Inspiration for new business ideas for the pharmacy can come from just about anywhere depending on how observant and creative the pharmacist/owner may be. New ideas may be found outside the pharmacy by watching other local businesses, being involved with local business organizations, or local trends and events in health and wellness that the pharmacy may tag onto too. More often, networking with peers through local, state, and national pharmacy organizations, staying current with the pharmacy literature, and partnering with schools and colleges of pharmacy are frequent sources of new ideas that can keep a pharmacy offering core and new services to the community it serves.
Independent pharmacies are key parts of the communities they operate within. Many pharmacist/owners are involved in their local chamber of commerce or other business and civic groups, such as the Lion’s Club, the Rotary Club or other organizations. This involvement allows the pharmacist/owner to build relationships with other business owners and networking at local events can often produce new ideas for services. For example, the pharmacy might organize to bring immunization and health screenings events to these local group’s meetings. Local news organizations often sponsor health-related events which can also be a good source of ideas for pharmacy promotions and products that support such events.
Beyond observing and being involved in the local business landscape, pharmacy owners often have separate focused interest groups within their local and state pharmacy organizations. Being involved in these groups allow the pharmacy’s owners and staff members to build a network of professional colleagues who are often sources of new ideas as well as problem solving tips. One of the best examples might be the growth in immunization services, now offered by the majority of pharmacists and pharmacies in every state. This was a profoundly new concept when it began in the mid-1990s. The first ongoing training program began in Washington State in 1994 to help address disparities in immunization rates, especially among children. Two years later, to address immunization disparities in their State, the Mississippi Pharmacists Association requested assistance in creating an immunization training program from the American Pharmacists Association (APhA). What resulted was a major, ongoing initiative by APhA, which recognized by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 1998, to advocate and educate pharmacists as providers of immunization services.
Being involved in national pharmacy organizations is also critical for keeping abreast of new possibilities and emerging service offerings. While taking time off from a busy independent pharmacy can be challenging, it is important to plan ahead and make it a point to attend a national event annually or every other year at a minimum. There are a number of excellent national meetings offered by several pharmacy organizations and pharmacist/owners and their staff may target participation depending on interest areas. Most of these meetings have a variety of pre-meeting certificate program offerings (ie. Immunizations, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, MTM services). The meetings themselves offer a variety of clinical and practice-management continuing education sessions, roundtables, and expositions to see the latest tools and resources to support the pharmacy enterprise. Sessions, posters, and podium presentations are all sources of new ideas or ways to tailor existing programs to be more effective and/or efficient.
The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) has an annual conference each October with a full range of continuing education programs and an exhibit. The meeting focuses on independent pharmacy owners and staff members and also provides updates on government advocacy efforts. NCPA also offers an Ownership Workshop and a Multiple Locations Conference annually. NCPA offers numerous email newsletters from daily to weekly that can help the pharmacist stay up to date on events as well. The Executive Update is a weekly newsletter that highlights current events. As an example, a recent edition featured news on e-prescribing growth and opportunities ahead for the e-prescribing of controlled substances. Visit www.ncpanet.org for more information and details.
The American Pharmacists Association’s Annual Meeting and Exposition is held in March each year and attracts a wide audience of pharmacists from owners and practice managers, to clinical pharmacy coordinators in small to large chain pharmacies, and practice faculty in the schools and colleges of pharmacy. It’s focus is on providing the latest information each year in the most commonly encountered health conditions. MTM services implementation, reimbursement, and business models are recurring themes. APhA brings an extensive bookstore to the event with practice-based resources from A to Z. These resources can also be accessed on www.pharmacist.com and include new book and electronic products related to new business ideas. APhA’s weekly e-newsletter, the Pharmacist Focus brings a variety of information from new health-related events and resources to grants available to support practice expansion. Visit www.pharmacist.com for more information. The APhA Foundation offers incentive grants to support the provision of new services as well, see www.aphafoundation.org.
Many new practice models and business ideas evolve from the partnerships between schools/colleges of pharmacy and a number of them have received grant support to evolve new services in community pharmacies. One source of funding is the Community Pharmacy Foundation, which has been providing grant support to advance community pharmacy for a decade (www.communitypharmacyfoundation.org). The site has synopsis of current and past projects that illuminate many good ideas for consideration by pharmacists looking to build new services and partnerships. Independent pharmacists/owners should consider serving as preceptors for school/college of pharmacy experiential programs or even offering community pharmacy residencies. Students often bring ideas for new patient care services to the pharmacy and residents are often challenged with building new programs as well. Many of the clinical services offered by multiple location pharmacies were started through community pharmacy residency programs. More information may be found under the Pharmacy Practice section at www.pharmacist.com.
Besides the local, state, and national organization offerings geared to community pharmacists, wholesalers and buying groups are also excellent sources of ideas and networking through their annual national or regional customer shows. These shows feature the opportunity to learn new business ideas from peers through social networking events, and have extensive exhibit halls with vendor partners that can walk the pharmacist/owner through any number of new technologies and services. Each wholesaler’s show varies in timing and location, and the pharmacist/owner should contact their wholesaler representative to learn more.
Finally, a number of other non-organization related resources are good sources for new business ideas and the pharmacist/owner should consider subscribing to email and print publications. These include Computer Talk Magazine (www.computertalk.com), Drug Store News (www.drugstorenews.com), Pharmacy Times (www.pharmacytimes.com), and US Pharmacist (www.uspharmacist.com). One resource that may be useful for tracking broader trends is through the SmartBrief publication series (www.smartbrief.com). SmartBrief offers free daily email newsletters on a variety of industries and topics from biotechnology and business, to food, health care, and retail, among others. It is an excellent way to look at trends that may inspire the reader and lead to new business ideas.