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How to Open a Pharmacy - A Step-by-Step Guide

Tillie Demetriou
8 May 2024

Are you looking to get into the pharmacy business? If so, you've come to the right place.

Opening a pharmacy business can be a challenging yet rewarding venture. As the healthcare industry develops new medicines, the demand for prescription drug programs will only increase. But before you start counting your profits, you need to take a few key steps to ensure your own pharmacy business is set up for success.

In this guide, we'll walk you through the essential components of opening a pharmacy business, from conducting market research to marketing your business. So, let's get started and help you create a pharmacy that will stand out in this competitive market.

Step 1: Decide on the type of pharmacy business you want

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of what you need to do to open a pharmacy, let's take a step back and talk about the different types of pharmacies.

Knowing the different types of pharmacies can help you determine which type would be the best fit for your pharmacy business.

An independent pharmacy:

Independent pharmacies are locally owned and operated, and they typically serve a specific neighborhood or community. They often have a loyal customer base and are known for providing personalized service. Independent pharmacies may have a smaller inventory of medications than chain pharmacies, but they make up for it with their attention to customer service.

A chain pharmacy:

Chain pharmacies are part of a larger corporation, and they typically have multiple locations throughout the country. They often have a larger inventory of medications and may offer additional services such as a drive-thru pharmacy business, online prescription refills, and home delivery.

A Community Pharmacy

Community pharmacies are similar to independent pharmacies in that they are locally owned and operated but also serve a larger region or community. They may offer additional services such as health screenings, immunizations, and medication therapy management.

A compounding pharmacy:

Compounding pharmacies specialize in creating customized medications for patients who need a medication that is not commercially available or who need a specific dosage form. These pharmacies may also offer unique medication delivery systems such as creams, gels, or injections.

A Specialty pharmacy:

Specialty pharmacies focus on providing medications for patients with chronic, complex, or rare conditions. They often provide additional support services such as counseling, education, and disease management programs.

It's important to note that each type of pharmacy has its own unique set of requirements and regulations. An independent pharmacy, for example, may have more flexibility in terms of pricing and inventory management, but they also have to navigate the complexities of insurance reimbursement and regulatory compliance on their own.

Step 2: Conduct market research

Before you start investing time and money into opening a pharmacy, it's important to conduct market research to determine if there's a need for your services in your chosen location. Here are some steps to take when conducting market research:

Analyse the competition:

Look at other pharmacies in your area and assess their strengths and weaknesses. Are they independent, chain, or specialty pharmacies? How do they market themselves? What services do they offer? You could even speak to other pharmacy owners to improve their business model. This will give you an idea of what you're up against and how to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Identify your target market:

Who are the potential customers of your pharmacy? Consider demographics such as age, income, and health needs. Are there specific populations in your area that are underserved by existing pharmacies? Understanding your target market will help you tailor your services to their needs.

Analyse demographic data:

Use government sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau and local health departments to gather information about the population in your area. Look at factors such as population density, age distribution, and health status to determine if there's a need for a pharmacy in your chosen location.

Gather Feedback from Potential Customers:

Conduct surveys and focus groups with potential customers to gather feedback on their needs and preferences. Ask them about their current pharmacy experiences and what they would like to see in a new pharmacy.

Step 3: Develop a business plan for your pharmacy business

Once you have conducted market research and identified a need for your pharmacy in your chosen location, it's time to develop a pharmacy business plan.

Suppose you want to open your independent pharmacy. A business plan is a roadmap that outlines your business goals, strategies, and financial projections.  These are the business plan components you must consider including in your plan: 

  • Executive summary: This section should provide an overview of your pharmacy business, including your mission statement, business objectives, and the services you plan to offer.
  • Market analysis: Use the information you gathered during your market research to provide an in-depth analysis of the local pharmacy market, including your competition, target market, and market trends.
  • Business model: This section should outline your pharmacy's organizational structure, staffing requirements, and legal considerations such as licensing and insurance.
  • Services and products: Detail the prescription and non-prescription products and services you plan to offer, such as home delivery, compounding, and medication therapy management.
  • Marketing and sales strategy: Describe how you plan to market your pharmacy and generate revenue, including advertising, social media, and partnerships with healthcare providers.
  • Financial projections: Use your market research and financial data to create realistic revenue and expense projections for your pharmacy. This should include a break-even analysis, a profit and loss statement, and cash flow projections. You could work with a financial advisor here to help!

