EDITORIAL for Monday 24 November 2014

Welcome to the current edition of i2P (Information to Pharmacists.
It is starting to look as though the future pharmacy is taking shape, with new paradigm segments beginning to become clearer
Last week, Dr Alison Roberts, director of Policy and Practice at PSA, delivered a paper at the ASMI Annual Conference providing hard data on the positive influence that a pharmacist has on a pharmacy’s financial bottom line, when located in front of the dispensary, and made accessible.
Also offering a friendly greeting to encourage “engagement”.

Most of us have always thought that this was the case, but now the evidence is in – there is no doubt, and this activity provides a buffer for a current depletion of gross profit, sales, cash flow and customer numbers – found in many pharmacies today.

i2P has previously noted, and Alison has proven that once you get a pharmacist out front, patients will utilise the service immediately because it has suddenly become accessible.
So how do we anchor the pharmacist permanently in the front of shop, fully occupied and free of dispensing?

Earlier attempts at Forward Pharmacy went part of the way but because the work flows were still attached to dispensing, the pressure from that process overpowered everything at peak times. This excluded patient interaction at those times.
Also, the pharmacist had a limited “home” and was mixing dispensing with interviews.

Not a good mix if you want to separate out clinical services, and it is really time for dispensing pharmacists to be for checking prescriptions only.
Another dispensary addition may be a new robotic dispensing machine.

One item which appeared at the ASMI Conference pointed the way.
Some months ago, i2P wrote up an article on Steve Jobs and his successful retail formula.
The key to his retail sales strategy was to instal a “Genius Bar” in his retail stores at which were anchored the best IT brains available from internal staff.
These people provided nothing else but information and advice while other staff completed sales and wrapping etc.

At the time it struck me that this was an identical model for the pharmacy that I completed my apprenticeship in, quite a long time ago, from behind the old-fashioned counter.

Lo and behold, one of  the ASMI speakers (Steve Sowerby) in a paper on “Global Pharmacy Snapshots”, revealed a “Health Bar” located in the centre of a Lloyds Pharmacy in the UK.

To me this would be the logical next step building on Alison’s research – an informational counter populated by pharmacists, clinical assistants and technical assistants (specialising in skin care and hair care etc) – but linked in to a pharmacist’s advice activity. Properly fitted out with iPads, notebooks etc.

One of the important functions of this “bar” would be to have assistants trained in a development strategy to be able to convert a customer into a patient and then pass them on to the experts at the health bar.
This should be a written strategy and mandatory training for all front of shop assistants.
Have you ever thought about it?

With that process documented and implemented, the framework is thus established for the sale of clinical services by a pharmacist or clinical assistant. If that occurs, the patient would then be escorted to a private clinical space for a predetermined service for a fee.

Advance marketing for these services should occur in the form of a shop window fitted with “connected glass”.
There are articles in other November i2P issues covering these aspects, including this edition.
Connected glass allows for an automated appointment booking service, prescription ordering or requests for specialist staff. It’s like a giant iPad in its operation.

The window display will include photographs, posters and price lists with someone dedicated to keeping the window display clean and fresh.

So pharmacy designers take note – we need a health bar and a connected glass window showcase in our pharmacies.
Pharmacy proprietors also take note –  we need you to invest in your existing (and additional) pharmacists.
The research clearly shows they will pay for themselves and perhaps should include some senior pharmacists who may have existing skills in “patient engagement”.
If investment is difficult then engage a contractor who has already invested in basic infrastructure and clinical skills, and form an alliance partnership.

The blueprint is taking shape and all pharmacists should now engage in “over-the-horizon” thinking and planning to ensure that this new pharmacy paradigm emerges successfully across the board.

And I can’t help thinking that I have been there before, and that currently it is just a repeat update of an earlier cycle in a slightly different guise.



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