Modern businesses, pharmacies included, operate in an incredibly competitive environment. Largely because customers and patients have access to both online and offline healthcare retailers and service providers. With so many alternatives to choose from, pharmacies also need to focus on customer retention if they hope to achieve long-term success. A key component of this is providing patient-centered care and a positive patient experience.
A positive customer or patient experience is strongly linked to long-term customer retention. In fact, Ireland Customer Experience Report noted that customers who have a good experience are more loyal. 2.7 times more to be exact. On the other hand, PWC found that nearly 50% of customers will walk away from a business after several bad experiences. While 1 in 3 customers will not come back after just one bad experience.
The business case for delivering great customer service is loud and clear. With great customer experience comes increased trust and loyalty. This in turn increases sales by up to 7 times as satisfied customers are also more likely to try other products and services from the business. It’s probably why customer-focused companies are also 60% more profitable compared to companies that don’t prioritise their customers.
That said, we also know pharmacies across Ireland are facing staff shortages. This certainly makes it difficult to stay open, let alone prioritise and deliver exceptional patient-centered care.
How then should Irish pharmacies focus on patient-centered care and begin to improve their patient experience?
For starters, pharmacies can focus on leveraging modern technology. Purpose-built software can help their teams to deliver better experiences both offline and online. PWC highlighted that companies should not mistake technology platforms for the experience itself though. Instead, you should see tech as a complementary tool to improve patient-centered care.
Secondly, pharmacies can focus on improving key aspects of good customer service and patient care. PWC’s report highlights four factors customers value most in their customer experience:
- Speed – How quickly can you deliver a product or service?
- Convenience – How easy is it to order products from or book services with your pharmacy?
- Knowledgeable help – How helpful is your team when solving problems or answering questions?
- Friendly service – Does your team create a safe and comfortable environment for your patients? Can they ask questions without feeling self-conscious or embarrassed?
Let’s dive into each aspect of patient-centered care, and what that looks like with the help of technology platforms like HasHealth.
When it comes to speed, cutting down on in-store wait times can be a good place to start. With an online booking system, patients can select a time for a consultation or prescription pickups that suits them. By reducing wait times, pharmacists are relieved of the stressors of a long line and loud sighs. This gives them more time to focus on patients in-store. Which allows more time to help patients choose the right products or address any concerns they may have.
Taken together, this can contribute to a better patient experience, which can improve the patient-pharmacist relationship and sets your pharmacy apart from your competitors.
Your patients are busy and they want access to pharmacy services when it suits them, wherever they may be. For instance, a busy working parent might not have time to call your pharmacy during opening hours. Therefore, giving them the option to schedule vaccination appointments online is a great idea. Online booking systems are accessible 24/7, from any device. So, they are free to book, reschedule and cancel appointments online at a time that suits them. It also means that patients don’t have to wait in a queue to speak to a pharmacist in-store or on the phone.
Digitalising your admin processes makes life easier for your customers and for your team. You can reduce time spent taking bookings over the phone or managing schedules. So, pharmacists can focus on delivering great patient-centered care.
You could also introduce a Click and Collect option that allows patients to order certain prescriptions when they need them and pick them up at a time that suits them. Again, your patients don’t need to wait for your pharmacy to open to call ahead or wait in line while their order is being prepared. This also gives your team more time to approve and prepare requests instead of rushing to fulfil orders. Win-win!
Anticipating the needs of your patients and customers is another way to improve convenience. Pharmacies can enhance their Click and Collect service by automating refill reminders so patients don’t forget to refill their prescriptions and avoid being left without medication. HasHealth offers an automated reminder where patients can receive a notification, either via email or SMS and be directed to the online platform to refill their prescriptions there and then. Reminders can also be sent out when medications are ready to be collected.
3. Knowledgeable help
For many patients, pharmacies are more than just a place to pick up a refill. They’re a health hub where patients can seek medical advice and work with healthcare providers to create a personalised healthcare plan. Offering personal consultations can help patients get the guidance they need, especially when it comes to managing long-term or chronic illnesses.
To make your team’s expertise accessible to a wider locale, consider offering online consultations that allow patients to speak with a medical professional from the comfort of their own home, at a time that suits them. This is particularly important when supporting patients who have limited mobility or limited access to transport.
As for your team, they can set up a schedule for consultations online and direct patients to their online booking system, instead of operating a walk-in service which can be time-consuming and cause long wait times for other patients.
4. Friendly service
Did you know that 42% of consumers would pay more for a friendly and welcoming experience? In the healthcare sector, where patients need to talk about personal and sometimes intimate aspects of their lives, a warm and friendly pharmacist can make a world of difference. A quick way to gauge your team’s performance is to ask yourself if your team makes patients feel comfortable enough to ask questions, no matter how silly or serious it might seem. You could also run a patient experience survey for more quantitative feedback.
You could also consider your own experiences with your trusted healthcare professionals, the ones you go to again and again. What is it about them that makes your return? How can you bring that insight into your own pharmacy? How can you upskill your team to deliver this level of patient care?
While technology is a great enabler, nothing can replace the human element of great patient care. Leverage the tools available so you can focus more time on delivering patient-centered care to develop meaningful patient-pharmacist relationships, and set your business up for long-term success.
Patient-centered care and an overall positive patient experience are integral to a pharmacy’s success
Providing patient-centered care revolves around working with the patient to form a healthcare plan that facilities the best outcomes for their individual needs. This requires dedicating time and energy to each individual patient, ensuring they are offering regular check-in appointments and health checks.
However, this is easier said than done when your pharmacy is severely understaffed! Providing online services is key to improving the patient experience as patients have control over booking their own appointments and filling in pre-screening questionnaires for prescriptions or vaccinations. It also helps cut down on time spent by pharmacists on admin tasks, allowing them to spend more time with patients.
Digitalising everyday workflows can help improve patient experience and help relieve pressure on pharmacy staff, due to staff shortages. To learn more about how HasHealth software can help, get in touch with the team today!
Want more interesting industry insights? Join our online community on LinkedIn!