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How to Lose Patients and Alienate Prescribers

How to Lose Patients and Alienate Prescribers

December 12, 2019

Inside: Patients and prescribers are the lifeblood of your pharmacy. These mistakes will turn them away for good. 

In order to thrive, your pharmacy depends on good relationships with other people. Prescribers are an important source of referrals and a resource to improve overall patient help. And the money patients spend on prescriptions and over-the-counter items is what enables you to keep the lights on.

Because they are so important to the success of your business, pharmacies need to go above and beyond to treat patients and prescribers with dignity. And to meet their needs.

Read on to learn what errors you might be making when it comes to building these relationships, and how you can improve for long-term prosperity.

Why You’re Alienating Prescribers 

Pharmacists and prescribers both have demanding jobs, and tensions will naturally arise between the two. But you also rely on each other to maintain patients’ health, so it’s worth it to put time and effort into establishing a good relationship.

If your pharmacy exhibits these traits, they could be a roadblock to prescriber-pharmacist harmony.

Difficult to reach

Prescribers want to work with a pharmacy they can rely on. Often, insurance issues require back and forth between the pharmacy staff and the prescriber’s staff. If the prescriber’s staff is always getting sent to voicemail, and emails get sent into the void never to be returned, they’re going to get frustrated.

When prescribers reach out to you, do your best to ensure a prompt and polite response. It will improve your relationship, and sorting out issues in a timely manner is crucial to ensure that patients are getting the prescriptions they need. Streamlining the communications process is a win for prescribers, pharmacists, and patients alike.

Not collaborating

Patients with complex conditions have complex care needs, and if all you’re doing is dispensing medications, you’re doing them a disservice. When pharmacists implement patient-centered care, it can improve health outcomes, but in order to do that, pharmacists must establish collaborative relationships with physicians.

If you’re working with a patient and have an idea about how to improve their care, reach out to their physician and develop a plan. A prescriber might have a more in-depth picture of a patient’s history, but you see the patient in your pharmacy more frequently. With each of you providing different contexts, you may be able to create a better outcome.

Overstepping bounds

Taking a more proactive approach by working with prescribers is great, but pharmacists can risk ruining prescriber relationships if they are too cavalier.

While it’s okay to make a suggestion that a patient talk to their prescriber about a certain medication, pharmacists shouldn’t outright say, “You should be on X instead of Y.”

Even if you have strong opinions about a particular patient’s treatment, you still have to respect the prescriber’s directions and not air your grievances with a patient. Instead, reach out to the prescriber directly and check your ego at the door to come up with an amicable solution.

Failing to cultivate relationships

Since prescribers are a valuable source of referrals, you need to work to build relationships with the prescribers in your area. If you never reach out, you can’t expect them to do your business any favors.

Luckily, as an independent pharmacist, you’re in a better position to personalize these relationships than a big chain is. Take prescribers out to lunch or coffee in order to introduce them to your business. Ask them what kind of issues they typically run into when dealing with pharmacists, and take steps to eliminate them.

Prescribers will appreciate the personalized attention and be more likely to recommend patients to you in the future.

Why You’re Losing Patients

Gaining new patients is difficult. That’s why it’s so important that the ones you have will keep coming back.

But when patients experience small indignities at your pharmacy, they’re going to start looking for another place to fill prescriptions.

These are some of the reasons a patient will quit visiting your pharmacy.

Not Offering Convenience

Convenience is the main driver for consumers when choosing a pharmacy. If they are consistently faced with long wait times, difficulty filling a prescription, or restrictive operating hours, they’ll be tempted by the big box store down the street or by the ease of mail order.

If you close in the early evening, consider expanding your hours so patients working a traditional office job can drop by after work.

Digital refills make it easier for patients to refill prescriptions on their own time. Notifications keep them from forgetting to refill. Delivery services, med synchronization programs, and a speedy checkout process also add ease for your patients.

Making Medication Errors

Giving a patient the wrong dosage of a medication, or the wrong medication entirely, not only puts the patient’s health at risk, it also sends a message that you don’t care about their wellbeing.

Medication errors only need to happen once to scare a patient away from your pharmacy forever, so you need to be vigilant. Double check that transcriptions are accurate and learn your look-a-like and sound-a-like drugs to prevent errors.

Organizing your pharmacy well and maintaining an educated staff can also guard against careless medication mistakes.

Subpar Customer Service

As many as 82 percent of consumers leave businesses for a competitor following a poor customer experience. If your staff is rude, or even indifferent, it’s going to leave a bad taste in patients’ mouths.

Patients should be greeted as soon as they walk in the door but given space to browse in peace. When they are ready to check out or if they have questions about products, staff members should be on hand to help as quickly as possible.

Giving the hard sell

You want patients to spend money in your store. But if you’re bearing down on them with hard-sell techniques like telling them they’ll regret not making a specific purchase, you could be closing the door on future sales.

Patients come to the pharmacy to address healthcare needs, not to be harangued into buying something they know they don’t need. These aggressive techniques can intimidate patients and make it less likely that they will come back. Soft sell techniques like educating patients so they feel comfortable making a purchase are more appropriate and effective.

Ignoring complaints

Even if you think a patient complaint is irrelevant or irrational, ignoring it or handling it badly means that you could lose repeat business.

Responding promptly is important, but if you’re too emotional or angry, you should take a break to cool down and gain some perspective on the situation.

If the complaint stems from an error you or one of your staff made, a genuine apology is in order. You may even want to extend a token like a gift card to show that you really mean it.

When complaints arise about something that was out of your control at the moment—like a long wait time due to a sudden influx of people—acknowledge the patient’s frustration and take preventative steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future.

Making patients feel acknowledged and listened to when they have a bad experience is crucial to maintaining long-term patient relationships.

Poor communication

Imagine a patient comes to pick up a prescription, only to find that the pharmacy is closed for a minor holiday. That wasted trip might be frustrating enough that the patient chooses a different pharmacy in the future.

Any time your pharmacy implements a change that’s going to affect patients, your need to communicate those changes clearly to keep patients on board.

Use multiple channels—text messaging, emails, phone calls, social media posts, and in-store communication are all effective ways to get the word out.



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An Independently Owned Organization Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The company is a member-owned organization that serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.

PBA Health, an HDA member, operates its own VAWD-certified warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.

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