3 Lessons Retail Pharmacists Can Learn from Independent Pharmacists

Why are independents so successful? Why are retail pharmacies losing patients? Read three lessons independent pharmacists can teach retail pharmacists aiding in their success.

I’ve been working as a retail pharmacist for Walgreens for a few years now, but I’ve actually spent more time working alongside independent pharmacists from whom I’ve learned many valuable lessons.

Of those lessons, the following 3 are sometimes the easiest to lose sight of, but I believe they can aid in retail pharmacists’ success the most.

1. The patient is not a prescription.

It’s important to treat all patients as human beings who are taking medications because they need to, but that shouldn’t be the only factor pharmacists care about. Of course, our primary concerns are making sure that the patient is taking the correct medication properly and managing adverse effects, but independent pharmacists in particular move past this superficial relationship to get to know the patient and have fulfilling conversations.

Patients are more likely to return to pharmacists who take the time out of their busy schedule to prove that they care. Patients love it when you remember their name and have their scripts ready before they even walk up to the window. They appreciate it when you take their call at closing time because you know them and care enough to stay an extra 5 minutes.

2. Use a profit and loss statement (P&L) to keep your store in business.

Independent pharmacists’ salaries, stores, homes, and all other aspects of their lives are centered around making a profit, paying off debt, and tailoring services to their community.

Many independent pharmacists I’ve met have both a PharmD and MBA. We don’t all need to get a MBA to be successful, but knowing how to evaluate a P&L statement is the first step.

A P&L statement simplifies the total amount of money that the store put into the bank minus expenses, which results in either a profit or loss. If your store is losing money, you can use the results to create goals for yourself and your staff to increase profit in order to begin breaking even. If you’re in the green but your profits are declining, it’s a great time to look into different services that you can offer to your community.

Can you do blister packaging? Low-risk compounding? Bedside services? Get creative!

3. Focus on the patient in front of you.

I personally believe this is very challenging because I feel pressured to get every task done even when that isn’t achievable. The last thing I want to do is leave work behind for the next pharmacist or walk away from tasks that won’t be completed.

In retail pharmacy, there’s a list of tasks that have to get done on a daily basis. The longer you’re on the phone, the more counseling you do, the more you physically go into the OTC aisles and put a product into a patient’s hand instead of just pointing to it and hoping that he or she picks the right one, the more those daily tasks suffer.

No one likes to feel unaccomplished, but if your patients are leaving positive reviews, your script count is increasing, and your technicians are amazing, then a single call list won’t matter in the scheme of things. Sometimes, numbers do more talking than a folder with pieces of paper saying you made every single phone call that day.

Your patients saying how wonderful you are because you dropped everything to counsel them on their new medication or give them a cold remedy recommendation will outweigh random tasks going unfinished.