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Part 4 – Three Steps for Pharmacy Retailers to Build Customer Loyalty by Empowering Patients

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Like any business, pharmacy retail chains need to continually grow sales, reduce costs and build customer loyalty. While increasing chronic disease among ageing populations promises to drive growth in the pharmacy market, relying too heavily on prescription drug sales comes with risk.

Most prescription drugs are paid for by governments, third-party insurers or corporate employers. In their quest to reduce costs, payers have been adjusting allowable mark-up and dispensing fees as well as eligibility requirements for patients and products.

Meanwhile, new competition from online retailers and mail order prescription drug distributors are adding to traditional competition from independent operators and large retail chains with combined food, drug retail and consumer goods operations.

While many pharmacy retailers have been investing in information technologies to differentiate their customer experience, these efforts have mostly focused on giving patients an online view of their medications and the ability to request refills online.

A consolidated list of medications helps pharmacists deliver more comprehensive advice and gives patients some level of convenience. But stopping there is to succumb to an enduring myth – that simply providing patients with a view of health data will somehow transform the patient-consumer experience.

Information technology has the potential to empower patients so they stick with their medication regime, make healthier lifestyle choices, return to refill their prescription, and spend in the front shop.  A truly differentiated customer experience that builds passionate brand loyalty is possible.

Pharmacy retailers can empower their patients. Here are three steps for doing it. Let’s call them, Education or “What did the doctor say?”, Collaboration or “What’s next?”, and Motivation or “Keep it up!”

Education or “What did the doctor say?”

Unfortunately, healthcare professionals are generally poor teachers. They’ve invested lifetimes to learn a ton about science and disease, but usually less about people and adherence. And they’re really busy, with little time to cater to each patient’s unique learning abilities.

Most patients aren’t great learners either. They are usually stressed at the point of care. Most don’t ask questions, and they forget most of what clinicians tell them anyway.

The Patient Visit Record is step one in making your patients your partners. Clinicians can become great teachers by using branded infographic education about your drug and recording the conversation.   Patients become great learners by being able to replay the teaching session anytime, anywhere.

Collaboration or “What’s next?”

Patients with chronic conditions – likely the bulk of your prescription business – have a lot to manage. Their personal circle of care can include a broad spectrum of healthcare professionals as well as their family and friends. Managing all these people so they work as an efficient team can be challenging.

To make matters worse, patients often get conflicting advice from different healthcare professionals.  One specialist’s advice can easily differ from another if they don’t have access to the same care plans. This can confuse patients at best, or threaten their safety at worst.

Patients-friendly care plans are a lay-language description of what’s being treated, what’s next in the treatment plan, and what to do in case of expected or adverse events. They ensure your patients entire care team is following the same roadmap.

Patient-friendly care plans combined with secure messaging enable a patient’s personal circle of care to collaborate on the same roadmap to health. This connects patients and their families with pharmacy staff and embeds pharmacy staff with inter-professional care teams.

Motivation or “Keep it up!”

Medication Adherence rates are notoriously poor.  Nearly one third of new prescriptions go unfilled; half of people that start taking a medication do not continue taking it as prescribed; and approximately 30 percent of prescriptions that get filled once do not get refilled.(Annals of Intern Medicine, Centre for Health Transformation, Script Your Future.)

Patient’s need support and encouragement to improve medication adherence, and to adopt the lifestyle changes that will maximize the benefit of your drug.  But behavior change can be difficult for most of us.

Personal health coaching is step three. Patients track their adherence, biometrics and daily behaviors such as exercise, food, and how they feel using mobile or wearable devices. Healthcare professionals easily monitor patient populations and see who needs support at a glance, and securely communicate to get them back on track.

What’s the value?

Better education also ensures patients and their families understand and retain medication instructions.  It also extends pharmacy brand and improves efficiency and effectiveness of education that pharmacy staff deliver.

Better collaboration connects patients and their families with pharmacy staff.  It also embeds pharmacy staff with inter-professional care teams.

Better support with personal health coaching enables pharmacy staff to efficiently support and encourage large groups of patients. It also provides real-world data to design truly personalized care and consumer advice.

Empowerment helps patients achieve healthier lifestyle and better medication adherence. It also helps pharmacy retailers deliver a truly differentiated customer experience that builds passionately loyal customers who will return to refill prescriptions and spend in the front shop.

Note: This is the final blog in our four part series on the value of empowering patients.