Here’s How Your Independent Pharmacy Can Brave Change and Stay in Business

In the last 20 years, more than 1,000 independent pharmacies have had to shut their doors. How can you make sure you’re not next?

By now, it’s no secret that many independents are struggling. In a sea of staff shortages, rising DIR fees, and little help from lawmakers, it’s hard to stay afloat. Add in pandemic stress and workplace burnout, and you might just feel like you’re drowning.

But hope isn’t lost.

Even though change is slow-going, it’s on the horizon. Every day,  new pharmacy laws and regulations get passed, challenging current standards and opening up new avenues for pharmacists. These laws concern everything from scope of practice to PBMs to, in some states, provider status.

And change will only keep coming.

But as you work and wait for change, you still have to keep your pharmacy running.

Try these 10 strategies to keep your business running at maximum capacity:

10 Things Your Pharmacy Needs to Do Right Now

1. Join the NCPA Network

In the current pharmacy climate, you can’t go at it alone. You need other people to guide you, advise you, and help you make the changes you want to see.

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) is the best network to do it. NCPA is the largest independent pharmacy organization in the country, representing nearly 20,000 pharmacies nationwide.

NCPA’s mission is to “protect and promote the interests of independent pharmacists whose current and future success is vital to their patients, their communities, and the entire healthcare system.”

To support this mission, NCPA offers education, outreach, and even legal action that furthers the world of pharmacy. By joining NCPA, you can stay informed, stay connected, and stay ready to advocate for independent pharmacy in all capacities.

If you haven’t already, apply to join NCPA today.

2. Get Clinical with CPESN

The most innovative pharmacists know that the future of pharmacy lies in enhanced services.

The Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network (CPESN) is an organization dedicated to the development of these services. CPESN brings independents together to introduce and innovate services all across the country.

When you join CPESN, you join a network of like-minded professionals who want to go beyond pushing pills and play a bigger part in patient care. You also lay the groundwork for enhanced services in your pharmacy, which can bring in an extra stream of revenue and boost your bottom line.

Find your state’s CPESN network and sign up to be a part of the largest enhanced services network in the nation.

3. Take Advantage of eCare Plans

When you perform enhanced services, you need to document those services to share with providers and payers.

Electronic care plans, also called eCare Plans, are the best way to do it.

eCare Plans combine a patient’s current therapies and concerns along with the pharmacy’s interventions in order to show improvement over time.

Dozens of technology vendors, including PioneerRx, offer integrations that allow users to create and share eCare Plans with providers and payers.

And when it comes to eCare Plan submissions, PioneerRx pharmacies lead the way. Today, PioneerRx pharmacies have submitted nearly 4 million eCare Plans to CPESN.

Watch this short clip from the Catalyst Pharmacy Podcast to learn how the eCare Plan got its start and how it’s helping patients around the nation:

4. Try PioneerRx’s Mobile Apps + Add-Ons

In any pharmacy, efficiency is key. Especially in the midst of staff shortages, it’s important that you can prioritize your time and act with efficiency.

With the help of PioneerRx’s mobile apps and add-ons, you can complete your routine tasks quickly and easily — then use your extra time to spend with patients.

PioneerRx currently offers 6 mobile apps and add-ons designed to give you great features and even greater flexibility. Each app integrates with your PioneerRx system to offer you the information you need on the go.

PioneerRx currently offers the RxLocal App (which includes the Patient Portal), Drive-Thru App, Delivery App, Inventory App, Patient Counseling App, and Cloud Fax capabilities.

Click to learn about each of PioneerRx’s mobile apps and how they can help your pharmacy get the flexibility you need.

5. Use PMP InterConnect

Among a pharmacist’s greatest responsibilities is keeping patients safe from prescription drug abuse.

Among your best resources to do it is PMP InterConnect.  

PMP InterConnect is a prescription monitoring program — sponsored by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) — that helps pharmacies and physicians exchange information (HIEs) and prevent controlled substance abuse.

With InterConnect, pharmacists and physicians can communicate across state lines, identify patients at risk of substance abuse, and if necessary, intervene.

Many PioneerRx pharmacies already use PMP InterConnect in order to facilitate better communication.

If you want to stay innovative, you should do the same.

