Who better to explain how to "lead change"—the theme of Cardinal Health's Retail Business Conference 2014—than four of the nation's most innovative independent pharmacists? Check out what these four expert retail pharmacy owners has to say about what change to expect and how to stay on the leading edge of changing patient needs.
Q: Let's start with the key question: How do you lead change?
Teresa: Get ideas about change from a variety of places – reading pharmacy literature, attending professional meetings. I love interacting with leaders on various boards that I serve on, like the Cardinal Health National Retail Advisory Board, and just hear hearing about innovative practices that my peers are implementing.
Kathy: The most difficult thing for a human being is not to let change freak you out—to embrace something that's new or on the horizon. Use change as a vehicle for amazing results. I'm working very hard to train myself to do just that.
Q: What are some real-world examples of leading change to the benefit of patients?
Brenda: I was one of the first immunizing pharmacists – have been doing it for 16 years, long before it became prevalent. Going forward, there are still a lot of preventive medical care opportunities for pharmacies. I hope to implement an employer-based preventative healthcare program. I would expect to be paid by employers, so it would increase my bottom line. Second, I think it would increase my business overall by exposing our pharmacy to the employees of companies I'm involved with.
Jana: Change means opportunity. We have a small front-end, so we diversified the product mix. We got newer nutraceuticals, We now carry essential oils—all while keeping basic cough and cold medicines, vitamins and gastrointestinal section.
Q: Any other advice on leading change in a store's front-end?
Kathy: I look at my front-end as a tool to solve customer problems, so I want wound care there and I want compression hose there. I want unique niches. From a business standpoint, I want to differentiate myself from big box stores that have no desire to fill these niches.
Teresa: We learn from attending seminars. We have sales reps come through and recommend products, but a lot of times change is based on patients saying, 'Hey, I really want this" or "Why don't you carry this?" Our front-end has durable medical equipment. We have an area where we do a lot of patient consultation. There's one-on-one interaction, so customers see the products and services we offer.
Q: How did you pick the best ways to change?
Jana: To be honest, we get a lot of our ideas from Cardinal Health's best practice guides. A couple years ago, (best practice top prize winner in 2012) Marty Bigner (of Thrift Drugs in McComb, Miss.) did a session on his kid's vitamin program. We launched that a year ago. We now have more than 1,000 patients the program. That's something that I never in a million years would have thought about without the Cardinal Health Retail Pharmacy Best Practice Guide.
Brenda: Whenever I come to RBC, I leave with great ideas to implement. I get ideas from peer interaction at meals and social events, from continuing education courses and even from the vendors on the trade show floor.
Q: From your perspective, what does the future look like?
Teresa: Our pharmacy will be doing a lot more patient service. We'll be more appointment driven. We'll continue to fill prescriptions, but we'll be more service-oriented, really making a difference in patients' lives.
Brenda: We'll be much more technological. People like to use their smart phones to access to the pharmacy. Also, in five years, a lot more medication therapy management (MTM) will be involved.
Jana: Our volume is going to increase as more people get insured. On the other hand, we're also going to have to learn to deal with shrinking margins, which we're already a bit accustomed to, and start incorporating MTM more into our daily workflow.
Kathy: I've been doing one-on-one consultations for the last 12 years. Now, I'm expanding that same conversation—about lifestyle, stress, diet—by creating seminars for the community. These are paid seminars. I recently had my first teleconference seminar—actually getting reimbursed for my time—impacting patients in five states at the same time.
Q: How can independent pharmacists influence what change occurs?
Teresa: Pharmacists have an obligation to influence legislation. If we don't get involved, who's going to do it for us? I'm here in Washington (for RBC), and I'm meeting with my Congress member. But that Congress member and his chief of staff have already been in my pharmacy.
Brenda: Pharmacists can have a huge impact on the legislative process, especially when they know legislative leaders personally. You can really make a difference on the local level.
Kathy: At this stage in my career, I realize all change affecting independent pharmacies isn't driven at the pharmacy level. States associations are our first line of representation outside the pharmacy. Our trade groups are saying, "we're going to lobby for you on reimbursements, we're going to communicate to senators while you're taking care of patients." This work is critical and deserves our support.