Independent pharmacists regularly go above and beyond what is required of them, yet their stories often remain untold. Laura Husband speaks to one such pharmacist, and Avicenna member, who is using an interactive tool and good customer service to boost sales and ease patient’s symptoms the natural way

Name: Nishma Hirani

Job Title: Independent pharmacist

Pharmacy: Warwick Pharmacy, Victoria, London

Initiative: An interactive ‘Healthpoint’ TV combined with good customer service is being used to recommend supplements alongside medication for specific conditions, symptoms and concerns.

Achievement:

Nishma Hirani uses an interactive Healthpoint television to give patients additional information about their health conditions. The system provides details about the vitamins and supplements a patient can take alongside their existing medication to ease the symptoms of their condition.

Ms Hirani says patients often find that they don’t need to turn to painkillers as often after taking the recommended supplements. ‘Taking natural alternatives means they don’t need to be reliant on tablets all of the time,’ she explains.

The interactive computer prints out all of the information, so a customer can take it with them. They can go away and think about whether they would like to try a supplement that could help with an ongoing problem. 

She says: ‘It helps customers to learn more about their condition.’

Ms Hirani has found that some of her patients prefer natural remedies to medicinal ones. However, not everyone has time to use the interactive tool, so for this reason she also places a leaflet explaining the different natural remedies available for a particular condition inside the patient’s prescription bag.

‘Time pressures mean that patients can’t always get all of the information they need from the doctor, so by putting leaflets tailored to a condition in the prescription bag it makes the information more readily available to them and it makes them feel special too,’ she says.

Customers today have ready access to information in books and via the internet, but Ms Hirani believes it is far better to do the hard work for them so they can have the correct information alongside their medicine right in front of them when they take their medication.

‘As we are independent, we are very good at recognising our regular dispensary and over-the-counter customers, so we always follow up with them and ask for their feedback. The initiative appears to be working as our patients are returning to us to repeat purchase and are telling us that the supplements we suggested have been beneficial to their health.’

Q How has this initiative benefited the pharmacy team?

A ‘We’ve given extra training to our staff on supplements. We have a representative from a supplements brand who does training with our staff. He tells them how many doses are needed, how it can benefit specific patients and how the supplements work.’

Q How has the initiative benefited your patients?

A ‘We had one patient who had a really bad gout attack. He was experiencing ongoing problems with gout and the doctor was prescribing painkillers for it. I advised that taking a supplement to prevent the build up could result in fewer attacks. He takes cherry turmeric supplement all of the time now and says he’s having fewer problems with gout.’

Q What are you most proud of since starting the project?

A ‘I’m proud of the fact our patients are willing to listen to our advice and give the supplements a chance. We take the time to explain to them how to use the supplements, which means they’re more likely to come back and keep using the products. We don’t want customers to buy a supplement once, we want them to keep using it as it’s only going to benefit them. We’ve found that by giving good advice our patients are able to use the supplements properly, which means they work, and as a result they choose to come back to us to repeat purchase.’

Q What would you say that you have you learned from this initiative?

A ‘Patients are willing to seek alternatives to visiting the doctor and taking medication all the time. It has also taught me that patients are generally interested in their overall wellbeing and are willing to change their lifestyle to improve their health.’

Q What dos and don’ts would you suggest that pharmacy teams follow?

A ‘There’s no point giving out leaflets without explaining to customers why they should read them first, as otherwise they will be thrown in the bin, which is a waste.

Equally, it’s important to tell patients that there is a leaflet in their prescription bag to prevent them from removing their medicine from the bag and throwing everything else away.

You can’t give samples out to everyone, but by giving to a select few, you’re showing that you’ve taken the time to consider their condition and find out what might help them. It’s those small personal touches that make all the difference to customers.’

 Nishma Hirani is a member of Avicenna, the UK’s largest independent pharmacy support group.

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