Understand the Consumer and Grow Your Business

February 2014, Vol 2, No 1 - The First Word
Donald J. Dietz, RPh, MS

To obtain an external view of our profession, I usually find it valuable to review articles about pharmacy that come from outside healthcare. Consumer Reports surveyed 33,000 consumers about their pharmacy selection, and recently published 10 reasons people consider when switching pharmacies.1 This may help pharmacists improve the services rendered to patients, provide insight into the factors that are important to patients when selecting a pharmacy, and provide tips for pharmacists to attract new patients.

The first reason listed was that patients were not able to easily consult with their pharmacist. Although most survey participants rated their pharmacists’ knowledge as “very good” or “excellent,” it is the availability of

pharmacists to discuss patients’ questions about their prescription medications, over-the-counter (OTC) products, and even food and vitamin interactions that caused patients to consider switching pharmacies. One-third of respondents at chain and mass merchandiser pharmacies did not discuss personal medical concerns with their pharmacists, because they appeared too busy. This feedback is calling for pharmacists to find time and processes that minimally impact the prescription workflow to better answer patient inquiries, especially for new therapies.

The lack of a private area to discuss personal medical concerns was also an issue. Now is the time to examine your consultation area, see if you can remove clutter, make it more accessible, and invite patients to go over any questions they have about their prescriptions or OTC medications. Consider scheduling an appointment at a less busy time or a telephone call if you cannot commit the necessary time to the patient at that moment.

The cost of prescription medications was another reason reported by patients for switching pharmacies, as prescription costs vary between pharmacies, especially when including discount programs, 90 days’ supply, and other cost-containment strategies. Consumer Reports encourages consumers to shop around to address out-of-pocket expenses. With the large number of insurance plan changes, many people are experiencing unexpected deductibles, noncovered prescriptions, coinsurances, and higher copayments. Consider this an opportunity to engage with your patients, help them better understand their prescription benefit coverage, and examine ways to help reduce their prescription costs with copay cards or generic products.

Technology was another factor patients considered when switching pharmacies. Consumer Reports noted that although many of their readers are “old school” when ordering prescriptions (ie, phone, fax, or in person), patients can use computers, tablets, or smart- phones to interact with the pharmacy website and computer systems. Undoubtedly, we have all experienced the learning curve with new technology and software updates in our pharmacy. Although it may be difficult to change our old habits, these new workflow improvements usually help us serve our patients more efficiently and with greater accuracy—2 attributes that Consumer Reports uses to evaluate pharmacies.

Refill synchronization was highlighted as a new service offered by a few pharmacies to help patients taking multiple medications. Not only is it a convenient service for patients, but it also helps improve medication adherence. With all prescriptions dispensed at one time, it also allows time for pharmacists to consult with patients and address any questions that arise regarding their medication regimen. If your pharmacy is not offering refill synchronization, take the time to investigate and determine whether this would work with your systems and workflow..

I encourage you to go online and read the report to see how patients evaluate their pharmacy based on factors such as speed and accuracy, courtesy and helpfulness, and pharmacists’ knowledge. I am confident that you will be able to find a pearl or 2 of information that can help grow your pharmacy business and better serve your patients.


  1. Consumer Reports. Finding the right pharmacy: our survey offers 10 reasons why you may want to switch drugstores. www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2014/03/finding-the-right-pharmacy/index.htm. January 2014. Accessed February 4, 2014.
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Last modified: February 28, 2014
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