Relatively recent changes in the pharmaceutical industry have brought about the perception for some that independent pharmacy is "dead." Industry challenges, like the move of many prescription drugs to over-the-counter status, have indeed made some traditional profits for the independent pharmacist shrink – but this just means you must rethink some of your profitability strategies. You are probably already seeing these changes and are stepping into new roles that will help support your existence long into the future.
How is pharmacy retail changing, and how does pharmacy store design support that?
Through clinical pharmacy
With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, among other things, the standard healthcare system in the United States is stressed beyond capacity. Resource shortages have led to independent pharmacists stepping in to fill the gap with clinical pharmacy. With this, the independent pharmacy fulfills a need that is otherwise supplied by the emergency room and urgent care, and to a lesser extent, primary care doctors.
Independent pharmacists now provide a resource for patients to receive non-urgent or preventative medical care. Pharmacy store design has been revamped to include waiting and examination areas within many independent pharmacies. These pharmacy "clinics" are staffed by registered nurses and nurse practitioners, who can provide the same level of care for non-urgent needs that the family physician can – at much reduced cost and little to no wait time as compared to traditional sources, and with the kind of one-on-one attention that other options can't.
By addressing deregulation and liberalization head on
Generics and volume pricing must be addressed if independent pharmacies are to stay competitive. Fortunately, there are advantages in that deregulation also means fewer restrictions and lower costs overall with generic alternatives. Independent pharmacists can and should offer generics whenever possible, while still maintaining a focus on stellar customer service and an intimate knowledge of their individual customers. Because independent pharmacists can get to know their customers in a way no "big box" or chain pharmacy can, this remains a significant advantage so that they can maintain their competitive edge. Pharmacy store design that includes automation for tasks like prescription filling can help lower costs as well as reduce error, which can further bolster shrinking profit margins.
Through offering services like drive-through and home delivery
Big box and retail store chains have long had "drive-through" options, and independent pharmacists can step up to the plate by including these in their own pharmacy store design. Even better, however, they can offer a service most big-box and retail chain pharmacies turn their noses up at, and that is home delivery. It's true that home delivery is time-consuming and can be somewhat expensive especially if offered for "free" with prescription purchase, but it sets the independent pharmacist apart from the big-box store and therefore helps ensure profitability and a long-lived presence in the industry rather than "death." When customers can count on the independent pharmacist to deliver when they don't feel well, in that the last thing they want to be doing is going out to get what they need to feel better, they will remember and they will pass the word on. Few if any retail chains can promise that, and your customers know that.
Think the independent pharmacist is dead? Think again. While it is true that challenges in the industry like the move of prescribed drugs to over-the-counter status has had many rethinking their profit strategies, the independent pharmacist still has significant advantages as compared to "volume pricing, mass-market" big-box and chain pharmacies. As you, the independent pharmacist, steps into those roles fully, you'll find your community and professional niche and prosper.