6. Amp Up Chronic Care Management

Chronic care management is a building block for all independent pharmacies — and now, pharmacies can make out of their programs.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reward providers who offer non-face-to-face chronic care management (CCM) services to patients, via phone call or telehealth, who need additional attention.

According to Blair Thielemier, Owner of Pharmapreneur Academy, independent pharmacies can (and should) be taking advantage of this opportunity.

As Blair explains, “A pharmacy [can] subcontract with a group practice to manage all of the chronic care needs of its patients.” She goes on, “Under a collaborative practice agreement, the pharmacy [can] make a larger impact on patient care and help generate revenue for the group practice.”

To hear more from Blair and learn more about managed care, check out Episode 8 of the Catalyst Pharmacy Podcast, MTM and Pharmacy: Behind the Buzzword:

7. Invest in IVR

Time is always your greatest asset, but in pharmacy, it can also be your greatest setback.

Every day, you have a long list of to-dos, but often, those tasks can get put off because of one culprit: your phone lines. You’re already familiar with the ringing, singing, and stopping to answer calls: but are you familiar with the one simple tool you need to stop it?

Interactive voice response (IVR) is an automated phone service that can answer calls, direct patients, and ensure that you spend less time on the phone.

Holden Graves, a Clinical Pharmacist at PioneerRx, says that IVR is essential for any pharmacy business.

As Holden explains, “Setting up an IVR system can free up time for your staff to handle other responsibilities.” And it’s not only able to free up your team’s time, but also your patients. Holden elaborates, “Some patients prefer to get their information from a phone call. This system can be used to provide your patients with 24/7 access to information.”

When you pick out an IVR system, Holden says, “Make sure that the IVR you choose can integrate with your pharmacy software system. Medtel integrates with many software systems, including PioneerRx.”

With more time on your hands, you can invest more in your business.

To hear more from Holden and get more actionable advice, check out our blog, Back to Basics | 5 Essentials for Opening a New Pharmacy.

8. Give Social Media a Go

In the digital age, social media is more important than ever. According to the Pew Research Center, ¾ of Americans use some form of social media to engage with family, friends, and even businesses.

It makes sense, then, that over 90% of US businesses use social media to market their products and services — and that includes pharmacies.

If you don’t think that social media works, check out this episode of the Catalyst Pharmacy Podcast, featuring Phil Cowley, better known as @philismypharmacist.

In just over 6 months, Phil has racked up nearly 1 million followers on social media and turned his struggling business into a success. On the podcast, Phil offers his best tips and tricks for using social media to your advantage.

Watch here:

9. Rely On Med Sync

Yet another building block of a successful pharmacy is a robust medication synchronization program.

Med sync is a win for everyone: your patients become more adherent, your workflow becomes more organized, and your ratings reap the benefit of consistent, monthly refills.

If you haven’t said yes to sync yet, this is your sign.

In terms of technology needed to support you, PioneerRx offers a whole host of features designed to implement and integrate your med sync program. Learn how one PioneerRx pharmacist, Kim Bost, uses PioneerRx to keep patients adherent.

With the right tools, you can expand your program and see success.

10. Advocate for Your Profession

Long-lasting change begins and ends with you. In the face of adversity, you are your best advocate.

As a pharmacist, you know your unique strengths, weaknesses, and challenges — and it’s up to you to make sure that lawmakers know them, too.

When you make a stand for yourself, you also make a stand for the future of the pharmacy profession: and that’s important. So if you want your pharmacy to not only survive, but succeed, you have to be prepared to explain why it should.

Enter the world of pharmacy advocacy.

Advocacy looks different for everyone. It can start small and grow over time. One day you might be signing petitions, and another, you might be marching on Capitol Hill. Both matter.

In any case, you should always find time to advocate for yourself and your colleagues. Stay up-to-date on the latest laws and regulations, meet with your legislators, and take part in efforts in your community.

When it comes to advocacy, isn’t only about you — it’s about all of independent pharmacy.

Are You Ready to Rise to the Occasion?

In the wake of so many challenges, it can be hard to keep your pharmacy afloat. But with the right strategies, support, and enough stick-to-it-iveness, your pharmacy can brave the changes and stay in business for years to come. Are you ready to rise to the occasion?

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