Tuesday, October 19, 2010

State of the Profession...Marketing

When you think of pharmacy marketing, what do you think of?

Is it something like this from the people over at Walmart:

Or maybe this offering from CVS:

Perhaps you think of a local, independent pharmacy's ad:

Maybe something like this from the Super Bowl?

Or this, presented by the ASHP:

Maybe your perception of pharmacy marketing is connected to the gimmicks that we've seen all too much of over the past 15 years.
  • $25 gift cards for new/transferred prescriptions
  • Fuel perks/ discounted gasoline
  • $4 (or less) generic medications
  • free antibiotics (and now, diabetes medications)

Whatever your perception of pharmacy marketing is, I think that we can all agree that it pretty much is centered around the product that we dispense. The large corporations try to get people into their pharmacies based on a few things:
  • how convenient it is to get the product
  • how cheap the product is
  • what bonuses we'll give you for getting the product at our place

The corporations are going to continue to push the product. That's what they care about...sales.

But we, the pharmacists, need to promote the professional services that we provide. From the videos above, I like the message that the ASHP was trying to convey. They are attempting to show the other aspects of pharmacy. Just that, in the hospital setting, they can't bill for their services individually. Pharmacy is lumped into the rest of the hospital bill. If pharmacists billed for their services individually, the message of the ad would be great.

I'll be truthful here. I think that pharmacy needs to evolve into something different from what it is today if it is going to survive. I see outpatient medication therapy management and ambulatory care pharmacy as the future of the profession. If we think that counting pills will continue to be the bread and butter of pharmacy practice, we are set to be rudely awakened.

So how do we move from the product-determined method of payment to the service-based method of payment?

In a nutshell, I don't have a clue. But I do know that we need to start by billing for the services that we do provide. And when we do, we need to submit a dollar figure that shows how much we are saving the insurer. When we tell Mr Johnson to try XYZ cough syrup and keep him from running to the ER on Saturday night, we just saved the health care insurer at least $400. So we need to bill with that in mind. Maybe they'll pay us $15 when we save them $400. (I have an idea on how to pull this off. Details in a future post)

But back to the marketing of the professional services. I can see a series of videos that are basically testimonials where people share their story and explain how their partnership with their pharmacist improved their health. The commercial would include a link to a web-site that lists individual pharmacists who provide professional pharmacy services. We want to keep the focus on the pharmacists, not the building that they happen to work in.

We have studies coming out all the time that show the benefit of pharmacist involvement in the health care of our patients. We just need to be bold about it and put it out there for the public to see.


lovinmyjob said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, we as pharmacists have spent too many years giving away our services. I agree that we need to have a dollar value put on the knowledge we bring to the arena. However, most of us work for someone else. Therefore, any money gained will go to the employer and not into our pocket. Unless we can personally gain from billing for our services then we must follow the mandates of our employer. Unfortunately, thay usually means giving away our services. For example, until the administration fee goes into my pocket, I don't care even if flu shots are given away for free.

Anonymous said...

Hi Eric,

I thought you would find this pharmacy interesting, I am unsure about the billing process for their services but they defintely have found a nice niche and are advancing local physicians and patients' perceptions of pharmacy:

I have also seen two independents in my area setup collabortive practice agreements with