Tip of the Week: Relationship Marketing Can Help Meet Patients’ Health Care Needs

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By maintaining relationships, pharmacists can create a successful practice and pharmaceutical care services will expand.

At the heart of pharmaceutical care services is the process of building and enhancing successful relationships with patients. Sustaining long-term demand for high-quality clinical services and obtaining professional and economic benefits will be largely determined by pharmacists' thoughtful use of relationship marketing.1 By maintaining relationships with targeted patient groups through market segmentation and niche marketing, pharmacists can create a successful practice and pharmaceutical care services will expand.1

An important component of relationship marketing is to identify a market segment or niche that has an unmet health care need. This can be facilitated by having meaningful conversations with patients, utilizing surveys, or analyzing data that shows how many patients have certain conditions or how frequently they get refills. Other factors in relationship marketing include market size, prospective revenue and profit, and patient-specific aspects (i.e., demographics, means of access, and attitudes). After listening attentively to patients' concerns, curated services can be developed to best meet their needs and rise above the competition.

Doucette and McDonough assessed the services at Main at Locust Pharmacy in Davenport, Iowa. Here, patients with chronic conditions (i.e. hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia) stated that they had poor adherence to their medications and had challenges with losing weight. The pharmacists therefore implemented several customized programs, such as lipid monitoring and weight management services.1

After creating relationships with patients, these interactions must be retained long-term. Patients must experience the services firsthand for them to fully appreciate their value and to participate in them actively and consistently.1 Therefore, pharmacists must effectively ensure excellent customer service. Patients’ standards for services must be acknowledged, and pharmacists must keep realistic promises to patients when delivering these services. This includes anticipating patients' needs, solving problems promptly, and treating and helping patients with respect. However, when customer service is not perfect, pharmacists must establish a service recovery plan to correct their mistakes. Patients should be encouraged to offer feedback for the pharmacy to identify gaps in their services and continually improve upon quality.1

Overall, relationship marketing offers a transformed perspective on the 4Ps of traditional marketing: product, price, promotion, and place. It emphasizes the value of consistently improving upon each patient interaction with more focused and efficient services, to evolve pharmaceutical services into niches where these unique services have not previously existed, and to reward both the pharmacist and patient long-term.1

More information about Customer Service can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Karissa Lapuz is a PharmD candidate at the Touro University California college of Pharmacy.

Shane P. Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, is a professor of social and behavioral pharmacy at the Touro University California College of Pharmacy.

REFERENCES

Doucette WR, McDonough RP. Beyond the 4Ps: using relationship marketing to build value and demand for pharmacy services. J Am Pharm Assoc (Wash). 2002;42(2):183-194.