Becoming a “Whole Health” Center

Photo of pharmacist in front of product shelves

Pharmacies continue to become much more than places to merely dispense prescriptions. Many independent locations are evolving into community-based “whole health” centers, offering an array of fee-based services.

“Community pharmacies that don’t evolve [in this way] will be left behind,” predicts Jeff Woldt, editorial director of Chain Drug Review. Competition from mail order and chains will continue to depress prescription prices, so “services will keep your dispensing operations relevant by giving consumers another reason to shop in your store,” explains Rob Eder, editor-in-chief of The Drug Store News Group.

Woldt and Eder made those comments during a panel discussion — along with Will Lockwood of ComputerTalk for the Pharmacist — about the future of pharmacy. To view a video of the full McKesson ideaShare 2012 discussion, click here.

Making the Transition

Of course, many community pharmacies already provide services — such as compounding, flu shots, and some form of medication-adherence coaching or counseling. But the list of possible service offerings is expanding rapidly, and more and more customers are willing to pay out-of-pocket for these professional services.

Beyond the Basics

As many pharmacists begin to offer services beyond the basics of flu shots, medication management or compounding, they are considering specialty niches such as:

  • Diabetes Education
  • Cardiovascular Health
  • A–Z Immunization Delivery
  • Weight Management
  • Anti-Aging Therapies
  • Nutrition Counseling
  • Pain Management
  • Homeopathic Remedies
  • Asthma/COPD Education
  • Cholesterol Testing
  • Wound Care
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Therapeutic Shoe Consultations
  • Mastectomy Fitting
  • Blood Pressure Screenings
  • And More

Assessing the Needs of Your Community

As a community pharmacist, you must determine which services will attract the most paying customers in your market. Asking your current customers about specific products and services they would like to have is a great first step.

The next step involves considering the demographic and economic profile of your area. For example, communities with large elderly populations are more likely to be interested in wound care, cholesterol testing, blood pressure screenings and so on. Neighborhoods with many families might generate high vaccination traffic. And high-income populations might show considerable interest in anti-aging therapies and nutrition counseling.

High Demand in Three Key Health Areas

As you consider which services to offer, also give some thought to these three health concerns:

  1. Diabetes education
  2. Cardiovascular health
  3. Weight management

Chances are good that demand for assistance will be high in those areas. That’s because the numbers of people struggling with these three issues are so vast. According to the Centers for Disease Control:

  • More than 25 million people in the United States currently have diabetes; another 79 million are pre-diabetic
  • About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. every year — that’s 1 in every 4 deaths
  • Already, 35.7% of U.S. adults are obese, and the rate continues to rise

Insurance reimbursements will drive demand in these cases as well. As evidence continues to mount showing the positive impact that pharmacists can have on outcomes, more consumers will have the option of obtaining services without having to pay out-of-pocket for them.

“Obesity represents a huge opportunity for community pharmacists because weight management is a relatively easy program to put together … and it gives [pharmacists] an indispensible role to play in consumers’ lives.”

— Rob Eder, Editor in Chief of The Drug Store News Group

Boost Your Credentials

As fully licensed healthcare professionals, pharmacists are required to demonstrate current knowledge and obtain continuing education credits. However, consumers will place more trust in pharmacists who have specialized knowledge in key areas. In addition, many state boards of pharmacy have established specific guidelines for providing additional services. For example, the rules governing which vaccines pharmacists can administer and any requirements related to administering them are set at the state level.

Always check with your state board to determine requirements for specific programs. Then check out links like these for information about specialized course work and certificates:

  • National Community Pharmacists Association offers many professional development courses including diabetes care;
  • American Pharmacists Association offers several certificate programs and many home study courses;
  • The Council on Credentialing in Pharmacy has compiled a list of certification programs for pharmacists in 23 subject areas;

Going Forward

Community pharmacists must become an essential partner with consumers who are looking to improve and maintain their health. That’s a positioning strategy that will keep independent stores relevant — and profitable — in the future.