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June 2024
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Pharmacy Survival Guide: Adapt and Change

Every now and then I get a chance to leave the office and visit a few of our Titan pharmacy customers around the country. It’s a pleasure to meet business owners and talk about the highs and lows of pharmacy, and Titan of course.

I am humbled when they tell me stories of the impact Titan has had in their business and their life. They tell me how they are freed up from the dispensary and can now spend on other important things. One tells me how he can see his kids at weekends, another tells me how it saved his business, and someone else tells me how he’s been able to buy more pharmacies. Some have even picked up industry awards on the back of implementing Titan.

I would love to take credit and say that Titan is some magic wand that solves every issue, but that would be doing a disservice to the real ingredient that unites these pharmacists and enables their success. What these Titan pharmacies have in common is their willingness to adapt and change in times of adversity. They were willing to ditch their old model of pharmacy and embrace a new way of doing things using technology as the enabler.

Unfortunately for many businesses out there, it’s been more difficult to adapt and change their business model. Over the last few years, we have witnessed the economic policies of the government playing out. Large multiples, once giants of the high streets, are now a shadow of their former selves. LloydsPharmacy is consigned to the history books. Almost every large multiple is selling their branches. And for those who are still holding on, they are posting record losses in their company accounts.

None of this should come as a real surprise. The writing has been on the wall for many years and one could argue this was the government strategy all along. I remember reading an open letter in 2016 by the then Chancellor, Philip Hammond, stating that pharmacies are paid too much for dispensing and that reforms were necessary to this “over subsidised market”. Since then, the government has relentlessly eaten away at dispensing profit. In addition, tariff fluctuations have given rise to drug shortages that force pharmacies to purchase drugs at inflated prices, and then dispense at a loss, which the wholly inadequate concession system barely covers.

So if holding on to an outdated model of pharmacy is a futile endeavor, what is the alternative? What are the successful Titan pharmacies doing that others aren’t, and what can we learn from them?

Let It Go - The remuneration we now receive from dispensing is just not enough to pay for a pharmacist to physically check every prescription. Titan pharmacies have established a process that delegates tasks to colleagues without compromising safety, thereby extracting themselves from the dispensary. Pharmacist’s only involvement is a clinical check, and even half of those are done using AI.

Maximise Services - The money that’s been lost from dispensing has turned up in the form of services. Titan pharmacies have recognised they need to do as many, if not all, of the services on offer in order to get the same level of remuneration businesses once enjoyed. By saving their time in dispensing, they can now focus on maximising these services.

Start Charging - Whereas pharmacies have always provided free deliveries and free MDS, many Titan pharmacies are now charging for these services. Some have introduced a subscription service where the patient pays a fixed amount for these services. Either way, the days of offering everything for free are over.

Go Private - The level of private patient services now being offered by community pharmacies is unprecedented and ranges from weight loss to cannabis supply. In some cases, Titan pharmacies have ditched NHS services entirely to focus exclusively on private services. The advent of independent prescribing has opened up new possibilities that we could not have imagined a decade ago.

Connect with Patients - Businesses have started adopting apps to connect with their patients. This could be in the form of patient apps or even eMAR for care homes. These systems allow patients to take control over their ordering so the pharmacy staff spend less time running around chasing prescriptions on behalf of the patient.

Distribute Services – Hub and Spoke regulations which are set to come into effect will help enable businesses to free up their dispensing. However, Titan Pharmacies have already been distributing their work amongst their branches, especially clinical checks and NMS. Where one pharmacist is busy, another pharmacist working remotely can step in to pick up the workload.


The Road Ahead

The soothsayers who foretold the mass pharmacy closures 8 years ago, in the end were correct. Our high street is not recognisable from where it was a decade ago. It’s clear now that the future looks bleak for any pharmacy business that is stuck to the traditional model of dispensing.

However, for those that are willing and able to adapt and change, there is hope. Technology is an enabler that can help revive the fortunes of pharmacy. Titan pharmacies are proof that embracing technology can help deliver success.

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