Pharmacy operations tips for your independent pharmacy

When I listed my personal qualities and attributes on my very first resume, I know that I wrote down that I was good at multitasking.  Today however, studies show that our brains aren’t capable of handling more than one line of thought or activity at a time. We can’t really multi-task. Rather, we switch from one task to the other quickly. Ending one stream of thought to begin a completely new one. 

This realization that people actually don’t really multi-task only deepens my respect for business owners and managers.  How do they deal with so much at once?  Having spent a few days visiting various pharmacies, I’m amazed at how much they have to process and at how efficiently so many of them do it.  But how can a person run a pharmacy in a world that seems to develop a new method of disseminating information to the masses every day? 

This week I spoke with our Vice President of Operations, Chris Gage, to find out how she handles running the day to day operations of our company and to get the take of an operations expert on the pharmacy industry.

Chris GageThe Bio: Chris began her technical career in the restaurant industry, managing restaurants at a time when point-of-sale was just beginning to become prevalent. Eventually Chris moved into training restaurant managers and focusing on the operations of the business. As restaurants were among the first business verticals to adopt technology heavily, Chris got a lot of hands on experience as she trained managers on POS technology.  From the restaurant industry, Chris moved to different technology companies, including Radiant systems and HP.  In 2001, Chris joined RMS to manage training programs and marketing. Today Chris oversees our support team, implementation team, and the day to day operations of RMS.  She has seen RMS grow from a small home office with an installation base of 4 customers to the company it is today, with over 1000 customers and staff in offices all over the country. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge that independent pharmacies face today? Definitely change, and change of all kinds. Technology is constantly changing, with different schools of thought on what kind of technology you should have. There are also regulations that require you not only to change your technology, but to change your business practices and how you operate day to day.  Additionally, there’s a change in the workforce in that there is a much different mindset and skill set prevalent in pharmacy professionals today. And of course changes in healthcare itself has a big impact.

What is the biggest change you think pharmacies need to make in order to stay relevant, competitive and successful in today’s market? I think the change needs to happen in front of the counter,  and we are starting to see this happen already.  Pharmacies have typically, whether institutional or independent, focused on getting the prescription filled faster and getting the patient out the door, but what’s going to set them apart is driving the front end of the business. We are seeing this come true as more and more pharmacies add loyalty programs or niche products and find ways to capture business that’s not necessarily just prescriptions. They really need to make their store into a destination.   

From your perspective, what does the independent pharmacy of the future look like? How do you see the industry evolving over the next 5 to 10 years or more? I think we’ll see a lot of different channels for delivering products and services.  Obviously we have brick and mortar primarily now and I don’t see those going away but I see pharmacies using mobile cash registers for getting to the patients, and more online options and other points of service.  Services will also become key in making pharmacies a destination rather than just a place to fill a prescription or pick up a greeting card.

RMS centers around 6 core words.  Reliable, Honest, Professional, Knowledgeable, Innovative and Crazy-Easy.  What word is your favorite and why? Reliable. All of our customers depend on us to provide the right information in a timely manner. Of course that includes fixing problems but more than anything I think it means that they know they can come to us with these important questions that may or may not have anything to do with our POS system and know that if we don’t have the answer we’ll find someone who does.  It’s all about positioning ourselves as the experts in the industry and building bridges between our company and other technology providers in the pharmacy technology industry.

As the Vice President of Operations for RMS, you handle a plethora of responsibilities every day and do a lot to keep the company running smoothly.  What are some tips you have for pharmacies on managing/balancing the stresses of running a business? Communicate Communicate Communicate! Even in small businesses the biggest challenge can be making sure that everyone is on the same page.  I think about what it is that I need to worry about today, or what can I do today to have a win and make sure that everyone understands that goal.

Many RMS customers will be familiar with your 2 year journey around the country, visiting pharmacy customers with the RMS Roadshow.  What did you take away from that experience? I learned a lot about what assumptions we were making. Not so much about the business or the product, but how many obstacles pharmacy owners encounter every day. I got to see first hand how tough it is to juggle all the needs of a pharmacy, including what it takes to successfully use their Point-of-Sale.  I got to uncover those areas where we needed to improve the product, our training methods, and our communication with the customer. 

 

Karen Deckard came to RMS with a background in retail and customer service, and was initially brought on board as a Sales Assistant and managed IIAS certifications for RMS’s pharmacy POS customers.  Today, Karen works as a Customer Success Manager, striving to provide independent and institutional pharmacies with the tools and resources they need to succeed in today’s competitive pharmacy market. 

 

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