Your Practice Is Your Craft: Differentiating Your Community Pharmacy Practice

When you think about recent “disruptors” to the consumer marketplace, you can look around your own neighborhood to see the effects of Uber, Airbnb, and even the craft beer movement.

When you think about recent “disruptors” to the consumer marketplace, you can look around your own neighborhood to see the effects of Uber, Airbnb, and even the craft beer movement. What is it that makes them a disruptor to the industry? What has allowed them to thrive against odds? As you take a deeper look into the success of these businesses, you’ll discover that consumers value the combination of quality, convenience, and cost in these various industries.

Particularly in the beer industry, it is the small, independent brewers that have created the dramatic shift by bringing a high-quality product and an innovative style to restaurants, taprooms, and now even grocery stores in almost every community around the nation. What is even more remarkable about the movement is that the brewers who perfect their craft have an ever-changing quality improvement process; they have laboratories where they have freedom to experiment with new flavors and different techniques to hone their art. Then they share their findings with other brewers who are doing the same. They endorse each other’s product, and they aggregate together to market their differentiation on a larger scale. You can find the brewers by locator tools on the Internet, posters, and endorsements by fellow brew masters or local shops that respect the quality and passion behind the craft.

So, how does this relate to community pharmacy? Just as not all beers in the marketplace are the same, not all community pharmacies are the same. Local brew masters pour their passion into the process to perfect their craft, and we can observe a similar movement in our industry as a subset of community pharmacies around the country test new strategies to effectively manage complex patients across the continuum of care in a setting of health reform. A consumer should expect a different pharmacy experience when interacting with a community pharmacy that is focused on care delivery than he or she might receive at a pharmacy model focused on delivering medications “fast, accurate, and cheap.” These “craft” pharmacies are aligning in a Community Pharmacy Enhanced Service Network (CPESN) to aggregate on a larger scale so that they can share best practices in medication distribution, clinical service delivery, and quality improvement processes. Pharmacies within the CPESN focus on implementing innovative services to better meet the needs of patients with complex medical conditions and build relationships with providers and community support services so that they can collectively and collaboratively manage those patients. In these pharmacies, the staff takes a care-team approach to go above and beyond to make sure patients have the access to the correct medication regimen customized to meet the their unique social and health considerations. These activities require reengineering the workflow, maintaining dedicated staff to interact frequently with patients to identify any potential drug therapy problems, and engaging in outreach to providers to reconcile gaps in therapy. Delivery to patients’ homes by a pharmacy staff member, medication synchronization programs, medication adherence monitoring, and transitions of care programs are beginning to be a minimum standard offering of pharmacies that are “perfecting their craft” and trying to resolve complex patient issues.

When just one pharmacy in the community is committed to delivering enhanced services beyond traditional dispensing services, it is likely that only a few valued partners—such as doctors, care managers, and discharge planners—will realize or appreciate the differentiation in the marketplace. However, when several pharmacies in a geographic location join together to perform enhanced services and market themselves as something different for the chronic care patients, then the perception of community pharmacy in that marketplace is likely to shift. Pharmacies belonging to the CPESN undergo constant transformation to perfect their craft so that they ultimately can provide patient care services in a way that translates to improved patient safety, better patient education, and enhanced collaboration among all of those involved in caring for the patient. And … no longer do all pharmacies look the same. They have a craft that sets them apart in a crowded marketplace. The way pharmacies deliver their “craft” may differ, but if the product or service lends itself to improving patient outcomes, when it does so, our patients, our partners in the medical community, and our valued purchasers will all perceive this subset of community pharmacies differently—and, just maybe, they’ll admire it as one of the great and recent disruptors.