From the Editor’s Desk This Week

Pharmacy is not the only industry group affected by political and economic changes.
Retailing is undergoing a paradigm shift where a business is “segmented” and single segments are repackaged for delivery within other business models, offline and online.
A large part of pharmacy’s business is done by retail, so it would be remiss of community pharmacy if they did not evaluate this trend and adopt it for segments of the pharmacy market that can be legally adapted.

Even the professional components of pharmacy as in the form of clinical services, lend themselves to new adaptations.
Pharmacy is also faced with replacing a large chunk of money that has been lost in the cash flow component of its business through not recognising that the PBS, as a product, had reached the end of its life cycle.

For too long pharmacists have restricted their professional development to a very narrow channel of activity.
Prescriptions are a type of product that lends itself to commoditisation, as evidenced by some Internet pharmacies and warehouse-type pharmacies.
The discount model of pharmacy helps to maintain cash flow, but creates a continuous pressure to keep expanding the volume. Over time, other competitors are forced into competing in discounting simply to stay alive and the advantage  held by the first discounters gradually reduces.
That process eventually forces all pharmacies to become “normal” once again and so pharmacy moves on.
An example of this process would be the Soul Pattinson business model which has undergone expansion since the 1960’s, but now is only a shadow of its former self ensconced as wholesaler-controlled market group.

But discounting has always relied on commoditising  all of its products and services and has left no margin for research, renewal and differentiation.
Pharmacists always regard their competitors as other retailers, but the real competition is between other health professionals.
While pharmacy has at its core the market of prescriptions and their dispensing, the PBS has successfully commoditised this market and reduced its value.
The other core component is health advice and information services provided for a fee.
This is an area ripe for expansion but it will be take time which is exactly the resource pharmacists are running out of.

It seems very plain to all at i2P that a whole of profession renewal is required, including dispensing.
It is also obvious that government control should be limited in all pharmacy activities so that it serves to legitimise and stimulate, but not dominate.

And one suggestion comes to mind.
Why not apply the commission received by the PGA for government grants management to a permanent research project involving professional development and expansion.
While the PGA has carriage of pharmacy grant monies, the commissions earned really belong to all pharmacists.
Funding a “thought leadership” group that has individual pharmacists from a variety of settings might serve a better purpose to that which they are currently applied.
A fresh look at this area may also help reduce undue government influence on the PGA, particularly during Community Pharmacy Agreement negotiations.
What do you think?

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