The Community Pharmacist Blog

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The Future of Community Pharmacy (Statistically)

Posted by Benjamin Coakley on Wed, May 15, 2013 @ 08:16 AM

Everyone has heard the notion that no one has a crystal ball.  We community pharmacy crystal balltruly believe this in all the work we do with community pharmacy owners.  However, one cannot deny the fact that changes are coming to the industry.  For example, we were meeting with an owner this past week and he mentioned to us that all his time is spent working on the transition from being a pill counter to a full service pharmacy.  The key word there is service.  He said that he believes that the only way pharmacists will have a seat at the table in the new health care world is to provide extremely valuable services where applicable that improve patient outcomes.  He even mentioned that there may be a transition period where phamacy owners have to provide these services for free.  According to him, this will show the value pharmacists add to the medical system and therefore include pharmacists as a primary care professional.  This is just one example of the many possible changes coming down the road for the pharmacy industry in the near future. 

The statistics of the future of community pharmacy can also give us a pretty clear picture of where the industry is heading.  According to the Adequacy of Pharmacist study by the Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Women constitute a growing proportion of active pharmacists: Currently, half of all active pharmacists are women. By 2020, approximately 62 percent of active pharmacists are expected to be women. Female pharmacists tend to work fewer hours per year than their male colleagues, so the full-time equivalent supply will grow at a slightly lower rate than active supply.

Waypoint Insight: This statistic is one that most people in the pharmacy industry already have seen. The important thing about this statistic is that some women want to work fewer hours and may not be as willing to commit to full ownership of a community pharmacy. Women ownership groups are becoming increasingly more common because it allows multiple owners to share the load of owning a pharmacy.

  • Increased affordability and availability of generic drugs: The drop in drug prices that accompany the increase in availability of generic drugs makes many drugs more affordable, increasing both the likelihood that physicians will prescribe a medication and that patients will fill their prescription.
  • Market forces: Mergers and acquisitions could result in some reallocation of market share between chain and independent pharmacies. Discount drug prices by stores such as Walmart could increase the proportion of prescriptions dispensed by mass merchandizers.
  • Efficiencies and cost competitiveness: Hospitals and mail order pharmacies, as compared to retail pharmacies, are better able to take advantage of new technology that reduces the cost of filling prescriptions. The efficiency of mail order pharmacies allows them to fill prescriptions at lower cost than retail pharmacies. Insurers often require or set lower copays for prescriptions filled by mail order to help direct patients to use mail order when possible.

Waypoint Insight: The pharmacy industry that is focused on providing prescriptions has become commoditized.  We have heard business owners call this the "Wal-Mart Effect" on our society.  With the recent news about preferred Medicare Part D pharmacies, some mass merchandizers are beginning to give prescriptions away for free (actually it isn't free because these pharmacies have a strategy to make patients wait long enough that they will eventually buy something in addition to getting the prescription filled).  We had a pharmacist tell us this past week that if community pharmacies try to compete on price, then they will have no choice but to go out of business.

  • The U.S. population is growing and aging: Between 2005 and 2030, the population will grow by an estimated 68 million (23 percent). In percentage terms, the population age 65 and older is growing significantly faster than the non-elderly population and will nearly double over the next 25 years.
  • The future role of pharmacists is linked to the adequacy of supply and to reimbursement rates: With competing demands on pharmacists’ time, the work that must get done (dispensing) generally takes priority over work that pharmacists report wanting to do more of, such as patient education and monitoring. A greater role for pharmacists in patient care management is feasible only with a reimbursement system that compensates pharmacists for such services.

Waypoint Insight: Pharmacies have more access to the end care user of health care than any other service provider in the system.  This is not going to change any time soon as the population continues to get older.  Community pharmacy will have to adapt to a more service oriented industry because there doesn't seem to be a slow down in the commoditization of prescriptions.  Being considered a primary care professional, along with doctors, appears to be the next big initiative for pharmacy owners.

When we discuss this information with pharmacy owners, they inevitably ask us what they can do to adapt to these changes and be more dynamic in their thought processes.  Below are a few things you can begin implementing to help you:

  • Begin thinking of you and your pharmacy team as primary care professionals and not just pill counters
  • Document successful patient outcomes and review these to see where you and your team add value
  • Talk with physicians in your area about how you can help them improve patient outcomes in their practice
  • Accept that the industry is changing and that you must change with it

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Where does this wisdom come from?

The content of this blog is inspired and substantiated by our experience helping independent community pharmacists enjoy financial independence during and after their life in pharmacy. When a pharmacist reaches out to us for information and help, we endeavor to give them as much free value as is possible. In addition to providing educational and strategic planning tools (like The Helping Community Pharmacy Survey), we invite qualified pharmacists into our formal discovery process.

The first step of the process is completing The Inspired Goals Workshop. This 90-minute session enables us to deliver a detailed and personal Inspired Independence Blueprint. The blueprint provides a personalized roadmap for achieving your goals and enables you to fully understand the value of joining The Inspired Independence Program.

If you wish to learn more about any aspect of our work, the free value we offer, or to be considered for The Inspired Goals Workshop, visit our web site at or call 843.873.4420 and ask for Ben or Matt Coakley.

At Waypoint Pharmacy Advisors, we take care of you!

Topics: community pharmacy owner, community pharmacist, pharmacy value