Are Pharmacies Stealing Your Patients?

The scariest word for a primary care physician these days isn’t ACA, reimbursements, or even liability insurance. It’s attrition. The great migration of patients continues to shift from the primary care practice to other facilities. They will go where there’s quick and easy access to good care. In recent years, that has meant a migration to urgent care centers.

Now, the latest trend, and potentially far more damaging to a physician's practice, comes from pharmacies.

Physicians are long accustomed to sending their patients to pharmacies to fill a prescription. But, now they’re doing so and patients aren’t coming back. That’s because pharmacies are adding clinicians, accessible both on-site and remotely. 

Just this week, Walgreen’s announced a partnership with MDLIVE in which it will provide their customers with online, on-demand access to physicians. A pilot of the program has launched in a few states and additional ones will be added soon. The role the pharmacy is undergoing a dramatic transformation and its impact on the healthcare system should not be discounted.

In the world of vaccines, patients are increasingly receiving their immunizations at urgent care clinics and now pharmacies. And as these care centers build out the services they provide, patients will have limited incentive to return to their primary care physicians. When a patient leaves a practice, for a vaccination or otherwise, if they’re satisfied with their care, they’re not coming back.

Primary care practices can’t afford to let this migration continue. Rather than lament the shifting dynamics, physicians are beginning to implement meaningful and successful tactics to keep their patients:

  • Communicate early and often – provide frequent, proactive communication to inform patients of their care history and recommendations for future vaccinations
  • Build on their trust in you – remember, patients may appreciate the convenience of an urgent clinic or pharmacy, but you can leverage your practice’s earned trust, respect and credibility
  • Raise awareness of vaccines – many patients don’t understand the significance of vaccines or the consequences of failing to adhere to guidelines; provide patients with educational and informational material, either from the Centers for Disease Control or other sources
  • Make it easy – vaccines are confusing and the requirements, guidelines and recommendations frequently evolve; help your patients by providing crystal-clear guidance on what they need to do, when and how

    So, what will you do as a primary care physician to compete with the convenience of jelly beans, allergy medications and immunizations all in the same store?