changed, how priorities have been reordered. Decide which aspects of your business you should focus on to leverage your effectiveness the most.

Invent the future instead of trying to redesign the past.

The value and benefits of the services you provide to patients are in the way the benefits are applied after they’ve used them – the results they get. Become more than a medication expert and find ways (services) to help your patients optimize their medication to manage a disease or a health condition.

Unlike products, services are intangible. Patent services must be sold. Managing the neutral zone successfully requires learning how to sell your knowledge and the time it takes to deliver it. You won’t always get paid for what you know, but you’ll always be paid for what people do with what you know.

Think beyond the pill and explore ways you as pharmacists can support public health.




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