Whether its robots, microbots, smartphones, or 3-dimensional (3-D) printing, the potential for technology to impact health care and pharmacy excites and motivates Dan Benamoz, RPh, founder and chief executive officer, Pharmacy Development Services (PDS). In a recent interview with Pharmacy Times Magazine, Benamoz explained that technological advancements in the field of medicine will occur faster than most people expect and that part of a pharmacy’s future success will depend on how well it prepares and adapts to change. He predicts that the knowledge gained through supercomputers and mapping of the human genome will lead to revolutionary changes in diagnostics and treatments. “What you are going to see in these next 5 years is twice the amount of innovation that you’ve seen in the last 35 to 40 years collectively,” he said.
Benamoz stressed that cutting-edge technology is already beginning to impact health care. A contact lens that can detect blood glucose levels using tears is undergoing testing. “Microbots” that can swim in a person’s bloodstream are also being tested, opening up the potential for treatment to be delivered in a highly targeted way.
These medical advances could render many in-person outpatient visits nonessential, noted Benamoz. Handheld digital devices are already available that, with a single drop of blood, can identify and detect diseases long before patients become symptomatic. “People will have these [devices] in their home and will pretty much know what’s wrong with them,” he said. Once they receive a diagnosis, patients will be able use their smartphones to contact a physician who could then access their medical history and handle a majority of their problems via telemedicine. Pharmacists could also be accessed remotely, and drones might one day be used to deliver medications. Any equipment a patient needs could be created with a 3-D printer, Benamoz added.
To be successful in this era of technology, pharmacy owners will have to learn to think exponentially, rather than linearly, he said. With the Internet, pharmacists and patients have access to an unprecedented amount of information. Learning how to analyze and use the information is key. “There’s no politics and no emotion in data,” Benamoz said. “If you are making decisions based on your gut, you cannot make good decisions.”
According to Benamoz, pharmacists need to become problem solvers and think more strategically. Data can be used to learn consumers’ preferences and habits, and determine what questions to ask. Pharmacists can know what people need before they do. Benamoz advises pharmacists to focus more on patients who have chronic diseases, interact with them as valued customers, and ask a lot of questions. The business of pharmacy is no longer about how many prescriptions can be filled.
“People don’t buy products. People don’t buy services. People buy solutions to problems,” he said. “We are so busy being busy. One of the most important things you need to do is have special time set aside for thinking.”
Having happy customers is all about creating a good experience for them, noted Benamoz. It is also about knowing that “the little things” make the difference (Online Sidebar). It is crucial to create a culture where people want to excel, and that starts with leadership and hiring the right people. “Great employees make you money; they don’t cost you money. It’s the bad ones that cost you money.”
Five Fundamental Principles of Success
The first PDS conference, which had 42 attendees, was never intended to be a conference. Benamoz sought to help other store owners grow their businesses. Now in its 11th year, the PDS Independent Pharmacy Business Growth Conference attracts more than 1000 attendees. During his opening remarks in Orlando, Florida, this year, Benamoz told attendees that it is an exciting time to be a pharmacist and that there is a great deal of opportunity for those who are willing to embrace change and take chances.
“We’re now tasked with the responsibility of guiding this profession into this new era. It’s our time to step up and accept our roles as pioneers, to improve it, generation over generation, and leave this profession better off than how we received it. That will be our legacy.”