The independent pharmacy industry is a difficult business to be in. You’re expected to provide the best customer service, counsel patients, and turn a profit all while your revenue is cut by undefined fees and ever-lowering reimbursement rates.
The stress of turning a profit may lead you to stretch hours of operation and days open in hopes to increase sales. However, this increase in time at work can push you and your employees too hard, generally resulting in burnout and loss of productivity.
Rather than working yourself and your staff to death, you can take measures to ensure you’re managing things efficiently so when your pharmacy is closed some operations can still run smoothly.
Know Your Busy Times
You can find a slew of articles online (like this one) that tell you that taking a lunch break is beneficial not only for the employee but for the business.
Unfortunately, in the independent pharmacy business it’s rare that a pharmacist gets a dedicated lunch time. If they’re lucky, they can catch a quick bite in the corner between checking prescriptions and counseling patients.
Closing during lunch is much less common than it used to be, but it is still practiced by some independent pharmacy owners. This is the best way to ensure a dedicated time for them and their staff to have a lunch. Before you stress out too much at the thought of losing all the business that comes into your pharmacy during lunch time, let me assure you there are ways to work around this.
Your pharmacy software should be equipped with reporting features that allow you to measure your busiest times of day. You can analyze this report to find your average post-lunch lull and use that knowledge to decide the best time to close your pharmacy for lunch.
This report can also help you determine the length of your lunch period. If you only have a short lull between busy times, you may only want close for 30 minutes. However, if there’s a significant downtime, you may choose to close for 45 minutes or a full hour.
Employ Refill Request Tools
You may want to stay open seven days a week to maximize business. The big box retailers do it, right? So why can’t you? If you have a relief pharmacist or multiple pharmacists employed, this is a perfectly feasible option. If you don’t, closing one day per week may be in the best interest of the pharmacist.
All avenues of communication between your patients and your pharmacy don’t have to close when your doors do. Refill request tools, such as IVRs, mobile applications, and online refill sites, allow your patients to request a refill any time of day and any day, whether you are open or closed.
These tools integrate with your pharmacy software, sending refill requests directly to your Rx queue to be filled on your next day of business.
Organize Patient Pick Ups
If you’re concerned that you will lose business by not being available every day, you can alleviate this potential problem by organizing when your patients come to see you.
You can do this by setting your patients up on synchronization programs and ensuring that their pick up dates don’t fall on the day of week that you’re closed. While synchronization can’t completely eliminate the need to come into your pharmacy on a certain day, it can decrease these occurrences and optimize patient trips. It’s especially effective for your critical patients that should never skip a day of medication.
One of the most important things to remember when setting pharmacy hours, especially if you’re already an established pharmacy, is to communicate your hours to your pharmacy customers. You can do this several different ways:
- Signage: Post your hours on a sign in your window or on your door. You can put it out for lunch breaks with a clear time of when you will return.
- Social media: Post hours on your page or in your bio, and if you’re changing from previously established hours, be sure to create a post or two communicating the change.
- Email Marketing: This would be great for a small email campaign. You could reach out to your patients before they come to pharmacy and communicate the reasons for your change of hours.
- Bag Stuffers: You could put one of these in each bag for the month of the change to remind patients.
I’m not saying that you won’t lose any business by closing more often, but it will have a positive effect on your employees, which ultimately effects your patients. Managing your pharmacy in way that allows you and your staff to have a healthy work-life balance will produce more productive employees and more effective customer service professionals. This can also help your bottom line by decreasing your payroll.
If you’re interested in learning more about how the tools in your pharmacy software can better your business and you bottom line, click below.