The pharmacist in a football shirt and baseball cap in front of me explains that he’s covered his shop with posters from the estate agent, to try to boost his profit without doing any work. And, he helpfully adds, he has stashed some wool in his consultation room, so that he can sell something the supermarkets do not offer.
Fortunately, I am amused rather than aghast. The pharmacist is actually Ash Pandya, chief executive of Essex Local Pharmaceutical Committee, playing a character in a short skit with John Zucker, partner and director at Matthew Arnold and Baldwin Solicitors, at the Sigma conference in Aamby Valley City, India, which took place from 14–22 February 2015.
Among a plethora of dad-meets-pharmacy jokes (PSNC = Pharmacists Should Not Complain!), the pair share a lot of valuable and practical advice for pharmacists trying to develop their business to support patients and boost their bottom lines. Here are five of the tips they offered:
- Stop thinking about your pharmacy as a shop, and instead call it a “healthcare business”. This is not new advice, but it does help pharmacists to consider the services they should be offering and the products they should be stocking. As Zucker said, it is fine to sell products that patients cannot buy in a supermarket – but they should be high quality healthcare products.
- Try to engage your staff rather than force change upon them. If you train them as healthcare champions, you can delegate certain services and tasks to them, such as smoking cessation, and free more of your own time.
- Use this time to think about other services you could offer to suit your patients specifically. Zucker explained that it can be easier to generate revenue from services than selling products, particularly if it is a service your patients need. He even recommended hiring out one of your consultation rooms to other healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists. Don’t try to do everything all at once, because it can be overwhelming. It can be difficult to do everything to the necessary high standard if you don’t start with small steps.
- Try to work in a multidisciplinary way with other healthcare professionals, including local GPs. Zucker recommends attending multidisciplinary meetings once a month (with patient consent). If you cannot attend in person then call in virtually.
- When looking for ways to boost your pharmacy, don’t just rely on clinical commissioning groups. Health and wellbeing boards and social services can provide avenues for pharmacy businesses, and some local authorities use “meals on wheels” delivery services to check on housebound patients.
The pair also produced a list of their best advice, which is attached as a PDF.