What a junior pharmacist needs to know about the business

Pharmacists should be involved in all aspects of their business and with the different professional groups available.

Being a successful pharmacist is much more than prescribing and consulting patients. Independent pharmacists, especially businessmen and healthcare providers, should be good at the former if they intend to continue doing the latter – at least independently. Most pharmacist training programs do not target training on the business side of the industry, and the education system does not fully meet the needs of retail pharmacy owners.

Pharmacists running a business based on providing patient care require unique skills and up-to-date credentials. Because there aren’t many solutions in the training world for independents looking to eventually become owner-operators, we should offer some important advice on the business side of a pharmacy career.

part of the scene
New entrepreneurs often forget that their pharmacy can only succeed if local customers allow it. When opening a clinic, the main goal is to have the patient as a fixture in the local healthcare system.

Pharmacists must develop a business plan that is tailored to the characteristics of their community, as well as a marketing plan that directly addresses the needs of the physical community. Pharmacists must find nearby wholesalers, have good relationships with local banks, and be actively involved in the business community.

this is someone you know
The pharmacy business is a retail business, and the retail business is a social business, so networking is critical. In addition to having good connections with the community as service providers, pharmacists must also have connections with other operators in medicine and health care, whether they are doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists or psychiatrists. Patients need more than medicines, and pharmacists who can refer other practitioners and be referred by them are in a strong position in the healthcare ecosystem.

After starting a business, self-development is never-ending and is a great way to stay connected. Pharmacists should be involved in all aspects of their business and with the different professional groups available, whether related to their school of pharmacy or their healthcare network. Pharmacists who are women, people of color, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities or any population can find a peer group to learn from and support each other, build solidarity and improve their professionalism.

never stop improving
Many skills required by pharmacists cannot even be part of the school curriculum and must be acquired through experience. For patients, this means learning to keep them on their medication regimen and being comfortable going to the pharmacy to discuss issues. For businesses themselves, that means understanding spreadsheets, marketing, bookkeeping, and public outreach.

Pharmacists should continue their official education and certification process when managing their business. It is important to have all possible credentials after a person’s name. It is especially important to maintain your pharmacist status by taking any necessary refresher or developmental courses to gain certification as a pharmacist.

Find a Niche
There is nothing stopping pharmacists from establishing a professional practice, and doing so is a great way to make their mark in the community and outreach to those who need professional help. Pharmacists can obtain different levels of licensure and certification, and each practitioner may be passionate about a subset of a particular population.

Whether it’s diabetes care, oncology, pediatrics – any field of medicine, specialists are needed. In many of these cases, specialist salaries are higher, patient needs are greater, and sometimes what a dedicated specialist can address is more important. In this case, a good marketing professional can ensure that pharmacists target the patient population of their choice.

Pharmacists who understand the business side of their career know that, ideally, they need dedicated staff or contractors to handle operational functions. Patient care coordinators can handle many different call types directly with customers, while store managers make the pharmacy itself look and function like a professional space, and marketing companies can spread the word about available services through the community.

Arguably the most important employee, accountants help balance the books and ensure the business remains solvent. Accountants can also be used to navigate the tax strategies and procedures needed to keep pharmacies thriving.

This expertise is particularly useful for students and pharmacists in the early stages of their careers to conduct business, build ownership and equity, and create value. Early on, however, is when most pharmacists don’t know they should.

receive help
Performing all the work necessary to keep the pharmacy thriving can be exhausting, and hiring a different specialist for each task is often prohibitively expensive. For some pharmacies, the best option may be to hire an outside company to take the pressure off the owner’s business operations.

These partner organizations handle areas such as financing, legal work, contracts and wholesale negotiations, removing much of the heavy lifting for pharmacists. They also built the necessary technology to allow busy pharmacies to thrive in our digital age.

Running a pharmacy is no easy task, even for a challenging small business. By acquiring key business skills early, working hard to network, and knowing how to hire the right person or company for each task, budding pharmacists can fit themselves into their positions and become an integral part of business and healthcare.

About the author

Dalbir Bains is the founder, president and CEO of FGC Health, Canada’s leading provider of consumer health services and industry-specific business technology. He previously founded and grew Amenity Health Care into a large network of independent pharmacies that was eventually sold to a private equity firm.

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