In an age of mail order and Amazon pharmacy, offering delivery to your independent pharmacy patients has become a must.
But delivery, like all the other services your pharmacy offers, costs money. On top of the fixed costs of a car payment and insurance, you also have to account for variable costs like labor and fuel.
Optimizing your delivery routes can reduce the amount of time your drivers spend on the road and get your patients their medications more quickly.
Use these tips to find the best delivery routes and reduce the cost of operating a delivery service.
1. Take advantage of recurring deliveries
Arranging for patients’ medications to be delivered on a regular basis can take a lot of stress out of planning your delivery service.
Enrolling patients in medication synchronization will enable you to deliver to specific locations at regular intervals.
Having a recurring delivery schedule means that you can prepare one route and fine-tune it to make it more efficient over time rather than creating a new route for every delivery run based on whoever happened to call in a prescription that day.
It also means that you can cluster deliveries based on location, making your routes quicker. On Tuesdays, you can deliver to all of your patients on the east side of town, and on Wednesday, deliver to patients on the west side of town.
2. Limit delivery options
You’re probably inclined to give your patients as many delivery options as possible, but what is convenient for them will be more work for you. Instead of offering two-hour delivery, same-day delivery, next-day delivery, or guaranteeing specific delivery windows, keep your delivery offerings to a minimum.
The more options you offer, the less predictable your delivery schedule will be, which means you will have less opportunity to add efficiency.
You can still offer your patients a few different options, but you don’t drop everything else to get their prescriptions to them in the next hour. You’re already adding convenience by delivering instead of requiring them to come to the pharmacy for pickup.
Instead, be consistent about the delivery times youoffer so patients know they can rely on you. You can even incentivize your patients to select delivery options that work best for you, like offering them a discount or coupon if they can wait until Thursday when you already have a delivery scheduled for their part of town.
3. Account for infrastructure
Think about your town and the way you travel around normally while you are building your delivery routes. If there is an intersection you always avoid because there are frequent accidents, your delivery driver should also strive to avoid that intersection on his route.
The directions that a mapping service like Google Maps can help you put together a good starting route, but trust your own experiences when it comes to getting around your city.
Also think about overall traffic trends — you probably don’t want to send your delivery driver out at 5:30 p.m. when everyone else in town is heading home from work. Instead, plan your deliveries during off-peak traffic hours so your driver can get around quickly and safely.
4. Choose the right vehicle
Offering prescription deliveries means having a delivery car, right?
Take stock of your environment to make sure that the vehicle you are using to make deliveries is the right one for your area.
If you are in a densely populated area with a lot of traffic, it might actually be faster and easier to get prescriptions to your patients using a bike or electric scooter. If your patients all live near to one another, using alternative forms of transportation can save you a car payment and insurance costs.
However, if you’re in a rural area with lots of space between delivery locations — or a location that has frequent inclement weather — a car or truck is your best bet.
5. Plan for extra stops and delays
The best-laid plans always go awry, and even if you’ve planned out the perfect delivery route, you should plan for something to go wrong.
Give your driver a little bit of leeway. If, under perfect conditions, the delivery route you’ve planned will take two hours, don’t expect your driver to actually be done in two hours. Inevitably, they will run into delays like a house with a hidden driveway it takes a while to find or an unexpected construction detour.
If the route requires your driver to be out on the road for several hours, you should also build in time for them to take bathroom breaks or get a snack so they can stay focused.
6. Review performance
Compare the route you planned to the route that your delivery driver actually drove to look for opportunities to improve performance over time.
You may discover that one intersection has a particularly difficult left turn or a construction zone that consistently brings traffic to a crawl.
Pinpoint each delay, determine why they occurred, and make a plan to avoid them in the future. Have your drivers use Google Maps’ Timeline feature while they are making deliveries so you can analyze each trip after the fact.
7. Use route optimization software
The more patients that use your delivery service, the more complicated your route planning will become. While it may be pretty easy to figure out the fastest way to deliver medications to seven houses in your neighborhood, cracking the formula for 30 different deliveries can be a lot more difficult.
A mapping service like Google Maps can be helpful, but it only allows you to add 10 stops on your trip. And you still have to figure out the best way to order the stops on your own.
Route optimization software can be a good investment if you are growing your delivery business. All you have to do is input the delivery addresses, and the software will formulate the fastest route for you.
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PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy-side of their business. Founded and run by pharmacists, PBA Health serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, wholesaler contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, and more.
An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products — offering the lowest prices in the secondary market.