Pharmacies

Time for Care

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Opportunities for pharmacies to spend more time caring for patients highlighted at ThoughtSpot 2016.

August 11, 2016
Time for Care

Independent pharmacies are a vital part of their communities. They're trusted and reliable sources for health and wellness products and serve as local care providers. While pharmacists have been providing services beyond medication dispensing for decades, in recent years, there have been notable advances promoting the pharmacist's role in patient care.

Pharmacists have long been the most accessible providers of care. They are typically available seven days a week with no appointment needed. On average, a patient enters a retail pharmacy 35 times a year, compared to as few as four visits a year to their primary care doctor.1 This is why pharmacists are emerging as a viable solution for improving access to care and better patient health. Community pharmacists have the ability to manage the chronically ill, influence appropriate use of medication, prevent the spread of viruses and disease and provide early diagnostic testing. But none of this is easy.

Virtually all community pharmacists will tell you with certainty that their number one priority is taking care of patients. But running a pharmacy means balancing patient care with the oversight of all other pharmacy operations and ensuring profitability. Constant interruptions and numerous daily tasks can take precious time away from a pharmacist's ability to engage with patients. That is why at ThoughtSpot 2016, the annual independent pharmacy tradeshow by Good Neighbor Pharmacy, the focus was "Time for Care." So how can pharmacies find more time for care? Three major themes of practical guidance emerged throughout the multi-day conference.

Streamline processes.
Constant interruption is a part of the day-to-day for every pharmacy. But the unexpected can be best managed when predictability is applied where possible across the pharmacy. Having a plan and working that plan is absolutely critical and this starts with evaluating and streamlining pharmacy workflow.

Optimal workflow should consider ways to manage staff schedules so specific tasks consistently happen at certain times each day. One way to proactively anticipate the workflow process is by implementing a medication synchronization program. Such a program has proven benefits for patient adherence while also lending greater predictability to orders and refills. Scheduling pharmacy staff around the refill, pick up and delivery of medication for patients with chronic conditions allows for improved planning for tasks like receiving and stocking shelves or other meetings.

A more streamlined pharmacy workflow then allows more time for critical patient interactions such as prescheduled MTM consultations. It also alleviates additional stress on pharmacy staff, which in turn results in greater job satisfaction. And since every team member holds a critical role in patient interaction, patient retention and patient care, the net outcome is more likely to be a positive patient experience.

Embrace innovation.
In the technology age, new product advances are revolutionizing nearly every aspect of life, and the business of pharmacy is no exception. New tools and technology can have a meaningful impact on pharmacy. Being open to new concepts and keeping up with the latest technology and equipment for packaging and dispensing is important for pharmacies looking to improve processes and efficiency, while tools such as those to address medication adherence have a direct impact on the health of patients.

Newer technology and tools aren't just for the most tech savvy. They are important for any pharmacy looking to improve productivity, enhance patient care and increase profitability with implementation rates that demonstrate mainstream adoption. Advances in mobile commerce and signature capture applications are being embraced by 43 percent of pharmacies, while innovations in customer communications across the digital and social space, such as a Facebook page to interact with patients and customers, have been adopted by 81 percent.2 

There doesn't appear to be a slowdown in the development of new technologies, either. Cutting-edge concepts such as those in mobility and voice command technology are making what was once imagination a reality. Tools like Amazon Echo, for example, could someday allow a pharmacist to stand in front of his or her shelves and verbally speak an order, saving precious time and creating unprecedented efficiency.

Know when to delegate.
No partner could understand the individual needs of each patient better than the pharmacy, but recognizing the need to delegate and knowing when to lean on an outside partner is critical to success. The business of pharmacy is changing very quickly and these changes can often feel overwhelming. Pharmacies need to be able to lean on a dedicated partner for the insights and resources that help them stay informed from the front to the back of the store and across all operations.

When it comes to evaluating opportunities, a pharmacy shouldn't have to go it alone. It's important to have a partnership in place that can advance the business with an understanding of the pharmacy's objectives and with the patient in mind. A partner should do this by connecting the pharmacy to solutions that enhance patient care and drive adherence, in turn improving Star ratings, tools that can reduce claim errors to maximize reimbursements and improve profitability or resources that help measure performance through data and benchmarking to aid more informed business decisions. And a dedicated partner can lead advocacy efforts that aggregate the collective voice of independent pharmacies across the country, preserving access to community-based pharmacy and showcasing the true value of the pharmacist in the evolving healthcare landscape.

Independent pharmacists are uniquely qualified to provide the kind of care that patients need now and into the future. Being patient focused is a hallmark of the independent pharmacist and it is also critically important to the financial health of their business. Patients need a provider that can serve all of their daily needs and they want the level of customer service and the personal touch that is often found at a locally owned pharmacy.

And while finding time for care is not always easy, it is critical to the health of locally loved independent pharmacies. Optimizing pharmacy operations, embracing advances in technology and having a partner who can anticipate needs of the pharmacy and the patients they serve are the keys to delivering consistent quality care to their communities.

1 Moose, J., PharmD, & Branham, A., PharmD, BCACP. (2014, August 21). Pharmacists as Influencers of Patient Adherence. Retrieved August 10, 2016, from http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/directions-in-pharmacy/2014/august2014/pharmacists-as-influencers-of-patient-adherence-
2 National Community Pharmacists Association. NCPA Digest. October 2015. Accessed 29 July 2016. Available online at http://www.ncpanet.org/solutions/ncpa-digest-sponsored-by-cardinal-health
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