The United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia are all experiencing a swell in their aging populations. In the US 10,000 people turn 65 every day, and in just over a decade, 20% of the US population will be over 65. Already in 2016, 15% of Australia’s population was 65+. An aging population means a greater demand for healthcare services. For the retail pharmacy, this means your senior customers matter to your bottom line more than ever before.
According to McKesson, seniors fill an average of almost 28 prescriptions every year. This is more than double the amount filled by adults between the ages of 19-64!
To help pharmacies better engage seniors, we have put together five recommendations.
US pharmacies: provide year-round Medicare Part D support
More than 25% of all prescriptions were purchased through Medicare in 2014. This percentage will increase to 33% by 2020!
Annual open enrolment for Medicare Part D runs from Oct 5 – Dec 7. However, as Health Mart Pharmacy observes, if you only make Medicare Part D enrollment an annual priority, you are missing out on the opportunity to reach out to seniors during their initial enrollment period (3 months before they turn 65 until 3 months after).
Also recommended: use your existing customer database to reach out to those turning 65 in the next few months. Remind these customers about the late enrollment penalty and offer consultation to help them choose a plan. This is an excellent way to build customer loyalty and set up your pharmacy as a trusted resource.
“Instead of taking up your pharmacist’s time, have another employee be your Medicare expert. This staff member will work on plan reviews and problem solving year-round,” – Health Mart Pharmacy.
Make support ongoing to keep you in contact and your customers in the know. The best plan for your customer this year may not be the best one next year. To ensure a successful Open Enrollment season every year, remind customers to recheck their options, make an appointment, and offer consultation.
Last, make it easy for current senior customers to refer friends and family by providing takeaway literature or business cards.
Make medication counseling a priority
A key way pharmacies can better engage seniors is to make medication counseling a priority. According to the Journal of General Internal Medicine, about 20% of Medicare Advantage enrollees were prescribed at least one incorrect medication for their age. The average senior discharged from the hospital will leave with almost 10 different prescriptions and fewer than 10% fully comply with their medication regimen. This can lead to dangerous side effects and hospital readmission.
In fact, nearly 70% of “adverse health events” occuring after discharge can be traced to medication mismanagement.
Recognizing the critical role the pharmacist can play in preventing hospital readmission and harmful effects, in 2011 CVS Caremark partnered with Dovetail Health to identify patients with the greatest risk of hospital readmission. High-risk patients received in-home consultation, drug therapy review, care plan, and health coaching shortly after discharge.
Moderate risk patients were targeted with a 90-day telephone program including a medication review and ongoing care coordination between the pharmacy and the patient’s other health care providers.
You can also create a system that flags high-risk medications for seniors. Health Mart Pharmacy advises training your staff to talk with patients by asking open ended questions to ascertain patient knowledge about the medicine, discuss risks, as well as what alternative options the pharmacy can recommend if/when it contacts the prescriber about a therapy intervention.
Expand special services
More and more, consumers see pharmacies and pharmacists as sources of primary care. Where offered, consumers eagerly adopt specialized services such as immunizations, strep tests, delivery, medication counseling, and compounding.
Special services are also an excellent way to diversify your revenue stream. Think about what types of services would resonate most with your particular customers.
For instance, for seniors with limited mobility or limited time, one stop to be able to get your prescriptions, medical accessories, and immunizations is helpful. However, a drive-through may not resonate with your customers if you are in a densely populated, urban zone where most people walk or take public transit.
Think about accessibility
Senior customers can have unique mobility, auditory, and visual needs. Automatic door openers and ramps go a long way toward making your pharmacy accessible. But don’t stop at the entrance. Think about your set-up. Are your aisles wide enough for a wheelchair to easily navigate? Do you have tripping hazards?
Review your waiting area. Is there enough seating? Is it easy to get in and out of those seats? Do you have a place for walkers or other assistive devices?
For customers who are hard of hearing, can you accommodate their need for privacy by providing an area where you can be clearly heard but not by everyone in the waiting area? Do you have extra large print? ESL aids? Are your medication labels easy to read?
Thinking about accessibility will not only help senior customers, it will ensure your pharmacy is a welcoming place for all.
Ensure your efforts are adopted in full, in all stores
Anytime you launch a new program in-store it is important to be consistent. You may want to invest in retail audit software to conduct store visits to ensure your overall program is implemented according to head office plan.
Additionally, during your store visits make sure equipment like automatic doors are kept in good working order, that new merchandising displays don’t pose a tripping hazard, and that your seating area is kept neat with the furniture in good condition. To help you think about starting a store visit program and creating a pharmacy inspection checklist, we have prepared some helpful resources:
- 5 Steps to Implementing a Retail Data Collection Program
- How to Build a Retail Audit Checklist
- Pharmacy Inspection Checklist
Last, store visits also provide the opportunity for your front end staff to ask questions and communicate with you about which programs are working and where improvement is needed. This will allow you to adjust your efforts accordingly.