Developing a solid business plan will help you secure financing, attract potential partners and employees, and ensure you're on track to meet your business goals. Don't be afraid to seek advice and support from business mentors or professionals as you develop your plan.

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Step 4: Obtain the license and permit you to need

Now that you have a solid business plan, it's time to start the process of obtaining the necessary licenses and permits to legally operate your pharmacy. Not quite sure about the licensing requirements to open a pharmacy? Don't fret. Here are some key licenses and permits you'll need:

  • State pharmacy license: You'll need to obtain a pharmacy license from your state's board of pharmacy. Requirements vary by state, but generally, you'll need to provide proof of education and training, pass an exam, and pay a fee.
  • Business license:  You'll need a business license to legally operate your pharmacy. Requirements vary by state and locality, so check with your local government for specific requirements.
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration: If you plan to dispense controlled substances, you must obtain a DEA registration. This requires an application, background check, and fee.
  • National provider identifier (NPI) number: You'll need an NPI number to bill for healthcare services. This requires an application and fee.
  • Building and fire permits: Depending on your location and building type, you may need building and fire permits to ensure that your pharmacy meets safety regulations.

It's important to note that obtaining licenses and permits can be lengthy and complex. It's a good idea to start the process early and seek guidance from professionals, such as a healthcare attorney or pharmacy consultant, to ensure that you meet all requirements and avoid any delays. Start applying for these licenses as soon as you register your pharmacy as a legal business entity.

Step 5: Choose a location for your own pharmacy

Choosing the right location for your pharmacy is crucial to the success of your business. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a location:

Demographics:

Consider the population density, age range, and income levels of the area. Look for areas with a high demand for prescription drugs and other health services. For example, if you are opening a specialty pharmacy, look for areas with a large elderly population, like next to a nursing home.

Competition:

Research the number and types of pharmacies in the area. Look for gaps in services or unmet needs that your pharmacy can fill. Some ways you can stand out from the competition may include offering delivery services, providing personalized care, or adding additional products or services.

Accessibility:

Look for a location that is easily accessible for your target demographic, with ample parking and public transportation options. For instance, if you want to start a pharmacy and target urban communities, look for a location near public transportation stops. Or, if you want to start a pharmacy specializing in home delivery services, look for a location near major roads and highways.

Building and zoning:

Ensure the building is zoned for pharmacy use and meets all building codes and safety requirements. Some states and local municipalities have zoning restrictions for pharmacies, so be sure to research the laws in your area. Additionally, make sure that you have enough space for a retail store and any other services you plan to offer.

Cost:

Consider the rent, utilities, and other expenses associated with the location. If you start a pharmacy in a bustling city like New York, be prepared to pay higher costs than a pharmacy located in a rural area. Additionally, factor in the cost of any renovations or improvements that need to be made to the space.

Local Laws and regulations:

Research local laws and regulations that may affect your pharmacy, such as zoning laws or restrictions on signage.

Pharmacy owners... Your ultimate goal is to provide quality care to your patients while running a successful business. By carefully considering these factors and working with a real estate professional, you can find the ideal location for your pharmacy and set yourself up for long-term success.

Step 6: Set up your pharmacy

Once you have secured a location and obtained the necessary permits and licences, it's time to set up your pharmacy. Here are some key steps to follow:

Purchase equipment and supplies

Invest in high-quality equipment and supplies to ensure you provide top-notch service to your patients. This may include prescription counters, shelving units, pharmacy point of sale system , refrigeration units, and more.

Establish relationships with suppliers

Identify and establish relationships with reliable suppliers for your prescription drugs and other inventory. Look for suppliers who can offer competitive pricing and reliable delivery.

Hire pharmacy staff

Hire knowledgeable and friendly staff members who can provide excellent customer service to your patients. Consider offering ongoing training and professional development opportunities to help your staff stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the pharmacy industry.

