Pharmacists and other healthcare professionals are regularly called upon to help educate patients on the importance of monitoring their blood pressure – to get to know their numbers – so that we can advise them on what to do if these numbers are not as desired.
Numbers play a vital role not only in patient care, but also in the wellbeing of a business. From my experience in retail pharmacy – and in particular running a chain of supermarket pharmacies – I needed numbers to help me understand what was going on, and also to plan action to influence the same numbers in a positive way. I had a suite of reports telling me about all the crucial aspects of the business, and it was my job to act on them.
Independent pharmacists don’t have the luxury of this data being collated for them; they have to get the information themselves. But of course, technology can help with this. A good patient medication record (PMR) system, for example, will allow you easy access to a whole array of reports at the push of a button. Then, as with blood pressure checks, if you see a worrying diagnostic, you can do something about it before it develops into a bigger problem.
What kind of data should you be looking at?
Running a pharmacy, it’s easy to become bogged down in data. But for me, there are some obvious diagnostics we can’t be without. We as community pharmacists need to know these numbers, and if they are going up or down:
- Prescription volume – split into EPS, walk-in, and repeats – and how this is growing or declining
- Volume of services undertaken per month – broken down by service type
- Purchase profit by product category
- Stock value and slow moving lines
- Over-the-counter (OTC) sales by category – are any doing better or worse than normal?
It’s easy to say all this, I know. But the fact is that contractors are extremely busy, now more than ever. I consider the PMR system as a lifeline here. So speak to your system provider about setting up a small suite of automated reports, and take a little time every week to check them out.
How can you affect your numbers?
Let’s look at OTC sales. If the data showed that sales were down in one of my branches, common solutions would be to run a promotion, display products more prominently, or incentivise staff to sell more. If a category was doing particularly well, we’d work out how to maintain the momentum.
If independent pharmacies had the same information in an easily downloadable format, they could, for example, increase the number of a particular product, or ask suppliers for posters or point-of-sale materials to raise awareness of a product or range.
Let’s say your prescription volume numbers show there is a decline in electronic prescription service (EPS) volume. You could get some new nomination forms made and drop one in every prescription bag, or seek out something which makes your delivery service better than your competitors and market this locally. All of these actions would not be possible without knowing the numbers.
In my opinion, if you don’t know your numbers, you can’t see the warning signs of poor sales. And – a bit like unknowingly having high blood pressure – critical problems could be developing without you realising. Community pharmacists should know their numbers, and act on them, to help their business stay healthy in these worrying times.
Omar Shakoor is pharmaceutical services director at wholesaler Mawdsleys.