South Fork Pharmacy Moves to Improve Workflow
Brad Williams’ lease was up on the location for his pharmacy at the beginning of 2019. He decided to move his independent pharmacy from its more than 4,000 square-foot location to a space just under 3,000.
The new space, though smaller, provided a better workflow and all-around better space to work in than the narrow space that previously housed South Fork Pharmacy.
“It was just an awkward workflow as far as the pharmacy department as well as the over-the-counter and gift area,” Brad said.
When it comes to space, they still have plenty and in fact have more than is typical with traditional pharmacies.
“I think the average in the business is 2,400 square feet or something like that, so we knew we wanted something smaller and in a better location,” Brad said.
The key for Brad, however, was a much better location. The new spot places him exactly where he wants his store to be, by the competition and providers.
“The big chains do the deep data dives to find optimal locations, they don’t just open up a pharmacy at whatever open lot they can find,” Brad said. “They’re going where the traffic is, they’re going where the providers are.”
“If someone grows tired of waiting at a chain, the fact that you’re right there puts you more top of mind than being halfway across town.”
Brad also found that being closer to the chain stores will place you closer to where the patients are and in a more ideal location than he would normally think about for a pharmacy.
“If someone grows tired of waiting at a chain, the fact that you’re right there puts you more top of mind than being halfway across town,” Brad said.
Being visible like this can create some free, organic advertising for people who are walking or driving through the area as they go to other shopping locations or to a chain pharmacy. However, this wasn’t Brad’s only reason for wanting to move.
“In our search for spots, we knew we wanted a smaller footprint, but we also knew we wanted to have at least one clinical room,” Brad said.
They now have a private space for immunizations, durable medical equipment and injectables. This clinical room was key in pivoting the pharmacy to move towards more clinical focuses as they expand their role in the community.
Additionally, Brad said, “At our new location we had the ability to form the pharmacy space to make it more productive for a more efficient workflow. In our particular circumstance at the old location there were several almost island effects, one in front of the other in front of the other type of workflow that was necessary for how it was set up. It was a whole lot more steps, true footsteps, to get anything done in our old location.”
Brad is now able to save time with his new workflow he designed and focus his energy elsewhere like his clinical offerings. He also had some advice for other pharmacists considering a move like his.
The first step? “Planning, give yourself more time than you think,” Brad said.
He suggested four to six months just for planning and looking for a location, as well as researching lenders and pharmacy design services. When you factor in the actual implementation, having fixtures and computers installed as well as updating licensure; he suggests a time frame of as much as a year.
“We squeezed it into a lesser timeframe, but looking back at my experience, it’s something we should have given ourselves a little bit more time on,” Brad said.
Another consideration Brad learned about is having a cash cushion for construction costs.
Brad said construction costs could go over by 15 to 20 percent as his did.
Though this is his first time moving a pharmacy, Brad has been in the pharmacy industry since his teens, taking a position at a store while he was in high school after working with his guidance counselor in 1998. His entry into independent pharmacy was much more recent.
“My wife and I purchased this location about five years ago,” Brad said. “With the pharmacy industry, I thought I knew a lot coming into this having worked in chain retail for a good 10 years. Independent pharmacy was a whole different beast. I’ve sort of learned the business, it’s been tremendously changing in just the last couple years.”
Among those changes is a rising challenge faced by many independents. PBM and reimbursement pressures were not something Brad experienced in the chain environment.
“I think it’s the skewed system that we’re forced to operate under,” Brad said. He explained that because of PBMs he is shut out from some networks and the system skews incentives that the PBMs implement.
“Our focus on synchronization has really resonated with a good number of our patients.”
Brad is still finding success by working for his patients to provide services they want and can’t seem to find elsewhere.
“Our focus on synchronization has really resonated with a good number of our patients,” Brad said.
He explained that it’s a win for pharmacists, patients and providers and that, “it’s really been borne out on the pharmacy side here.”
At least 35 percent of their customers are on a synchronization plan and they are aiming to get to 50 percent by the end of the first quarter in 2020.
IPC also helps them find success through offerings like over-the-counter items they can’t find elsewhere.
“We do utilize IPC, the 45-days dating on generics helps a good bit with cash flow, that has been a tremendous benefit,” Brad said.