Develop policies and procedures

Develop clear policies and procedures for your pharmacy, covering topics such as dispensing procedures, inventory management, patient privacy, and more. Make sure that all staff members are trained on these policies and procedures and follow them consistently.

Following these steps, you can set up a well-equipped pharmacy to provide high-quality patient care. Remember, the success of your pharmacy will depend on your ability to provide excellent customer service and establish a reputation as a trusted healthcare provider in your community.

The pharmacy POS that keeps your business healthy

Prescribe yourself a pharmacy POS system that helps you spend less time on business admin, inventory, and accounting and more time with customers.

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Step 7: Invest in a pharmacy POS system

A pharmacy point-of-sale (POS) system is an essential tool for any successful pharmacy. Not only does it help with payment processing, but it can also streamline many of your day-to-day operations. Here are some key benefits of investing in a pharmacy POS system:

Payment processing

A pharmacy POS system can handle all of your payment processing needs, including credit and debit card payments, insurance claims, and more. This can help to speed up the checkout process and reduce errors.

Top tip: Epos Now payment processing seamlessly integrates into our POS. You can accept all payment methods at one fixed rate!

Automated inventory system

Many pharmacy POS systems also include an automated inventory system, which can help you to track your inventory levels and ensure that you always have the medications and supplies that your patients need.

Reporting and analytics

A pharmacy POS system can also provide valuable reporting and analytics, allowing you to track sales, monitor inventory levels, and identify areas for improvement in your business operations.

Improved customer service

By streamlining your operations with a pharmacy POS system, you can free up more time to focus on providing excellent customer service to your patients. This can help to build trust and loyalty with your patient base, leading to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

Investing in a pharmacy POS system is a smart choice for any pharmacy owner who wants to streamline operations and provide excellent customer service. Be sure to research different options and choose a system that meets the specific needs of your pharmacy.

Step 8: Market your pharmacy brand

Once you've set up your pharmacy, it's time to start promoting it to the community. Here are some effective marketing tactics to help you attract new patients and build a strong reputation in your area:

Build a website

In today's digital age, having a website is essential for any business, including pharmacies. Your website should include basic information about your pharmacy, such as your location, hours of operation, and contact information. You can also use your website to offer online prescription refills, provide health resources for patients, and promote your services.

TOP TIP: With Epos Now’s Website Builder, you can create a high-quality, engaging pharmacy website in minutes!

Social media marketing

Social media is another powerful marketing tool for pharmacies. You can use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share health tips, promote new products or services, and connect with your patients. Make sure to engage with your followers and respond to any questions or concerns they may have.

Direct mail

Direct mail campaigns can be an effective way to target potential patients in your area. You can send out postcards or flyers with information about your pharmacy and any special promotions or discounts you offer.

Community involvement

Getting involved in your community is a great way to promote your pharmacy while also doing good for the local area. You can sponsor local events, participate in health fairs, and offer free health screenings to help build your reputation as a trusted healthcare provider.

Host a grand opening.

Hosting a grand opening event can help to create buzz around your new pharmacy and attract potential patients. You can offer special promotions or discounts during the event and provide food and refreshments to make it a memorable experience for attendees.

Top tip: Check out our pharmacy marketing strategies blog for more unique ideas!

Dispensing success: final thoughts

Congratulations on finishing our step-by-step guide on how to open a pharmacy! We hope you feel inspired and ready to embark on this exciting journey.

Starting a successful pharmacy requires careful planning, hard work, and a passion for healthcare. But with dedication and the right approach, you can create a thriving business that makes a real difference in your community.

Remember to stay up-to-date with industry trends and regulations, and always prioritize the needs of your patients. By providing excellent customer service, offering competitive pricing, and building a strong brand, you can establish yourself as a trusted provider of healthcare services.

Opening your own pharmacy is no small feat, but with the right mindset and support, you can achieve your dreams of business ownership and make a lasting impact in healthcare. Best of luck on your journey!

Want to learn more about opening and running a retail pharmacy business? Check out our additional resources below:

Looking for a reliable POS system to streamline your pharmacy operations? Talk to our experts today and discover how our pharmacy POS can help you take your business to the next level!

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