There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and the pharmacy industry changing on a daily basis. Though change is to be embraced and welcomed, some aspects may not bode well for healthcare professionals.

Still, where there’s a will there’s a way. Being an independent pharmacist means being a master of problem-solving. Problems or obstacles are simply ways we can learn and grow, vital elements to your success.

Here are a few of the most prominent pharmacy problems, along with ways to overcome them.

The Big-Box Problem

It’s a tale as old as time.

It feels like big-box pharmacies, like the CVS and Walgreens of the world, are around every corner of the neighborhood. As a matter of fact, those two chains alone make up nearly 45% of the prescription market, according to Statista.

But independent pharmacies have what national chains can only dream of: a personal touch. The human element is something that easily gets lost in the shuffle of commerce and profit, so you should capitalize on adding a personal touch.

Because you are running a small business, you can deliver personalized and unique care to each and every one of your patients.

As such, the best way to compete against chains is to not directly butt heads with them. Your pharmacy’s success revolves around focusing on the task at hand. Pay attention to how you can improve your pharmacy’s services.

Remember that an independent pharmacy is meant to listen to its community and be a healthcare destination for all its unique needs.

Make your patients happy, ensure that staff morale is on the same level, and you’ll be running the pharmacy of your dreams. That’s delivering exceptional healthcare service.

The Never-Ending Drug Shortage

Drug shortages are hardly anything new in the pharmacy industry.  Just like running a restaurant, you’re bound to run out of a key ingredient every now and then.

It goes without saying that drug shortages are a bit more consequential — they’re just part of the job. The standout from the recent batch of shortages is the majority of them aren’t oral tablets.

In 2021, 66% of drug shortages in the U.S. had to do with injectable drugs, according to Statista.

There are several reasons drug shortages happen. Manufacturers and wholesalers alike are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and all the chaos it produced.

Global supply chain problems also contribute to these problems, especially since injectables require specific materials to be made.

For the most part, drug shortages are out of your control, so the best strategy is to plan ahead. Focus on your pharmacy’s most dispensed medications and order a little extra.

In the case of a shortage, call other pharmacies to see who has the medication so your patient isn’t totally without their medicine. Sure, you’ll end up transferring it, but a loyal customer will always come back.  

The Snowball Effect of Staff Shortages

Since 2020, the healthcare industry has lost nearly 500,000 employees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s a telltale sign of the physical and emotional toll the pandemic has had on its healthcare workers.

A large portion of the departures has to do with pharmacy technicians, many of whom cite overwork and inadequate compensation. Techs often go as the unsung heroes of independent pharmacies, wearing multiple hats to fulfill the needs of their patients.

That inevitably takes a toll. In a recent poll, the vast majority of working techs have a passion for helping others but the effort and energy required to perform tasks don’t line up with their pay.

At the end of the day, a job is a job and we need to pay the bills somehow.

Staff shortages don’t just affect the pharmacy and its staff. They create a snowball effect that derails workplace efficiency and customer service.

The lines will become a little longer, the drive-thru becomes a bit more congested, pick-up time becomes later than usual, and the fill queue reaches a number you haven’t seen before.

Each of these examples offers a glimpse of what an understaffed independent pharmacy goes through.

A pharmacy is at its best when it works like a well-oiled machine, but it needs all the essential components. Pharmacy techs are the epitome of being an essential component.

To lessen the amount of turnover, administrators have started offering pay increases, assistance with education expenses, and reimbursing them for any testing or licensing fees.

Though that’s an extra financial investment, it will go a long way in ensuring your techs are here to stay.

The Failure to Adapt

The success of an independent pharmacy is defined by its ability to adapt and embrace the fabulous new. Innovation is a daily occurrence in the healthcare industry.

Those that are stubbornly stuck in their ways will inevitably fall to the wayside as other pharmacies thrive.

We previously alluded to pharmacies becoming more of a “healthcare destination.”

Pharmacies are expected to offer services beyond the expected filling of a prescription.

The industry is currently emphasizing the use of clinical services, more automated services like auto-refill and mobile application use, and dipping their toes in the specialty side of things.

All of these services require further licensing and expenditures. As such, services are a financial and legal investment that might not produce instant profit right out the gate.

In the long run, however, they will yield insanely great results for your pharmacy, your staff, and — most importantly — your patient’s health.

The main pharmacy problem here is hesitancy. Inaction can only be counteracted by proactiveness. You’re here for the long haul, so you might as well start now.

How Will You Overcome Today’s Pharmacy Problems?

It’s easy to get lost in momentary pharmacy problems and lose the bigger picture. But with the right solutions, you can tackle these problems with ease.

Independent pharmacies are more vital than ever and embracing the obstacles ahead will make the journey worthwhile. Come what may, the journey is the reward.

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