Find your pharmacy’s next niche in long-term care


In brief: 

  • As baby boomers age, the long-term care (LTC) market will continue to grow 
  • Identify LTC niches by following your former retail patients and noting other community needs 
  • Build your long-term care business one step at a time 


Follow your former retail patients  

Just because some of your long-term customers are no longer coming into your pharmacy doesn’t mean you’ve lost them as patients. Follow where they are going, and you may find new places to serve patients through long-term care. 

Consider the following facts that highlight the growth and potential in the long-term care market: 

  • The senior population is continuing to grow. By 2030, baby boomers will be at least 65 years old. The number of older Americans will be 50% higher than in 2016.i
  • Seniors are moving to new places. An estimated one in three individuals who are turning 65 will require some form of assisted living or nursing home care at some point.ii
  • LTC residents require more meds and more care. The average patient in an assisted living facility takes about one dozen medications. This population also needs other products and services, from durable medical equipment to infusion therapy. 

“Follow your loyal patients,” said Rich McKeon, McKesson vice president of alternate site pharmacy solutions. 

Exploring LTC opportunities in your community 

Look in your community and you’ll see a host of potential LTC opportunities to serve: 

  • Assisted living facilities 
  • Skilled nursing facilities 
  • Adult day care facilities 
  • Behavioral health facilities 
  • Group homes 
  • Correctional institutions
  • Hospice care 

An additional trend is “medical at home” or “LTC at home.” However, further efforts are needed to improve reimbursement for the at-home setting. “Everybody wants to stay at home and at home is most affordable,” McKeon said. But reimbursement doesn’t yet match what people want and what is most affordable.  

“There are many intermediate care settings between skilled nursing facilities and the retailer,” McKeon noted. In most instances each of these types of facilities have needs that retail pharmacies may be able to meet.   

A tip to identify potential opportunities is to use the Physician Outreach Program (POP). In addition to showing nearby high-prescribing physicians, POP also identifies opportunities such as group homes with seven to 10 residents. 

Open one door at a time 

A community pharmacy can grow into the LTC market, but most aren’t yet maximizing the opportunity. “Find your niche and use the referrals and use your relationships,” McKeon said. “Leverage your service and your brand.”  

Advice from McKeon includes: 

Start small and grow 

  • good place for an independent pharmacy to get LTC experience is by serving a group home with just 10 patients. 
  • A nursing home can be more difficult to serve, likely requiring medication carts and access to electronic medical records. Get other LTC experience elsewhere before moving to this setting. 

Focus on service 

  • For example, a manager ahalfway house or local jail may say, “It’s all about will you be here for me and my patientsI don’t want to have a patient arrive and not be able to get a medication. How do I get my first doses? They want a service that will follow through on commitments and with the flexibility to understand their needs and their patients.  

Understand challenges and solve problems 

  • The most important first step is for the pharmacy to ask, “What challenges do you have today?” 
  • Focus on what will make patient care better. LTC personnel will give you information to help you help the patients, McKeon said. 
  • Just taking time to explain when a generic drug is a different color or shape today is a level of service they likely aren’t seeing from mail-order pharmacies. 

Additional opportunities in LTC 

The primary advantage of LTC facilities is that they offer access to large numbers of patients who take multiple prescriptions. In addition, when serving LTC patients, pharmacies may be able to tap into higher reimbursement rates and in some cases may avoid DIR fees. 

Plus, these patients often need more than just medications. Your pharmacy might be able to offer: 

  • DME 
  • Vaccines 
  • Testing 
  • Infusion 
  • Consulting