With the sector still reeling from the recent announcement about the government's proposal to cut 12% from the pharmacy budget in England, and the disruption it will bring, it is vital that contractors continue to take a proactive approach to boosting business performance. The ability to retain patients is crucial if community pharmacists are to stand a chance of survival when the cuts come into force in December.
There is no time for rest when preparing for the cuts – contractors should instead view this as an opportunity to reassess their operational models and processes. This is particularly true with regards to pharmacy IT systems, where the goal should be improving patient satisfaction and loyalty.
Reliability, relevance and relationships
When it comes to ensuring patient retention, it boils down to having the right systems and being able to offer relevant services. The majority of today’s contractors are well aware that technology can go some way towards boosting profitability, and the same holds true for maintaining patient loyalty. Having the right IT systems in place can prove extremely helpful when creating the kind of patient-centric approach to business that will deliver on customer expectations.
For example, as one of the primary functions of a pharmacy is to dispense prescriptions, a robust PMR system is business-critical. Any major outage which results in an immediate inability to dispense will be detrimental to patient loyalty. If your PMR system is down, but a rival pharmacy’s is up and running, patients can simply walk across the road and place their business in the hands of your competitors. And even once the system is restored, lengthy backlogs can persist, affecting your ability to dispense for days, if not weeks – something that is likely to result in further loss of repeat business.
As well as dispensing, PMR systems are important in helping to gain a fuller understanding of patients and their medical history. In doing so, pharmacists can be far better placed to offer additional targeted services for patients.
A good example of this is the provision of medicines use reviews (MURs). An effective PMR system will enable pharmacists to create a target list of suitable patients for MURs, such as those using statins. It’s exactly this kind of reassurance that will help in boosting patient loyalty – and effective use of your pharmacy IT systems is crucial to achieving this.
When used properly, software solutions can help to build up better patient profiles and in turn allow pharmacists to demonstrate a duty of care for patients. A combined PMR and electronic point of sale (EPoS) system, for example, will enable the recording of OTC medicines on patient PMR records, bringing increased safety as pharmacists are able to accurately check for any potential interactions between medicines and other products.
A robust EPoS system also offers the added benefit of being able to analyse existing sales data to determine which items are best sellers within the local community. From this vital information, pharmacies can ensure they meet patient demand for specific products. It can also be useful for developing personalised incentives for patients, such as discount vouchers or other sales offers.
Patients are the lifeblood of any pharmacy, never more so than during these times of financial uncertainty. Retaining their loyalty is no longer just about supplying medication; it’s about building a truly customer-centric service.
Charlie Denwood is managing director of IT systems supplier Positive Solutions.