As every pharmacist knows, patients’ needs and expectations are constantly evolving. A recent Accenture survey found that convenience of location is now a top factor that is influencing how patients seek care. This finding further positions pharmacies as an essential member of the care team. There are approximately 67,000 pharmacies in the U.S. — that’s 3.5 times more than the number of Starbucks. They are on street corners, in grocery stores, in our hospitals, on university campuses, in cities and in rural communities. And, with this convenience, it is easy to understand that the average patient visits their pharmacist up to 35 times per year, compared to their provider, who they may see three or four times per year.
As more patients rely more heavily on pharmacies as their preferred site of care, pharmacists’ roles are expanding, and the frequency with which patients are entering their stores is providing these pharmacists with greater opportunity to truly influence a person’s health.
Yet, the complexities of today’s health care environment, and specifically running a health care business, can be overwhelming. Pharmacy owners — no matter how big or small — often need to collaborate with strategic partners to fully capitalize on their position in the industry. Put simply — it takes a village. But what is the best approach to identify these partners and work with them over the long term to achieve success? What capabilities should pharmacies prioritize, and what should they expect from a selected partner?
What to Consider When Pursuing a Strategic Partnership
Engaging a strategic partner gives retail pharmacies the tools to optimize business operations, reduce costs, increase revenue and identify the unique needs of their patient populations. But ideal partners don’t simply offer up solutions they’ve already developed for other customers. Instead, they collaborate with each pharmacy to build bespoke programs and services from the ground up that respond directly to the issues impacting that particular business. Then they ensure the pharmacy has the support it needs to successfully implement the solutions and maintain them.
Pharmacies should seek out partners that can deliver support beyond the pharmacies’ core capability — for example, expert guidance on research projects, payer strategy, supply chain management, marketing, patient support programs, and more.
Ideal partners will conduct an initial analysis at the onset of the relationship to determine the pharmacy’s unique value, role and challenges within the health care marketplace. Then, the data collected on day-to-day operations and patient experience should be leveraged to make tactical recommendations to help grow the pharmacy business and nurture loyal customers. Analyzing patient behaviors and adherence rates within specific disease states, for instance, can help determine the most effective cadence and types of interventions needed to improve outcomes.
Finally, a pharmacy’s strategic partner should possess a robust infrastructure that enables it to meet the diverse demands of pharmacy businesses. This includes access to both the experts who can consult on niche areas of the business, and the relationships and resources needed to execute — whether it be developing a diabetes care center, adding an immunization program or updating the pharmacy’s payer strategy.
Align Partner Support With Pharmacy Success
But the No. 1 requirement pharmacies should demand from a partner is a mutual understanding that when the pharmacy wins, the partner wins. And that only happens if the partner enables the pharmacy to best support its patients now and into the future. Without this philosophical alignment, linking patient, pharmacy and partner success, nothing else will matter. The patient outcomes, business performance and more will suffer. In today’s dynamic market, retail pharmacies must require strategic partners to work alongside their leaders to co-create the solutions that will most benefit their communities.
George Rafferty is president of corporate partnerships at AmerisourceBergen Corp.