i2P has published many articles over time relating to clinical services and the strategy for recruiting patients.
The basic concept has been first to recognise that pharmacists, in their consumer mix attract both customers and patients, and that the primary strategy to sustain core business is building a customer base plus having a marketing process to convert customers to patients.
We have also outlined how to build an income stream from patients through the process of selling structured time (consultations) in various time measures to single patients, or attempt some form of group consultation in a seminar format.
i2P believes that the most important part of recruiting patients begins with the establishment of a formal patient registration/profile that includes all contact details (particularly email addresses), details of conditions, drugs taken plus any other relevant information.
Include an area for OTC items to clearly demonstrate to your new patient that you wish to provide a complete medication management system.
As the health system evolves further, it is quite obvious that economies of scale will be sought across all health providers.
Pharmacy has an enormous opportunity to catapult itself to become a main player in primary health care and be properly reimbursed for that process.
A patient list will become an important asset particularly to health funds and health insurers who will have to incentivise their offerings to cap their policy payments from spiralling out of control.
If pharmacy can reduce risk, insurance premiums will correspondingly reduce.
Communicating health messages to benefit patients is a need that has to be filled in a targeted and discrete manner.
An email letter or a newsletter linked to a website is probably the best method to achieve that objective.
Recently, I followed a thread on the AuspharmList bulletin board which started with the following query:
“What’s your policy when customer gets their scripts dispensed by discounters then comes to you for advice on the discounted script items. Beside you know what.”
There followed a number of angry responses along the line of directing the enquiry back to the original dispensing pharmacy with only one response that saw the contact as an opportunity to recruit a patient.
The factor driving the patient to have their prescriptions dispensed at a particular pharmacy was lower price.
What a wonderful opportunity to first of all, greet the new patient and register them.
Then add value by addressing their basic question and offering a paid consultation opportunity, either as a single or group consultation. Costs may also be defrayed if Medscheck opportunities become available.
Plus open up the future opportunities to value add through a patient newsletter by email.
Create the opportunity to get some of their business. They obviously respect and value your advice because they are there asking for it.
They don’t value your prescription pricing system, but you could offer to match prices they currently pay to incentivise them to come across.
All principles of marketing tell you that the objective in a pharmacy practice is to have as much internal foot traffic as possible marching into your pharmacy.
It is also known that to market to your own customer/patient base is cheaper, and more effective than to mount an external PR and advertising campaign.
I2P recently ran a story about an enterprising US pharmacist (Mark Burger) who has developed a business model around professional services, compounding and wellness.
Please visit http://i2p.com.au/clinical-pharmacy-a-us-working-model/ for more details.
I2P has since corresponded with Mark and he sent us a copy of a seminar (group consultation) that he was about to conduct in conjunction with a local doctor.
This particular version was focussed on thyroid disorders and the topic can be anything that represents a knowledge issue that is required for patient education and their ability to participate in the management of their condition.
The presentation is simple, it is circulated to a registered patient list and the cost is modest.
For interest I have reproduced his advertisement (the original was more decorative-I have had to sacrifice design for space).
Note that he also encourages existing patients to bring along friends at a reduced price.
What a great way to expand a patient database, without the need for an expensive franchise that could not do the job for you anyhow.
Savings on marketing franchises could well support a young pharmacist to assist in organising this type of seminar.
As a mentor to a range of pre-registration pharmacists I know they are taught these skills at their pharmacy schools as part of their course.
Dispensing services need not suffer as long as seminar timing is optimum and not interfere with peak demand times.
This type of professional activity is simple, effective and professionally satisfying.
Local doctors are copied in so that they are able to send patients that may need additional education.
They are also invited to participate and delivew their own material, if they wish.
This is collaboration that can link in with GP practice pharmacists because that would create a win-win situation and provide a structured link between GP practices and pharmacies.
Liaison of this type could also link back to hospital pharmacies and the opportunity to provide paid medication reviews, also coordinate with GP practices.
GP referred patients could also be encouraged with seminar vouchers that offer a discount.
But not sufficient to commoditise this type of activity, but to encourage participation including those that may be under some form of financial pressure.
Those pharmacies looking for a starting point may well consider the above because it is a proven model in the US and some small pockets of Australian pharmacy.