Creating a positive public image is an extension of the pharmacy’s marketing and community outreach efforts. Designing ways to build the pharmacy’s reputation as a health and wellness center will appeal to the desires of today’s consumers. Using a variety of media to reach consumers with the pharmacy’s messaging is important. So is carry a common look and feel throughout the in-store messaging, to external messaging on the pharmacy’s Web site, its social media pages/sites, newsletters and other forms of advertising. American Pharmacist Month and national health observances are great ways to showcase the pharmacy’s service and products. Other campaigns, such as medication ‘Take-Back” days and “Buy Local” can position the pharmacy as a socially conscious member of the community.
American Pharmacist Month
Held each year in October, American Pharmacists Month (APhM) recognizes the significant contributions to health care and the commitment to patient care by pharmacists in ALL practice settings from around the country. “Know Your MEDICINE, Know Your PHARMACIST” serves as the theme and core message of the month. The messaging supports the important relationship between the pharmacist and the patient. APhM goals include:
- To recognize the vital contributions made by pharmacists to health care in the United States
- To enhance the image of pharmacists as the medication experts and an integral part of the health care team, not just dispensers of medication.
- To educate the public, policy makers, pharmacists, and other health care professionals about the key role played by pharmacists in reducing overall health care costs by improved medication use and advanced patient care
- To stress the importance of Knowing Your Medicine and Knowing Your Pharmacist to ensure drug therapy is as safe and effective as possible.
The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) continues to promote the pharmacists role on the health care team, especially during this time when health care is in the national spotlight. The message is that pharmacists provide solutions that the system and patients are looking for. APhM celebrations help reinforce this message within your communities. Pharmacists/owners can do that by hosting events in the pharmacy, promoting their patient care services, participating in community activities or health fairs, and by getting the attention of the local media. The APhM Web site provides tools and information to get APhM celebrations going. Start by downloading/viewing the APhM Planning Guide, a one-stop shop for all of the pharmacy’s planning needs. Celebration ideas are broken down by practice setting and will instruct planners on ways to increase community consciousness about the care provided by pharmacists. The APhM store has APhM branded merchandise to help promote the pharmacy and the profession during October. This is also a good time to provide every patient with their Personal Medication Record (PMR), one of the five key components of Medication Therapy Management services.
Year-Round Health Events
Planning service, merchandise and product promotions around annual national health events is a great way to build the pharmacy’s image and its patient care services. Some events that coincide with frequently offered pharmacy services are:
American Heart Month (February)
National Wise Health Consumer Month (February)
National Nutrition Month (March)
National Poison Prevention Week (March)
World Health Day (April)
Arthritis Awareness Month (May)
Mental Health Awareness Month (May)
Older Americans Month (May)
Mens Health Month (June)
Home Safety Month (June)
National Immunization Awareness Month (August)
National Cholesterol Education Month (September)
Health Literacy Month (October)
American Diabetes Month (November)
World AIDS Day (December)
Safe Toys and Gift Month (December)
Sponsoring organizations have tool kits to help pharmacies plan promotions around these events. Offering screening services, prevention tips and disease information around these health events helps solidify the pharmacy’s health care role in the consumer’s mind. For a complete listing of health events and related links compiled by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, visit http://www.healthfinder.gov/nho/nhoyear.asp?year=2011.
Take Back Events and Drug Safety
Prescription drug abuse is on the rise, and is one of the nation’s fastest-growing problems, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health finds that more than 70% of people who abuse prescription pain relievers get them from friends or relatives. Taking medicines from a parent’s or relative’s medicine cabinet is a common way teenagers access prescription medicines which can lead to dire consequences and death.
A number of campaigns surrounding prescription drug safety have been created. The National Association of Board of Pharmacy’s AwareRx program (www.AwareRx.org) is an information source providing authoritative resources about medication safety, prescription drug abuse, medication disposal, and safely buying medications on the Internet.
The Generation Rx Initiative Partnership is also a good source of material about addressing prescription drug misuse. It was developed by the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy and funded by the Cardinal Health Foundation. See http://www.pharmacist.com/Content/NavigationMenu2/PatientCareProjects/GenerationRx/default.htm, and http://pharmacy.osu.edu/outreach/generation-rx/resources2.cfm for more information.
Finally, helping to promote safe medication disposal is a core part of controlling access to prescription medications. DEA sponsors Take-Back events for controlled substances in April and October and is creating guidelines for future programs/policies. In many communities, law enforcement has worked with the DEA to set up permanent drop off locations for controlled substances. Pharmacies may also consider sponsoring Take Back events. A good guide for such events is NCPA’s Dispose My Meds program. The program provides information and resources for pharmacies to create medication disposal programs to help their patients safely dispose of unused and expired medicines that may be dangerous to others and to the environment. The program is a members-only benefit is designed to help community independent pharmacies protect their patients and the environment while potentially attracting new patients through a low-cost, turn-key program. NCPA says Dispose My Meds may result in increased foot traffic, new patients, and marketing opportunities for the pharmacy. They cite past medication return programs around the country that found that as many as 40% to 49% of customers returning medications for disposal were from other pharmacies, presenting a tremendous opportunity for customer conversion while making a difference for your community with a safe solution to improper drug disposal and potential drug misuse.
Another excellent public image campaign that has met with success is “Buy Local” or “Going Local”. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) finds for the fourth year running through a national survey of independent businesses (2,768, including retailers, service providers, restaurants and others) that those in communities with an active “buy local” campaign have experienced markedly stronger revenue growth compared to those located in areas without such a campaign. It found that those in places with a “buy local” initiative reported revenue growth of 5.6% on average in 2010, compared to 2.1% for those elsewhere. Public awareness of the benefits of supporting locally owned businesses has also increased in the last year. Dan Benamoz’s Pharmacy Development Services offers a Shop Local starter kit for pharmacies at www.pharmacyowners.com. According to the site, “these simple and unique educational tools include signage, stickers, and badges. Each tool is designed to inform … and to thank your customers for shopping and supporting you — their local independent pharmacy.”
Community involvement, personal contribution, and service dedication are hallmarks of independent pharmacies. Promoting and participating in community and health events is an excellent way to showcase these strengths and build the pharmacy’s public image.
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