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What value do pharmacies offer to patients?

Carlene Oleksyn

Carlene Oleksyn presented at Pharmacy U Vancouver on October 22, 2022. 

If a patient can walk into any pharmacy and leave with the SAME product and SAME information, where’s the value? What is the value a patient perceives in choosing your pharmacy?

The widely held view is that pharmacists provide a product and information because that's what patients receive from us. The VALUE in pharmacy from the patient perspective is handing in an order and receiving a timely and consistent product. But what if patients experience the SAME THING at every pharmacy? How do you differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack? 

With continuing disruption in pharmacy – in all retail – we will never be able to compete on convenience, online platform, selection, speed or even price. Take price. When pharmacists compete with their colleagues, they:

  • reduce dispensing fees
  • waive co-pays
  • lower drug costs below cost (loss leader pharmaceuticals) 

But winning at the price game is always temporary. There's always someone who can undercut you.

Loss leader pharmaceuticals and reduced dispensing fees are also a dangerous game to play with government, since discounting our services tells government that our services are worth less than our “negotiated” fee and we would not “suffer” if our funding were reduced.

We cannot continue to focus our energies on what the patient perceives as the value, i.e. products. It's time we change the entire value proposition. We must SHIFT the value from the PRODUCT to the PHARMACIST or we risk losing our patients to pharmacies willing to play the lower-cost game.

In shifting the value from product to pharmacist, it's important to understand what pharmacists do. The traditional tasks of the pharmacist are: drug distribution, checking prescriptions, drug interactions, and counselling. But, are even these tasks only the domain of pharmacists? Patients have shown willingness to buy drugs online. Registered technicians can check prescriptions in many cases. Artificial Intelligence is making inroads in checking drug interactions and drug-disease state interactions and then making recommendations. And many patients are turning to Google for advice and counselling.

The future of pharmacy – and pharmacists – depends on patients seeing value in their pharmacist. How do we change patients' perception of the value of the pharmacist? The value of the pharmacist is in engaging patients in their own care and using our expertise to improve their quality of life. It doesn’t matter how smart we are, how many accreditations we have, how many CEUs we attend or how many specialty certifications we have…For the patient, it will always be: “What’s in it for me?”

What makes a patient choose your pharmacy over another when they can walk into any pharmacy with their prescription and walk out with the exact same product and information or they can order it on their phone and have it delivered to their door?

We must seek out engagement, taking the lead, rather than waiting to be asked. Patients don’t know what they need. When patients experience the true value of pharmacist care, it identifies further needs to meet and services to provide. Exceptional patient engagement leads to other high value services. Think follow-ups, adaptions and renewals, prescribing, injections and immunizations, specialty services and med reviews.

What are the key features of high value pharmacist care?

Develops and progresses over time

  • Don’t try to solve every problem at once!
  • Keep it patient-centred. Address their main concern first.

Requires continuity

  • If I don’t know what went on last time, how do I know what to do this time?

Requires consistent documentation

  • Same location
  • Same style?
  • Everyone on board
  • Expectation of follow-up

The beauty of this approach to practice is that it can be done with every pharmacist.  You do not need prescribing authority or additional designations or education.

Top tips to unlock the value of the pharmacist:

1. Examine your team from the patient’s perspective

What does that first patient interaction look like?
Do patients feel cared for? Reassured? Listened to? Are patients finding value in their interaction with your team?

2. Create a system of documentation

Work with what you have available

Follow up with patients.

3.  Be consistent

“But we have so many pharmacists...”.

Consistency is all about the team

Team culture of care

Hire to fit the culture of the pharmacy

Loyalty happens when patients experience the value of your pharmacist care. 
















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