The retail pharmacy business is in an era of transformation. Everything from the growth of preferred networks to a shortage of primary care providersi is changing how your pharmacy cares for patients—and how much revenue you can bring in. To be successful in today’s market, you need to be flexible. It doesn’t pay to dig in your heels, put your head down and continue to do what you’ve always done. Understanding and acting on the latest retail pharmacy trends is crucial to thrive in this ever-changing environment.

Here are four major trends shaping the retail pharmacy business and how to adapt.

An older couple using canes and holding hands1. Medicare Growth Continues

As America's population ages, serving Medicare beneficiaries becomes more important than ever. As of 2017, more than 42 million people were enrolled in Medicare part D plans.ii And seniors ages 50-64 filled an average of 27.6 prescriptions per person in 2017. That’s more than double the number of prescriptions for adults 26-49.iii Serving the needs of this population is more than just a retail pharmacy trend; it’s a best-practice that will always be crucial to your pharmacy’s success.

What you can do: Focus on seniors even more

Get more involved with the seniors in your community. Listen to their concerns and determine how your pharmacy can help them with specific medication or insurance obstacles.

You can do this in a few ways:

  • Market your pharmacy business specifically to seniors
  • Help seniors review their plan options during open enrollment season so they can make better-informed decisions
  • Build relationships with more prescribers, who may refer seniors to your pharmacy
  • Make sure you’re part of a preferred pharmacy network for Medicare

An icon representing connectivity.  Balls and lines connected together.2. Preferred pharmacy networks are increasingly important

Preferred network access has always been tricky. Yes, being a part of preferred networks can affect your reimbursements. But without access to those networks, you also lose access to a huge potential customer base. And you miss out on a retail pharmacy trend that will only continue to impact your business.

In the past seven years—between 2011 and 2018—the number of Medicare Part D plans that included preferred pharmacy networks grew from 7% to a whopping 98%.iv But that’s not the only change in the world of preferred networks. The criteria to participate in those networks now also includes more stringent performance metrics.

What you can do: Gain and maintain access to preferred networks

With the majority of Part D plans including preferred pharmacy networks, participating in these networks is essential to your pharmacy business. Once you have access, maintaining that status is key. In order to maintain access, you need consistently strong performance (in the top 20%) on key Star ratings measures.

Partnering with a pharmacy services administrative organization (PSAO) can help on both fronts. The right PSAO can give you access to the preferred pharmacy networks that are critical to your pharmacy business. They can also help you stay on track to meet the key performance metrics needed to maintain that access.

Related: Five Steps to Improve Your Independent Pharmacy’s Performance

A person helping another person in a wheelchair3. Patients expect more one-on-one care

Today’s consumer uses a retail pharmacy as their one-stop shop for everything from paper towels and cleaning supplies to flu shots and strep tests. Plus, an ongoing shortage of primary care providers means more people continue to turn to pharmacists for basic care. You’ll get everything from calls about an infant’s fever to walk-in visits for a persistent cough. In fact, it’s estimated that only a third of retail clinic users typically have a primary care physician,v meaning your role in patient care is all the more vital. But is your pharmacy truly embracing this shift?

What you can do: Expand your clinical offerings

Focus on how your retail pharmacy business can add more value to each patient. What new services can you offer? You can consider adding anything from vaccines and medication synchronization to point-of-care testing. Once you add these services, be sure to market them so your community is aware you now offer them. The more individual services you can offer a patient, the more value they’ll find in your pharmacy.

Also, consider ways to alter your pharmacy’s workflow so pharmacists can spend more quality time with patients who need it. This might include an additional hire or simply a restructuring of your existing staff. Focus on delivering more individualized care to each patient that comes through your doors.

Related: How Independent Pharmacies Can Expand Diabetes Care for Patients

Medication bottles4. Specialty medications dominate drug spending

As biopharmaceutical manufacturers create more drugs to target specific diseases, the specialty drug market continues to skyrocket. In fact, specialty drug spending increased 11% over the past year alonevi to account for nearly half of all overall medication spending.vii While it’s true that specialty pharmacies will always have an advantage with these medications, your retail pharmacy business can tap into this market, too.

What you can do: Develop a strategy for accessing the specialty drug market

Although the bar for entering the specialty market can be high, retail pharmacies should still get in the game. Start by trying to get the specialty drugs your patient population is most likely to need. Then, focus on expanding your services to match these new medications.

You need the following clinical capabilities:

  • 24-hour access to pharmacists with disease-state experience
  • Extensive disease-specific counseling
  • Case management and medication adherence programs

Simply keeping your retail pharmacy afloat isn’t the goal. You want to stay competitive in today’s changing market to see both clinical and financial success. If you continue to adapt to the latest changes, your retail pharmacy business will be prepared to thrive.

Related: Learn more about McKesson’s growth and expansion solutions for independent pharmacies

iResearch Shows Shortage of More than 100,000 Doctors by 2030,” AAMC News, 2017
iiThe Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Benefit,” Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2017
iiiMedicine Use and Spending in the U.S: A Review of 2017 and Outlook to 2022,” Iqvia Institute for Human Data Science, 2018
ivNew Study: Preferred Pharmacy Networks in Medicare Part D Plans Save Seniors and Taxpayers Billions Each Year,” Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs, 2018
vThe Evolving Role of Retail Clinics,” RAND Corporation
viIncreases in Cost, Utilization Drive Specialty Drug Spending Growth,” Specialty Pharmacy Times, 2018
viiSpecialty Drug Spending Grows While Traditional Medicine Spending Drops,” Specialty Pharmacy Times. April 26, 2018

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About the author

McKesson editorial staff is committed to sharing innovative approaches and insights so our customers can get the most out of their business solutions and identify areas for operational improvement and revenue growth.

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