How to Build Relationships with Prescribers in Your Community
By Robyn Bradley |
You have a compelling story to
tell about your independent pharmacy, but the message may not be reaching a key
audience—local prescribers—with maximum impact. That’s significant because
script volume largely flows from those prescribers, and they need to know about
your store’s full capabilities. The good news is that you can quickly
course-correct by extending your already-existing bond with patients to include
the individuals in your community who prescribe their medications.
Establishing an effective prescriber marketing strategy isn’t strictly about ramping up prescriptions and revenue. It’s also about nurturing trust and recognition that you can help prescribers manage their patients’ care—even those patients with the most challenging health issues. In doing so, you’ll cement your rightful place on the comprehensive healthcare delivery team that’s needed to serve today’s patients.
While there’s no absolute right or wrong way to do it when it comes to targeting prescribers, the following tips will guide you toward a positive return on your pharmacy marketing efforts.
Where to start
You’re probably wondering which physicians you should reach out to first, considering you have limited time and resources to devote to prescriber marketing. The answer is three-fold:
- Prescribers you already serve
They’re sending patients to your store and you likely already have an existing relationship here; your goal will be for them to send you more patients.
- Prescribers who generate the largest profit per script
Your store’s dispensing data reveals which scripts generate the highest profits and who wrote them. Use that information to prioritize your efforts based on where you’ll see a better return.
- Specialists who practice in your community but aren’t sending you patients
Dermatologists, endocrinologists, cardiologists, oncologists and podiatrists are all good prospects because their patients need proper support at the pharmacy level to carry out their medication and treatment regimens.
You have access to a number of reports that can help you identify the best opportunities for your business. Use those resources to better understand where your existing volume is coming from and where you have the potential to increase referrals by developing your prescriber relationships.
Who should handle physician outreach
Think about who should be the
“face of the pharmacy” when interacting with doctors. As a pharmacy owner, you
may elect to handle prescriber relations, or you could delegate to a valued
staff member who has good people skills and the ability to effectively tell
your story. Alternatively, former pharmaceutical reps with prior physician
marketing experience could represent your store on a contractual basis (e.g.,
payment contingent upon increasing script count to a specified level).
In any event, your message needs to be conveyed concisely, with confidence and a sense of purpose. Remember, this is an opportunity to position your pharmacy on par with prescribers within the continuum of care.
If you’re feeling the least bit hesitant about connecting with busy providers, keep in mind that they’re human, too, and often struggle with patient safety and compliance issues, especially with complex patients. They’re graded on measures from JCAHO and CMS in order to bill for services rendered and need pharmacists’ help to meet current standards. Within the big picture, you’re the expert on medication adherence and your guidance is essential to their success.
Fundamentals of contacting prescribers
The best way to connect with a
new prescriber is by visiting them in person. Some physicians’ offices may
require that you schedule in advance, while others may have a specific day of
the week when they allow for meetings. It’s best to contact the office and find
out their policy. This also gives you the opportunity to develop a relationship
with the office’s staff as well, which will prove invaluable when it comes to
maintaining a steady line of communication with the doctor in the future.
Once you have the scheduling information, you can choose a time that works best for you. Keep in mind, if you’re the one who will be handling the physician outreach, plan to visit when your pharmacy is usually a bit slower so it’s easier for you to step away.
When you meet with a prescriber, you can expect to have a tight timeframe—typically only 10 to 15 minutes—so you’ll want to practice your marketing message ahead of time. Think about what’s important to the prescriber. If they see a lot of Med D patients, you may want to highlight your adherence ratings and explain how you can help them keep their patients compliant. If the prescriber’s specialty is diabetes, you could highlight any patient-focused diabetes education that your pharmacy provides. By tailoring a unique message to each physician, you can truly illustrate your dedication to their patients.
On the day of your visit, bring along handout materials that list your store’s services, such as medication therapy management, convenience packaging, drug delivery and in-store patient education. Ask if you may leave behind pre-printed cards with similar information in the patient waiting area, behind the counter where patients check out or in the staff break room.
Testimonials from happy patients also work well as deliverables during your visit. Collect these in advance by routinely asking patients for their feedback while they’re in your store. Tell them you’d like to use some of their comments to market the pharmacy, and it’s not necessary that you identify them by name. Similar testimonials from other practices, hospitals or clinics with which you already work also speak volumes about what you can deliver.
Once you’ve established a viable connection with a prescriber, set up a reminder to call or visit the practice about once per month to maintain the relationship. A good way to do this is to reference a specific patient who may have been a challenge to the prescriber. For instance:
I saw Mr. Smith today and he shared with me that he’s having some leg cramps due to the medication he was recently prescribed. I recommended magnesium tablets with vitamin D to help with the cramps. I wanted you to be aware that he’s added that to his regimen. I’ll check to see if he’s better or worse when he comes in again next month and will relay his feedback.
Proactively focusing on physician
outreach can dramatically increase your pharmacy’s business performance. In one
recent, real-world case, a pharmacy hired a former pharmaceutical rep to handle
their prescriber relations and saw their script count jump by 6,900
year-over-year, contributing to a 40 percent gain in gross sales and a $90,000
The size of your pharmacy and the resources you have available will factor into your results, so think about goals that are reachable given your situation. You don’t need to try to visit 10 offices in one day. It’s fine to start with just one or two visits—whatever you feel is worth your time and effort. Quick wins tend to come by partnering with prescribers who need assistance with struggling patients, as well as by staying top of mind with prescribers who already send patients your way.
In the end, no one will be able to tell your pharmacy’s story better than you. Don’t be shy about explaining to prescribers how you’re the ideal partner to help them better care for their patients all year around. With the right approach, you’ll be providing much-needed assistance in managing the health of their patients—and building your business at the same time.