Why Becoming a Diabetes Expert Makes Good Business Sense
Guest Contributor: Jonathan G. Marquess, PharmD, CDE, CPT
As the owner of three independent pharmacies in the Atlanta area, I have seen countless numbers of diabetic customers who didn’t understand their disease or medications. They didn’t understand simple things, like the importance of checking their blood sugar or how to do it.
I viewed this lack of understanding as an opportunity. I saw an opportunity to help customers make simple changes to better manage their disease, build long-term relationships with customers, differentiate my pharmacies and increase revenues. (A recent article in Drug Topics highlighted that the top 1% of diabetes patients spend $24,000 per year in a pharmacy.)
Seeing the opportunity in the area of diabetes education, I have worked to become known as a diabetes expert and to position my pharmacies as the place to go for personalized diabetes care in the communities we serve. We now have hospitals, doctors and employers who refer patients to us, and we conduct training on diabetes at senior centers and employer worksites. We are booking appointments two to three months in advance, and both our reputation — and our revenues — continue to grow.
Here are some simple steps for becoming a diabetes expert in your community:
- Create a vision of a “diabetes practice.” You need to have a clear vision, set clear goals for your staff and make creating a diabetes practice a priority.
- Become knowledgeable. There are a wealth of continuing-education courses and resources available. This includes the American Diabetes Association, the American Association of Diabetes Educators and also great diabetes CE programs at the American Pharmacists Association’s website. In addition to valuable information, these organizations also provide accreditation. You must become personally knowledgeable and must ensure that your staff is knowledgeable.
- Make your diabetes practice visible. Create a special area in your store (such as a Diabetes Life Center offered through Health Mart) that is solely focused on diabetes — giving your patients one-stop shopping for all their diabetes-related needs. Bring in products to address the needs of diabetics, add signage and create a compelling visual impression.
- Engage in community outreach. Part of building a successful diabetes program is making sure people know about it! Incorporate your diabetes offering into your marketing mix. Get out in your community and educate various groups about your expertise. We talk to hospital-based diabetes educators, physicians, employers, diabetes support groups and senior groups. We make them aware of our services and expertise.
- Learn about reimbursement. We are getting reimbursed for our diabetes-education activities from patients, insurers, Medicare and employers. Having a great program is essential, but you’ve got to figure out how to turn your program into a revenue generator.
Becoming a diabetes expert makes good business sense because it can drive new revenue to your practice. Plus, it can strengthen your relationships with your patients and increase your visibility with other local healthcare providers. Our focus on diabetes has enhanced our reputation and our bottom line, and it can do the same for you.
Jonathan Marquess and his pharmacist wife, Pam, are the owners of three Health Mart pharmacies in the Metro Atlanta area. Jonathan is also the owner and diabetes educator at two ADA-recognized Diabetes Education Centers in Atlanta.