Pharmacy growth comes in only two ways: get new patients or get more from current patients.
Pretty simple right?
Yes and no. Understanding the two strategies is pretty simple, but implementing the tasks to create the results brings chaos and fun. What is traditionally referred to as pharmacy marketing is to get new patients. There are two levers that you can figuratively pull to get more from current patients.
- Increase the amount of each transaction from each patient
- Increase the amount of time that a patient does business with you
Patient Retention Is 33% of The Equation
So, if you add it all up, there are three overarching strategies for creating pharmacy growth: getting new patients, increasing patient spending, or retaining patients longer.
If you ignore patient retention, you are missing out on a third of your pharmacy growth potential.
Ways To Increase Patient Retention
Attrition is the gradual loss of business. Every business has normal customer attrition. Being the KPI girl I am, a regular retail pharmacy should expect to lose 1-2% of their business every year due to normal attrition. For example, if you are in a high tourist area or next to a hospital, this rate can be significantly higher.
What is normal attrition?
The loss of patients can happen through no fault of your own. Families could move out of your service area. Also, patients will die from time to time. Insurances might require a patient to use a mail-order pharmacy. These are patients that no longer do business with you, but given a chance, they would have stayed your customer.
Abnormal or problematic attrition comes from poor experiences. A customer might have received the wrong prescription and now no longer will use your pharmacy. Or a prescriber had a bad interaction with a pharmacist and now will not recommend your pharmacy. Whatever the reason, it would be due to something that is within your control.
Because you control the experience for your patients and prescribers, you want to ensure that it is exceptional. You want people to LOVE you. Pharmacy growth always has a cost—a combination of time and money. Typically investing in patient retention strategies will cost you the least of both. Here are some ways you can do that.
Patient Retention Strategies
Before we dive into some fun tactics, let’s lay the foundation. You must have excellent customer service and do the essential functions of a pharmacy really well. Being fast and friendly or filling prescriptions correctly is not unique. That is what a typical consumer will expect from a pharmacy. Doing what is expected will NOT improve retention to spur pharmacy growth. Going above and beyond and creating a WOW experience will. Don’t try to go above and beyond until you are doing the basics exceptionally well.
Here are some fun ideas you can implement in your pharmacy to improve your patient retention, create raving fans, and dramatically increase your pharmacy growth.
- Thank you card program
- Birthday surprises
- Random acts of coupons
- Acknowledging life events
- Paying attention to their whole health
- Increasing compliance and adherence
- Have a team of employees that genuinely CARE
- Own up to your mistakes
- Help your patients save money
- Customized supplement recommendations
- Spend time with your patients
- Make it personal, share your life
- Have fun with your patients
- Be a good community partner
- Appreciation goes a long way
Why You Should Focus On Retention First
If you want pharmacy growth, you might automatically think about marketing on Facebook or visiting prescribers. You wouldn’t be wrong, and you might not be right either. If patient retention isn’t a focus for you, then your marketing efforts will be futile. Let me explain.
You get 20 new patients to come to your pharmacy from a Facebook campaign. Bravo!! Unfortunately, due to a crappy cashier, you have 30 patients that choose to never come back. You are now down ten patients, and you spent a lot of money on your marketing campaign to experience negative pharmacy growth.
Instead, if you get your patient retention efforts right first, your marketing efforts will begin to pay dividends. If you ignore this advice, it is akin to filling a bucket with a hole in the bottom. No matter how fast you fill it, it will never get full.
The Best Return On Investment For Pharmacy Growth
Another great reason to focus on retention first is that it will cost you much less. The hard costs of strategies and efforts to keep a customer are drastically less than acquiring a new customer. Most brick-and-mortar businesses pay in the range of $50 to $200 to procure a new customer.
Also, your future marketing efforts will spread like wildfire with patients who are super fans (because you make them fall in love with you). Paying for marketing and advertising to overcome a bad reputation is very expensive. At the same time, a robust positive word-of-mouth engine will multiply your efforts for free.
To help you get a better sense of where your attrition rate is currently, I recommend doing a little bit of legwork. You will need to run some PMS reports. Most likely, these will be called monthly summary reports or comprehensive reports. You are looking for the number of unique patients that you filled prescriptions for during the month. Do this for the past six months so you can get an average of individual patients and see where your current trendlines are pointing.
**Side Note: if you have been doing a lot of vaccinations or testing and adding these patients to your system, this will throw your numbers off. You may want to exclude these types of “prescriptions” to better understand your current prescription patient attrition rate.**
Next, create your goal based on your current numbers. Lastly, I would recommend having a team meeting and talking to your staff about patient retention strategies. See which ideas they naturally gravitate towards. If you get their buy-in early, their innate enthusiasm will make implementing these much more effortless. Select 2-3 ideas and run with them. Continue to track your monthly progress for the number of unique patients each month.