Providing vaccinations to patients and offering delivery services are excellent ways for pharmacies to grow their business.
Retail pharmacies are increasingly becoming one-stop shops for customers. In addition to filling prescriptions, pharmacies are now offering services that include everything from delivering prescriptions to administering vaccines. Some pharmacists are even performing minor cosmetic procedures, such as administering Botox and Juvéderm.
Many pharmacists can now provide vaccinations for trips abroad, seasonal illnesses such as the flu
and pneumonia, and dangerous diseases such as pertussis (whooping cough)
and meningitis. Pharmacists are well-positioned to provide these vaccinations as patients frequently find it easier to stop by their neighborhood pharmacy than to go to a doctor’s office.
Kohll’s Pharmacy–with 9 pharmacies and 3 clinics in Nebraska, Colorado, and Iowa–has been administering vaccinations since 1992, and now gives 32,000 vaccines each year. Company President David Kohll, PharmD, said his pharmacies have publicized the fact that they offer vaccinations against whooping cough, which has seen a resurgence in recent years. In response to the increase in whooping cough cases, Dr. Kohll said that his pharmacy compiled a press release, printed ads in local newspapers, and used their electronic signs and websites to make the public aware that they offer the vaccine.
In a June 2012 letter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognized the important role played by pharmacists in providing vaccinations. “Pharmacists and community vaccinators are uniquely positioned to promote and provide vaccines to people in a wide range of communities,” read the letter
. “In addition, their extensive reach into diverse communities allows greater access to vaccines for those who may not have a medical home, and who traditionally have had lower rates of vaccine use.”
Dr. Kohll said pharmacies can build a loyal customer base by offering vaccines. “If you don't do it, you may be the only pharmacy in your area that doesn't administer these vaccines,” he said. “Therefore, you could lose customers because you don't provide this service.”
Kohll added that a lot of his pharmacies’ customers depend on them for their vaccines.
“We have used QS/1’s vaccination chart for over 10 years, which additionally sets us apart from other pharmacies,” he said. “Customers walk out after each vaccination with a complete list of all the vaccinations they received and when they are due again. In addition, many times we fax the vaccination chart to the customer’s physician, so we help keep the physician’s records accurate. In turn, many physicians that don't do the less-common vaccines at their offices send their patients to Kohll's.”
Marshall Frost, PharmD, director of business development and technology at Long’s Drugs–with locations in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia–said his pharmacies have administered vaccines for 5 years. They vaccinate against the flu
, pneumonia, and herpes zoster, the virus that causes shingles
in adults. He said the pharmacies typically give between 2000 and 3000 vaccines each year, depending on the severity of the flu season.
Dr. Frost said his pharmacies started administering vaccines in order to remain competitive, and doing so has expanded their business in 2 ways. “It has introduced our stores and services to new customers, and it has helped us retain customers who might have otherwise transferred business to our competition,” he said.
Dr. Frost added that he would recommend starting a vaccine program to a pharmacist or business owner looking to expand, but only if they have the proper staff in place to handle the added workload.
“Vaccines are a great service,” Dr. Frost said. “However, if you cannot maintain excellent customer service by keeping wait times to a minimum, you will cause other customers to become unhappy. ... Also, to administer vaccinations in some states, the pharmacist needs to be certified to administer injections, maintain CPR certification, update liability insurance policies, write policies and procedures, and establish a relationship with a local physician to be the pharmacy's medical director.”
Dr. Frost said that despite all this, providing vaccinations builds loyalty, especially among elderly customers. “It reminds our customers that not only are we a local business, but we also are clinical professionals that they can depend on for our pharmaceutical expertise,” he said.
Jeff Bartone, RPh, PharmD, vice president of Hock’s Pharmacy in Ohio, said Hock’s started offering the flu vaccine
in 2008 via a nursing agency. “In 2009, I started administering flu shots, and in 2010 I started marketing flu shots to small businesses and going onsite to administer them,” Dr. Bartone said, adding that the pharmacy administers vaccines to patients aged 14 and up and also offers the shingles vaccine
Dr. Bartone said the pharmacy began offering vaccines as a way to increase its service offerings and sales, improve its patient care, and gain greater exposure. Today, it administers approximately 425 flu shots
per season and around 30 vaccines against shingles
“Offering the vaccines has increased sales, not overwhelmingly, but it has been another way to make a few dollars in such a down market and with reimbursements decreasing,” Dr. Bartone said. “I would definitely recommend adding flu shots … because patients are going to get flu shots, and I try as hard as possible to be a one-stop shop for pharmacy needs.”
Dr. Bartone said he believes that if patients are forced to use multiple pharmacies for multiple services, they may start shopping for a new pharmacy. “It does create some loyalty,” he said.
Dr. Bartone said another good way to expand your business is to think outside the box. Consider marketing to small businesses that may be willing to provide flu shots for employees at no cost to help keep them healthy and reduce absenteeism.
Another way pharmacies can expand their businesses is to offer a delivery service. Dr. Bartone said a delivery service is a good way to increase sales, but it must be done right. “It costs to add this service and do it right, but customers appreciate it,” he said.
Both Kohll’s and Long’s pharmacies offer delivery as well. Long’s Drugs has done so since it opened its doors in 1951. Dr. Frost said that Long’s retail pharmacies make deliveries to local customers at their homes and businesses and its long-term care pharmacies make deliveries statewide. He said that offering the service has increased his business because it offers customers added convenience.
Dr. Frost said he would recommend that other pharmacies looking to expand their businesses begin to offer delivery, but would caution that they have to do it strategically. “Make sure that if you offer it, you come through on your promised delivery times,” he said. “The worst thing that any business can do is to offer a new service and not produce the promised results.”
Dr. Frost also said that offering delivery builds customer loyalty, especially among the elderly or populations with limited transportation resources.
Another way Long’s looks to expand its business is by drawing customers in and keeping them with discounted prescriptions. “We enter Drug Notes in our systems to prompt our team members to check for manufacturer coupons/rebates that can save our customers money by reducing their co-pays,” he said.
Whether it’s protecting a mother and her newborn child, delivering prescriptions to a shut-in patient, or offering drug discounts, pharmacies can do a lot to protect and serve their communities. Pharmacists can play a role much greater role than just filling prescriptions. By applying their expertise, they can make a difference in the lives of so many, and maybe even save a few along the way.