Six Steps to Growing a Long-Term Care Pharmacy Business
The healthcare industry is constantly growing, and long-term care (LTC) is no exception. By 2030, the number of persons 65 or older in the United States will account for approximately 18% of the population. This substantial growth will no doubt increase the need for LTC facilities and, in turn, the medications and supplies they need to care for patients.
Pharmacists with an eye toward the future have the option of expanding their current capabilities when it comes to LTC or seeking to serve new patient populations. But how do you get started? What does it take to expand your LTC pharmacy so that it thrives as a reliable source of pharmaceutical-centered care in your community? Here are six steps to move from managing to growing a long-term care pharmacy business.
Step 1: Adopt an entrepreneurial mindset.
To successfully grow business, LTC pharmacists must switch from a pharmacist mindset to an entrepreneurial mindset. This might mean pushing past your comfort zone. Closed-door pharmacies, for example, have a clearly defined patient base, no need to advertise and limited interactions with the public. The first step in growing the business is to adjust your expectations of work and what being successful means.
Step 2: Assess the competition and find differentiation.
Long-term care pharmacists interested in expansion should tour other facilities to assess other “best practices.” What services can you offer that would differentiate your LTC pharmacy in the marketplace? Could you extend business hours to better serve some facilities? Could you offer customized delivery schedules? Packaging variations, like color-coding and unit dose, encourage patient autonomy for those taking medications in assisted living facilities.
Step 3: Consider a new niche.
Expanding into a new LTC market can present additional opportunities to serve entirely new patient populations. Adding behavioral health facilities is one possibility. Long-term care pharmacists should consider working with various departments within their state's government, such as the Department of Aging, or other departments that put out requests for bids (RFBs). This will give them the chance to bid on new business. Obtaining a license in another state is also a great way to expand your pharmacy's geographic reach.
Step 4: Create a business plan.
A successful business venture starts with a defined business plan. Business plans include product or service line descriptions, market analyses, organizational structures, sales and marketing approaches, financial projections and funding requests. A business plan will be helpful when approaching a bank for a line of credit to support investments in the areas of your business with the most potential for impact — it's how you'll ensure you have the resources and infrastructure to support growth.
Step 5: Streamline internal processes.
Long-term care pharmacists must not neglect their current business when they expand. Assess current processes to identify redundancies. When possible, remove what you can in order to streamline workflow. The time and resources saved can be devoted to the new business venture. Staff is also an asset when expanding the business. If current employees are trained to maintain the original LTC business, owners can turn their focus to building the new venture.
Step 6: Market the new business.
Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tactic. Even within a closed-door environment, pharmacists should offer personalized service. Caregivers who work at a long-term care facility can be advocates for your pharmacy as they move through their careers. Nursing organizations are great resources as well. Online marketing, including social media and a website, is another valuable platform to promote a growing long-term care pharmacy business.
Moving past your professional comfort zone—coming out from behind the proverbial counter—might be challenging for some long-term care pharmacists. But when it's time to look to the future, these six steps can be useful signposts on the road to growing a business.