By Derek Desrosiers, BSc(Pharm), RPh
Not so many years ago, if your pharmacy was in a good established location in a solid community and you took good care of your patients, you were pretty much assured of success.
With the ongoing growth in competition, government and third-party private payer intervention, generic price deflation, a multitude of regulations, policies and processes to follow, you know times have changed dramatically. On top of the constant change, pharmacy has not escaped the global COVID-19 pandemic’s dramatic effect on the world either. But one thing has remained constant: pharmacies and pharmacists are in the relationship business.
Establishing strong relationships with physicians can be a great way to grow your business. I know most pharmacists have thought about physician relationships in one way or another, with good intentions to do something concrete to build those relationships. Sometime those intentions came from listening to a session at a conference or simply just because of a particular relationship that you already have. Notwithstanding your good intentions to start a doctor detailing program, you may have fallen short because you couldn’t commit the time or day to day work “got in the way.” What you may have missed is understanding why these relationships are important from both a professional and business perspective.
Building long lasting relationships with physicians can be an extremely important component of success. It is perhaps one of the most important things a pharmacy can do to generate new revenue through prescriptions and other professional services and products. These relationships can lead to ongoing patient referrals from physicians and their patients, who are likely to refer their own family and friends.
So, how do you go about building physician relationships or expanding your current network?
Step one should be a review of all the physician practices within a given radius around your pharmacy. Develop a list or database of the physicians and see who you already have relationships with and who you need to develop relationships with. Check your pharmacy software for prescriber reports to see which physicians are generating the most prescriptions that are coming to your pharmacy.
Step two is to setup a schedule of visits. Call the physician offices and speak with their receptionist or medical office assistant to determine the slowest days of the week and times of the day. Then, try to schedule a visit to fit into those days and times. Remember to not just focus on the physician but the entire staff of the clinic or practice. You want to have the staff think of you and your pharmacy first before any others. This will come with a consistent, repetitive effort on your part. You cannot do this in just one visit.
Step three is to develop the content of your visits. Ask the physicians what kind of products and services they are interested in. Look into carrying specific products that they like to recommend. Offer services that are meaningful to them. For example, you might ask if they are interested in referring patients for pharmacogenomic testing, and if they are, then that is a service you may want to offer. Vaccine services and other specialty care are usually good topics. Focus on the specialty of the physician practice if they have one.
Step four can include other activities like developing a budget, and perhaps dropping off brochures, logoed merchandise such as pens, notepads, or calendars at the physician’s office. Treats for the staff are also usually welcomed. You could also consider some social activity such as an evening wine and cheese get-together in the pharmacy after hours. Invite several of the physicians and staff from different offices and include all your own staff. This gives the physicians and their staff a chance to meet your staff as well as each other.
Establishing these relationships takes time and perseverance. It won’t happen overnight, but if you persist it will pay significant dividends in the long run. Don’t be discouraged by rejection. It may be tough to get appointments at first, but keep trying. Keep your program active and nurture the relationships that you do develop.