Repeat and electronic prescriptions are an important driver of footfall and customer retention for independent pharmacies, but how can businesses compete in the face of the growing challenge from online and distance-selling pharmacies?

Warman-Freed, Perrigo’s centre of excellence, offers advice on how to develop this vital business element

Repeat prescriptions are a key focus area for all independent pharmacies, helping patients with long -term health conditions to receive ongoing treatment and services while in turn benefiting businesses by providing steady income and increased customer loyalty.

Farah Ali, general manager at Warman-Freed, Perrigo’s Learning Pharmacy, recognises the importance of repeat prescriptions and providing added-value services to her community and has made this one of her top priorities.

“When I started at Warman-Freed, we had a very low level of repeat prescriptions and they represented only around eight per cent of the total prescription numbers. However, by building on staff training, developing knowledge, IT capabilities and communication with patients, we have now grown the repeat business over the past few years to over 30 per cent.

“With IT and technology updates within the NHS giving the patient more options, pharmacies need to capitalise on the repeat and electronic prescription potential to maximise their share
of the market.”

Planning for the future

Having had experience of growing repeat prescriptions in her previous pharmacy roles, Ms Ali has created a solid business model at Warman-Freed that has encouraged customers to continue to return to the business to collect their medication.

One of the ways she has achieved this has been through developing a better dialogue about the pharmacy’s repeat and electronic prescription services through her staff, patients and healthcare professionals, and clear communications in store.

“The counter staff were the first point of contact for the patients, so they had to be able to explain the service in a simple way, ensure the sign-up was done accurately and ensure the patients understood what the service was and how it would support them – focusing on the benefit to the patient, not just the features of the service,” says Ms Ali.

“Having the patients fully understand the service and be on board with it was the second most important factor as, without their complete confidence, they would not sign up.

“Lastly, the GP surgeries had to be on board, so I spent time explaining the service, the benefits that it would give not only the patients but also the surgery, as the workload of repeat requests and visits for repeat prescription queries would be reduced. Plus, I had to build relationships to demonstrate why Warman-Freed is the ideal partner for this service.”

Placing a greater emphasis on repeat prescriptions has also helped to improve efficiency and service across the entire business. Ms Ali says workloads are now managed to help the pharmacy team prepare prescriptions during quieter periods or when more trained staff are available. In turn, this has allowed the team to dedicate more time to walk-in customers, while also helping to manage stockholding of bulk and slower-selling lines and improve cost control.

Additional services

Community pharmacies are facing an increasing number of challenges when it comes to maintaining their repeat prescription services, whether this be the shift from paper to electronic prescriptions or the push from online and distance-selling pharmacies impacting on sales and footfall.

To help counteract this, the team at Warman-Freed are focused on maximising the potential income from advanced services such as the new medicine service (NMS) and medicines use reviews (MUR) to provide further support to patients and enhance the business’s existing repeat prescriptions offer.

“NMS and MUR are services that allow pharmacists to use their clinical training and expertise to support the patients in the management of their chronic conditions, and supports other HCPs and the NHS,” says Ms Ali. “These are important services that should be seen as part of the role and not an additional headache or chore and they add credibility to the pharmacist’s crucial role as an accessible healthcare professional.”

By adopting these services, Ms Ali says customers now have more confidence in coming to Warman-Freed for their repeat prescriptions, which has also increased the chances of them purchasing additional items during their visit to the pharmacy.

“Pharmacists should ensure they are taking all opportunities to offer these valuable services to eligible patients in order to support their health. Doing so will allow them to earn the income that these services can provide and add to their overall revenue.”

Lessons learned about repeats

  • Work with the team in the pharmacy to create a simple sentence that articulates the benefits of the repeat prescription service and why a patient would want to sign up
  • Provide team training on repeat prescriptions and encourage counter staff to make customers fully aware of the service and its benefits
  • Manage workloads to allow pharmacy teams to prepare prescriptions during quieter periods or when more trained staff are available
  • Offering additional services, such as MUR and NMS, can help to develop stronger relationships.

 

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