What patients want

Yesterday we considered why marketing your business is important, read today’s instalment to discover how you can tap into patient needs.

One stumbling block can be not matching your offering to what your community needs, so it’s worth taking the time to find out.

“You know your customers better than anyone,” says Stephen Spillett, channel marketing manager for Careway at AAH Pharmaceuticals, “and by engaging and talking to your patients you can find out exactly what their needs are.”

Following seasonal trends, matching the offering to either the time of year or national health awareness campaigns helps to meet patient needs. For example, if a patient visits your pharmacy looking at nicotine replacement products, engage with them in a discussion about an in-store smoking cessation service. Spillett also advises “briefing team members on all services on offer so they have the confidence to engage with patients and identify those who may benefit from the services”.

However, what you can offer “does somewhat depend on what is commissioned by the NHS”, says pharmacist Gavin Birchall, founder of DOSE, a pharmacy specialist design and marketing agency, although he does believes that “there is room for innovation within private services and in how you offer both NHS and private services”.

To find out whether there are any gaps in the market where you can develop new services to meet, you need to do your market research. Birchall suggests using publicly available datasets to find out what your patients want, or “doing some primary research” if the data doesn’t already exist – in other words, ask your patients.

Opinions count

Spillett says creating patient feedback forms is “a good way to show you are in touch with patients and care about their thoughts and feedback”, although Brij Valla, Avicenna’s head of membership services, says: “Many people think about doing surveys but miss the trick here.

The current Community Pharmacy Patient Questionnaire that we have to complete on an annual basis feel very onerous without any benefit. I am all for feedback forms but the only thing I find with these is repeating it every year does not benefit the pharmacy in any form nor is it popular with regular patients.”

Another way to find out where you could be contributing more is by familiarising yourself with your Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment (PNA), which Chris Ball, development director of the Hub pharmacy – with 10 pharmacies in the North of England – says “gives a clear indication of what current and potential future needs will be for specific areas”.

Join us again tomorrow to find out how you can use other healthcare professionals to boost your business.