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What do customers want?

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Guild executive director David Quilty reports on research into attitudes conducted as part of the Guild’s CP2025 project

Writing in Forefront Mr Quilty says the report is a “no holds barred” look at the future of community pharmacy, focusing on key trends, drivers and risks.

Cost and convenience of location were found to be the most important factors in patients choosing a pharmacy.

Also, customers said they had high levels of trust and satisfaction of trust in pharmacy but they also valued services such as sick certificates and vaccinations.

However, the research found there was demand for more services—currently not available in pharmacy such as travel medicine, minor ailments, nutritional advice, and mental health.

“Interestingly, patients perceive less of a difference between smaller pharmacies and larger discount or banner group pharmacies than do staff and owners. In fact, there is somewhat of a dichotomy between owners who believe that patients choose pharmacies on the basis of the level of healthcare advice and expertise provided and patients who see this advice and expertise as being consistently available from all pharmacies and who make their choices based more on cost and convenience,” Mr Quilty writes.

Trust, one-on-one relationships with pharmacy were also highly valued but there were concerns that low-profit margins were impacting on staff levels, leading to lower wages, and increased time pressures, which are compromising customer service.

This fear shared by owners, the Report found.

“This concern is shared by owners who see increased pricing pressures leading to understaffing and lower services,” he said.

The research also found that people—staff, patients and owners—valued the integration of pharmacy into the broader health system resulting in greater collaboration with other health professionals; and greater use of e-health records, patient apps and script reminders.

The Report identified nine broad strategic pathways for sustainable long-term growth of the community pharmacy sector. These are:

Health Services – provide health-related service in the pharmacy, including health-related advice, preventative health, disease screening and detection, and chronic disease management.
In-home – provide a range of allied health and associated services to patients in their homes.
New products – extend product range to leverage the physical distribution network.
Leverage brand – create own-brand products and services to increase margin and/or build brand presence.
Community health hub – provide services or space, including for third parties, to become a community/health hub, focusing on patient centred care linked with other health professionals.
Online – develop online retailing and fulfilment for both medicines and front-of-shop products.
Business operations – modify back office operations to make more efficient use of assets, supply chain resources, administrative processes, and staff levels.
Automation – support increased use of technology, including robotics, artificial intelligence and data, to reduce time and cost, and improve service.
Coordination, accreditation and partnerships – provide coordination and/or accreditation for, and partner with, other health-related services and government.

Mr Quilty says the Report is also looking at future medicine trends in which the “capabilities and convenience of community pharmacies can best be utilised to provide enhanced access and personalised and integrated medicine related care and support for patients”.

Some of the Report findings will be available at this year’s APP 3-6 May 2018.

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