“Pharmacists won’t change!” These words are being bounced around in board meetings of the very organizations that you and I are members of and endorse. Quite frankly, if recent history is any indicator they are right. It is because of this very attitude that independent pharmacy is in extreme jeopardy and in danger of extinction.
How many independent pharmacies that you personally know of, have closed or sold out to chains in the last two years? Because my business is talking to our fellow independent pharmacists around the country on a daily basis I can honestly say that the number for me is approaching 100. What happened to these businesses that were once the backbones of the local economies in which they thrived?
I think it is time for independent pharmacy as a segment of our great profession to accept responsibility for our own demise by admitting that we have dug in our heels and we refuse to change! Sorry, but I’m really tired of hearing that it is the PBMs fault. I’m tired of hearing that it is the insurers fault. I’m tired of hearing that it is politicians fault. It is a cop out of the greatest nature.
Call it Obama Care, Romney Care, Affordable Care Act or any other name you want to attach to it, but the FACT is that healthcare is changing…with or without us. Any of you reading this that stubbornly hangs onto the past way of doing business and refuse to accept the facts as they stare you in the face WILL face the same end…or worse.
In fact, the same thing can be guaranteed for our buying groups, wholesalers and professional associations. Quit dangling another basis point, another penny on reimbursements and another day on Capitol Hill in front of us as the solution! We don’t want another carrot on a stick! We want to thrive again! Paralysis is no longer an option and you know it. Your members look to you to lead…so lead!
As I look at the CE programs being offered this summer at the conventions and trade shows that we attend, I am embarrassed! Same old, same old. Why? Why do you continue to perpetuate the same good old boy network that has led us to our current situation? You ALL know that independent pharmacy’s days are numbered and that we cannot survive under the same model that we have practiced under for the last 50 years. It is time for anyone that depends on independent pharmacies for survival to LEAD THE WAY into the future and quit living for today.
Even Walgreens, with all of their clout and power recognizes the fact that change is inevitable. They know they can’t survive under the current model. They actually said NO! Imagine that. How did you, our buying groups, associations and wholesalers respond? Did you seize upon this opportunity to point out that it doesn’t make sense for independents to accept a contract that is so bad that a behemoth like Walgreens can’t even accept it? No. You hid behind the nebulous fear of “anti-trust” and let this opportunity to send a message to Express Scripts pass us right by. We need to serve our customers you said. Well, no we don’t. We need to create a market where we can actually meet a real need of our customers and actually make enough money to survive.
By contrast how did Walgreens proceed? They began the process of change in their culture by remodeling all of their stores in Indianapolis, IN (with Chicago not far behind) to show how they envision community pharmacy in the not so distant future. They began a national advertising campaign (although pretty lame) to show that their pharmacists are changing the way they look at their patients. Their leadership, in describing the new stores said that they are “the first manifestation of bringing our strategy to life: transforming from a traditional drug store to a health and daily living solutions store…it’s centered around how we help customers and patients live well, get well, stay well and eat well.”
Why would they do that? Wouldn’t it be easier to just sign the darn contract and keep doing business the same way they always have? Absolutely! However, unlike independents, they obviously plan on being around in the future. They are not maintaining and looking for someone to bail them out. They are CHANGING! They are changing not because it is easy; they are changing because they know baby boomers, generation Xers and any other acronyms for future consumers you want to use are demanding it.
These future senior citizens are not going to accept life as their parents. They don’t want to just live longer, they want it all! They want to be able to do the same things they have done their whole lives and they know that in order to accomplish that goal they have to…wait for it…CHANGE! They know they have to get healthy and begin paying attention to the things that are causing their health to deteriorate. The FACT is that they will patronize those in healthcare that provide them with the knowledge, services and products that facilitate that change. Will it be independent pharmacy or Walgreens? It is time for us to decide.
So I ask our buying groups, wholesalers and professional organizations, what is your Plan B? Plan A is not an option. We don’t need another 0.001% reduction in our COGs. We don’t need another 0.10 per claim increase in reimbursement. We don’t need to stake our future on expecting healthcare to regress to the way it was. It ain’t gonna happen! By focusing on these short term Band-Aids you continue to dangle the carrot in front of us and lead us down a path that will lead to our…and your demise. It is time to make the tough decisions just as Walgreens has. If Walgreens cannot make it under the current system, what makes you think that we can?
So what do I expect these groups to do? LEAD! Take a chance on something new! Use the influence that you have to facilitate change. Quit dangling carrots that you know will not lead us to survival much less prosperity, in front of us. We are all in the same boat, and we are all headed for the deadly waterfall.
I read a great statement from one of the LEADERS of a major religious denomination just a few days ago that I feel applies directly to independent pharmacists so I am going to put it into that context. “Pharmacists will not change until the pain of change is exceeded by the pain of staying the same.” My friends and colleagues, I tell you the way it is…that time is now.