Would I sell that?

As I scan around a Community Pharmacy – it is an interesting question to pose. Is this a business question or a professional question – it is important to understand where you are coming from?

The parallel question is – would I recommend that? And this question generates a different response.

Customers walk into a pharmacy and ask for a specific product.  This is professional retailing. There will be times when I ask – very politely – what are you taking that for and I may ask the rest of the WWHAM. There is an obvious opportunity to ‘test’ the customer’s thinking – perhaps the recommendation they have been offered by a relative or friend – or the article / advert they have read. I may not consider the product as effective and suggestions of other products may be rejected – but if I consider that the risk of harm is very low – even if the chance of benefit is remote – if it seems reasonable – I will sell it.

Customers walk into a pharmacy and ask for advice. This is responding to symptoms. I like to SOAP, but others will WWHAM or ASMETHOD or even SIT DOWN SIR. In this situation I will assess the risks and benefits and try to recommend a product that I believe will be suitable. My recommendation may not be the same as a colleague’s and that is OK. If the customer provides additional information on what they believe has worked before or states a preference then I will adapt. Again this is a judgement of risk and benefit and a different product may be offered.

Customers walk into a pharmacy and I ask them questions. This is proactive clinical community pharmacy practice. From their prescription or just by looking at them I can make an educated guess at the risk of them suffering from certain symptoms or needing preventative care. They may not have realised it – or not taken the advice of another healthcare professional, friend or relative seriously enough to act. I create the opportunity to engage, advise and recommend a suitable product/treatment/activity. I might sell them something rather than signpost – particularly if previous signposting hasn’t worked.

It is obvious that I always try to offer a product that is evidence based, but sometimes the evidence is poor and on occasions the evidence if generally negative (it doesn’t work). However, this is the a basis of professionalism – ending in a situation where both the patient and the healthcare professional ends in an acceptable position of risk/benefit. It is important that it is generally what other reasonable pharmacists would have done in a similar situation.

It helps if I work in a professional healthcare environment – not all white melamine – but where all products are related to healthcare. All of the products are ones that I would sell and most are ones that I would recommend. I will alter my stock patterns to reflect what I intend to offer for sale. This is an important small step in the process of community pharmacy development.

The appearance of the pharmacy is important. There are few pharmacies left that are stocked like a bazaar, however, I would suggest that the drive to clean and sterile premises may alienate groups of potential customers. The community pharmacy is at the heart of the community and must be welcoming.

Community Pharmacy should be clinically led – what should I recommend to customers – and not procurement driven – what can I sell to customers.

It is a small thing, but so very important for the future of community pharmacy


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