Avicenna’s AMG pharmacy has implemented a number of savvy business initiatives. Laura Husband visited the pharmacy to see how it is using them to fend off competition

Avicenna’s AMG Pharmacy in Essex has a crisp, clinical green frontage with a large checklist of all that the store has to offer. Once inside a customer can choose from a large OTC offering and ask for discreet, professional advice in a private consulting room.

The shop is situated on a main road just outside Braintree town centre and is only a short walk away from the local doctor’s surgery, making it an ideal spot for attracting local passers-by.

As with any business, competition is only a stone’s throw away. In AMG Pharmacy’s case, it’s the major supermarket that is just around the corner and other pharmacies only a few minutes down the road.

Independent pharmacy support group Avicenna, which owns the pharmacy, is keen to trial new initiatives that turn negatives into positives and the pharmacy team is already championing some great examples of how this can be done.

AMG Pharmacy manager Nemesh Patel has worked at the pharmacy for several months and has already implemented Avicenna initiatives and is introducing his own ideas as well.

He believes you must find ways to deal with the opposition and provide more services if you want to compete with other pharmacies.

With Avicenna’s backing, he encouraged staff to go onto the streets to get AMG Pharmacy’s voice heard. The staff told people about the store’s unique selling points and what it can offer them.

Extra revenue stream

One unique selling point is offering a range of patient group directions (PGDs) services. These are a double-win for the pharmacy and for the community because they provide extra revenue for the business and give more scope to help local patients when they are most in need.

‘The benefit for us having PGDs is that we can still get medication to the patient when the GP surgery is shut,’ Mr Patel explains.

The pharmacy offers anti-malarial and erectile dysfunction services as PGDs, which are popular.

‘The PGD services are priced in a way that saves patients money so we have lots of marketing material and posters in the pharmacy to highlight that these services are available and we discuss the benefits with patients,’ he says.

‘The PGDs are a fantastic way of really meeting our patients’ healthcare needs in a timely manner and we have received great feedback on our PGD clinic so far. Patients appreciate the fact that pharmacists are able to provide medication that was once prescription-only and could only be received after having seen a doctor.’

The pharmacy team always aims to give the public good customer service and to meet customers’ needs by introducing new PGDs, as well as offering a Lipotrim weight management service, free blood pressure checks, BMI monitoring and a free delivery service.

A helping hand

Mr Patel and Avicenna are firm believers in tailoring pharmacy services to match local needs.

On the busy market day, Avicenna optimises this upturn in footfall by ensuring a pharmacist is always free to talk to the customers and help them manage their acute and chronic conditions, be that checking inhaler techniques or insulin administration techniques, while the dispensary continues to deliver a fast and efficient turnover of prescriptions. ‘This is the foundation of our success – organisation and teamwork. This is why AMG pharmacy has stood the test of time and has such a popular following within the local community,’ he explains.

Business acumen

Mr Patel says it is the business aspect of working in pharmacy that drives him as an individual, and when he first started at AMG Pharmacy he put his business acumen into practice by conducting a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis on the store.

‘It’s about going in with fresh eyes and doing an appraisal of a business’s strengths, threats and the opportunities that are available. It was about using my own professional experience to make better and more accurate decisions.’

He will be doing a follow-up soon to see if he has turned the weaknesses into strengths and made the most of the store’s opportunities.

‘By putting in the hard work, you reap the benefits later. It’s about efficiency and organisation and making growth for the company,’ he says.

Conduct a SWOT analysis

  • Discover the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in your pharmacy by conducting your own SWOT analysis.
  • Divide a sheet of paper into four boxes with strengths and opportunities listed on the left- hand side and weaknesses and threats listed on the right.
  • If a high percentage of patients are on proactive care systems and you provide delivery services to patients, these would be listed in the strengths box. Another pharmacy located close by would be listed in the threats box.
  • What opportunities are there in your local area? Is there a care home nearby and could you deliver there? Could you do healthy living events in the local community?
  • Give yourself six months to be proactive and turn the negative points into positive ones. If you are unsure ask customers what you can do to improve the service you give them, because, as Mr Patel says, ‘Listening to your customers’ needs is key to running a successful pharmacy.’

 

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