Pharmacist jackets need bigger pockets

The title of this blog is intended to attract a bit of curiosity, as well as a couple of other emotions.  Although it may initially seem funny, this piece is mostly tragic.

Occasionally I have received the accusation that my blogs lack data to support my positions.  I have been accused of using ‘anecdotal evidence’. i.e. not substantial

Of course anecdotal evidence is data. It is qualitative data which is directional and intuitive, as opposed to quantitative data which drives statistics.  Enough anecdotal evidence becomes compelling and takes on the characteristics of quantitative data…data which should create an impetus for action.

All this provides a segway to my piece today. The following italicized section is part of a message sent to all the pharmacists employed by a large grocery chain which has pharmacies in their stores, and which is a member of the Ontario Chain Drugstores Association.  The message was sent to a specific location falling behind expectations.

I believe it reflects the management style of this corporation and many other chain/box store/grocers, but even further speaks to the challenge we face within pharmacy today.

I have disguised the name of the chain and have edited the script to protect the confidentiality of those who sent me the original corporate communication whose employment security is at stake.

So here it is; some more anecdotal evidence which I will allow to speak for itself.

“Super Duper Grocery Marts management is not happy with the pharmacy department.  Losses this year will be over $X00, 000 and the current month is way behind budget.  Focus must now turn to promoting the business, to creating a turnaround, and to creating an unbeatable ‘customer experience’.

Every customer encounter must now involve an active process of selling OTCs, and the performance of a Medscheck or other billable service whenever possible.

Remember that physically placing an item in the customer’s hands increases the chance of purchase by 100%.

As a result of our current grocery promotions in the store, many customers will be in the store and some will be wandering through the OTC sections.

This is the direction to all pharmacists. There are four steps which must be followed:

  1. Engage potential customers in the OTC aisles. Do not wait for a question. Do not stay behind the dispensary.
  2. Provide your name and title.
  3. In one pocket have sufficient business cards, in the other pocket have pharmacy fridge magnets. Hand one magnet and one business card to every customer every time.
  4. Ask the customer to switch from their present pharmacy to our pharmacy. Tell the customer what great service our pharmacy provides and that they can shop for their groceries instead of wasting time waiting for their prescription. Emphasize the fact that our pharmacy does not charge the $2.00 co pay.

Smile and act friendly at all times.  Always try to generate revenue generating services like Medschecks, diabetes counseling and smoking cessation.

The goal is to reach budget. The company expects pharmacy to pull its weight.

And from the Area Supervisor:…just to be totally clear, any pharmacist who does not embrace this positive approach to increasing sales of OTCs  and providing more billable professional services, will be asked to seek employment elsewhere”.   

Now you see where the big pockets become an important issue…it’s to hold all of those fridge magnets.

Just when you think it cannot get any worse, a story likes this comes along and you just have to shake your head.

If ever pharmacists needed motivation to take back the profession of pharmacy from these vested interests, which treat pharmacists with no more respect than grocery clerks, then this surely must be the time.

Actually the grocery clerks in this particular chain are unionized and get lunch breaks, and formal representation when necessary.  So my comparison to grocery clerks is not accurate.  The clerks get more respect than the pharmacists.

But of course, this is just ‘anecdotal evidence’

PBNs (pharmacist billing numbers) will go a long way to shifting the power dynamic into the hands of practising pharmacists so that this kind of story can become history.

This must become a priority for all practising pharmacists.  Make your pharmacy association aware of your feelings on this.  Get active.  Become involved, and change the course of history.


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