Throughout my 20+ year career in the world of retail pharmacy in Australia including among other roles, brand development and sale of business, change has been constant and, I can safely assume change was constant before my time. The one constant has been pharmacists – their professionalism, care for patients and ability to adapt to ever increasing industry challenges. I feel genuinely privileged to have the opportunity to work with the people who are at the absolute coalface of the Australian healthcare industry.
The industry has faced numerous challenges including, inter alia, ‘Price Disclosure’ or PBS reforms, increasing retail rents and the introduction of discount pharmacies. Yet, within these adversities, lies the opportunity for growth and innovation. Disclaimer: I am not for a second suggesting the introduction of 60-day dispensing is a good thing for retail pharmacy – it is obviously far from it. However, 60-day dispensing is happening, and we must find the opportunity in the changing landscape.
Struggling with a shortage of pharmacists…?
With patients now receiving a two-month supply of some medications, the frequency of pharmacy visits will likely reduce though it is worth noting the average visit to a pharmacy is already every 20 days (according to Pharmacy Guild of Australia), not once a month. Double dispensing can translate into fewer staff hours required for dispensing and administrative tasks associated with each prescription. Pharmacists and pharmacy staff can allocate their time more efficiently, focusing on patient consultations, medication management services, and enhancing the overall quality of care. As a result, the extended dispensing cycle can not only improve patient convenience but also optimise wage costs, benefiting both the pharmacy and its customers.
NostraData says only 36% of patients are loyal!
Increasing customer loyalty is a paramount opportunity for retail pharmacies. This opportunity is probably the greatest of all available to retail pharmacies particularly considering recent NostraData findings that on average only 36% of patients consistently fill all their prescriptions at the same pharmacy – that means doubling your prescription volume is a genuinely achievable target. By offering excellent service, personalised medication consultations, and value-added services, pharmacies can attract more patients and encourage them to consolidate their medication needs under one roof. This not only fosters customer loyalty but also positions the pharmacy as a trusted healthcare partner, improving patient outcomes and securing a steady, loyal clientele in the long run.
In terms of financial opportunity this represents a maximum of ~$3,800,000 turnover based on an average 140 script per day pharmacy…
If you don’t value your time, NO ONE else will!
The evolving landscape of retail pharmacy in Australia presents a remarkable opportunity to reconsider the pricing structure for certain services that have traditionally been offered for free by pharmacists ONLY! As pharmacies expand their roles in patient care, including medication therapy management, chronic disease management, medication packing and deliveries, these value-added services demand recognition and compensation. By offering these services at a fee, pharmacies can ensure sustainability and invest in improving service quality, technology, and staff training. Simultaneously, patients can gain access to enhanced, personalised care that is tailored to their specific needs, fostering a more robust and mutually beneficial relationship between pharmacists and customers in the ever-evolving healthcare ecosystem.
How well do you know your local doctors…?
At a time when all the media coverage is talking negatively about 60-day dispensing, is this an opportunity for you to foster stronger relationships with your local GPs? Collaboration between doctors and pharmacists is crucial for optimising patient care. If you were to reach out to the medical centres in your local area and initiate discussions about ongoing patient care and closer collaboration between Pharmacists and GPs, you might be one of the first to do this. You could end up with an increased number of GPs in your area referring patients directly to your pharmacy driving higher script volumes and ultimately increased revenue. Regular meetings can facilitate the exchange of insights and updates on patient medications and treatment plans while further strengthening your relationship with the local GPs. Strengthening these connections fosters a collaborative healthcare ecosystem, ultimately benefiting patients with safer, more effective treatments.
Adapt, Improvise, Overcome…
We know 60-day dispensing is providing a challenge for retail pharmacies, however there is certainly more opportunity available through other means. The average pharmacy stands to lose ~$122,000 in bottom line which is significant. Through increasing patient loyalty, the average pharmacy could increase turnover by up to $3,800,000 – a far greater opportunity than the potential loss. By improving relationships with local GPs, the pharmacy can build referral networks which both increase the pharmacy’s turnover and improve its position as ‘THE’ health destination for the local area. Finally, by charging for services which should always have had a cost attributed to them you can improve profitability and generate the respect you deserve for the crucial role you play in the healthcare system and if others continue to do it for free – just make sure you do it better and are worth paying for!
Written by Robert Whelan, Managing Director – AP Group
AP Group are the leading pharmacy experts in Australia, helping hundreds of pharmacists into ownership every year – our team can help with sourcing finance for your purchase, as well as providing the right legal advice to help you navigate the process.
We connect existing pharmacy owners with over 5000 ready and eager investors via our cutting-edge online Data Room. Our Data Room keeps confidential listing data secure and allows buyers to make informed decisions on each of our pharmacies for sale.
About the Author:
Rob Whelan’s hardworking and entrepreneurial nature is how he built AP Group from start-up to the largest specialised pharmacy brokerage in the country. And he’s showing no sign of slowing down (his two young, energetic daughters will make sure of that, too).
Thought leader. Problem solver. Big picture thinker. They’re a few of the words often used to describe Rob.
He’s worked in the pharmacy space for more than 2 decades — from franchise development at Terry White Chemmart to Operations Manager of the Pharmasave Group. He’s also held roles in branded OTC products, generic and branded medicines, brand development and pharmacy group operations. With a resume like this, it’s easy to see why there are few people in the pharmacy industry with such diverse knowledge as Rob.
When asked what he loves most about his role, Rob is particularly proud of the team they’ve built. Each individual brings their own unique experience to the role, all coming together to form a close-knit team with shared goals. For Rob, being able to have a positive impact on their career (and life) is what gets him out of bed each morning. Well, that and having to make the school lunches.