Changing the business model of a pharmacy is a challenging and daunting task at the best of times.
But when it involves refocussing customers’ views of a 24 hour pharmacy from being a ‘convenience store’ to being recognised as a health hub, the task is even more challenging.
But at Beaufort St 24hr Chemist in Perth, partners Bruce Affleck and Alexis McLeod took on the challenge – and risks.
“We began operating 24 hours a day in 1999 and because we are open 24hours a day we are at times perceived as a ‘convenience store’,” Mr Affleck said.
“It would be easy for us to focus exclusively on that role, and we do recognise that it is an important one but what we are most passionate about is our role in the provision of professional services.
“We see the future of our pharmacy as a health care hub. The business decisions we have made over the past few years have all been in pursuit of excellence in this field.”
Some examples of the pharmacy’s innovative approach include:
- A 43 per cent increase in pharmacist roster hours from 2013 to 2016.
- Conversion of a back office space into a vaccination compliant consultation room in 2015. This consultation room now is used to provide most of the pharmacy’s professional services.
- A change in marketing strategy from 2015 which saw the pharmacy restrict content relating to non-health related products and promotions and changed the focus to positive health messages.
“Other measures include a review last year (2016) of our store categories after which we made the decision to prioritise healthcare stock and reduce the space for non-core stock such as cosmetics,” he said.
“In June we removed a large cosmetic stand and the space created has been allocated to first aid and medicinal products.”
Alexis McLeod said the pharmacy was acutely aware that in a rapidly changing industry “what made us successful yesterday will not be enough for us to succeed tomorrow.”
This was an ongoing challenge and the pharmacy was constantly looking for ways to improve the service it delivered to meet the changing needs of our customers.
She said the partners were very aware that doing this often involved taking some financial risks but they did not let this deter them from reaching their goals.
Mr Affleck said: “We also constantly reinvest our profits back into further developing our business,” “Recent examples of this are our investment in a vaccination compliant private consultation room in 2015, our increased investment in professional staff wages over the past three years and our investment in developing an After-hours Urgent Care Nurse Clinic.”
He said this was a very welcome service and was staffed by fully qualified nurse practitioners, who were trained to diagnose and treat a wide variety of illnesses and injuries.
“Services offered include treating wounds, changing dressings, removing sutures, injection of prescribed medicines, workplace drug testing and STD screening,” Mr Affleck said.
“Customers also really appreciate the fact that if they are heading overseas, the nurses can provide a complete range of travel vaccinations, malaria prevention, medical kits and health advice.
“We stress however that this clinic is not an emergency department and if a person is experiencing chest pain, excessive bleeding, or severe breathing difficulty, they should call 000 immediately for an ambulance.
“But at the clinic the nurses are certified to write repeat prescriptions for regular medications such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, migraines, antidepressants and contraception. They are also qualified to issue antibiotics for acute infections such as tonsillitis and to refer people for blood tests or specialist care if required.”
The success of the pharmacy’s services and its 24-hour operation on improving patient health outcomes – and easing the strain on other health services – was highlighted in a survey taken by the pharmacy.
“The survey of our after-hours customers found that 16 per cent of them would have gone to a hospital emergency department if we were not open and 72 per cent would have delayed treatment of their health condition,” Mr Affleck said.“Our phone call advice records show that every day we provide free medicine and health advice to many callers from all over Australia. Most of these calls come in late at night and in the early hours of the morning.”