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7 Challenges Independent Pharmacies Face (& Ways to Overcome Them)

LAST UPDATED 05/24/2024

Managing any business is not easy, but owning an independent pharmacy can be even more challenging. Pharmacies must find their way in a new industry landscape as healthcare goes digital and trends like personalized care, wellness, and transparent pricing become prominent.

As you focus on the stability of your pharmacy business during this turbulent time, it’s important to address current issues facing pharmacies and implement steps to overcome these operational challenges. In this blog, we will explore some of the biggest obstacles community pharmacies are facing and a few tips and tools that can help community pharmacies – of all sizes – not only survive, but thrive for years to come. 

 A recent NCPA survey showed that 32% of independent pharmacies are considering closing their doors in 2024.

1. Adapting to a digital world

Staying up-to-date is critical for pharmacies trying to compete in a digital world. Now that the healthcare industry as a whole is facing a digital transformation, many community and independent pharmacies struggle to implement new technologies and offerings, especially with the budget constraints they may be facing. independent pharmacies struggle to implement new technologies and offerings, especially with the budget constraints they may be facing.

According Drug Topics, “Not utilizing technology to its fullest ability only hinders pharmacists. Anytime you can engage with technology that makes your pharmacy a safer place for patients to receive their medication from is the time to use it.”

Your pharmacy can make the most of innovative solutions by investing in technology that best suits your needs and business goals. Small changes, such as a pharmacy mobile app, online refill options, or an updated IVR system can help you reach more patients digitally and provide the same level of service as big-box stores.

2. Fewer leads from healthcare providers post COVID-19 pandemic

With the US unemployment rate remaining high, more healthcare costs fall on patients and this mounting financial pressure has caused many to opt out of routine and emergency visits. This trickle-down effect results in fewer insurance providers and doctor referrals to local pharmacies.

Pharmacies have the opportunity to fill a growing need for accessible healthcare services. By offering basic triage and healthcare clinics, immunizations, and health insurance resources, you can promote medication adherence while providing crucial, affordable care. If you have a specialty or compounding pharmacy, consider offering synchronization and medication management services to help patients reduce costs and stay adherent.

3. Navigating DIR fee changes

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) revised its Medicare Part D plan to now require that plan sponsors include all pharmacy direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees at point-of-sale (POS). According to the NCPA, the goal of this rule is to increase drug price transparency for pharmacies and patients alike, but it has caused many changes regarding reimbursement throughout the pharmacy world. It has left many pharmacies in a position that may require them to close their doors or think of new ways to generate revenue.

Focusing on medication adherence can help your pharmacy combat rising DIR fees and reimbursement rates. Consider adding digital website refills, automated refill reminders, or secure chat to give patients the ability to manage their own prescriptions. Alternative fulfillment options like home delivery or mail order can simplify patient care and allow you to cater to your community more effectively.

4. Building and maintaining a patient base

Data from the NCPA Digest shows that the number of independent pharmacies has decreased, from 23,106 in 2011 to 21,767 in 2018. According to Health Mart President Nimesh Jhaveri, RPh, patients look for an “easy, frictionless experience” in a pharmacy and “services to make their life easier.”

Digital transformation, or the practice of adopting digital tools and platforms for business success, has become a necessity for healthcare professionals. Your pharmacy can make the most out of digital demands by finding methods for increasing business growth, such as:

  • Attracting online audiences with a digital marketing strategy that includes a website, online reviews, and social media presence
  • Introducing digital tools like a pharmacy mobile app or cloud-based IVR to maximize efficiency and offer patients a convenient, seamless experience
  • Offering in-demand services that support adherence, such as medication therapy management (MTM), medication synchronization, and telehealth

5. Cash flow and profit margins decline

Increased fees, global crises, and the struggle to stay competitive in a digital world can all wreak havoc on a pharmacy’s cash flow. For community pharmacies in particular, the risk of leaving potential revenue on the table is high. Just 3% of shoppers filling a prescription will make other purchases, according to Drug Chain Review.

Successful independent pharmacies will build services and products around patients’ needs and their desire for a seamless experience. Consider taking a second look at your offerings to see how you can position your pharmacy for extra business. This could mean arranging your store based on most-used health products or adjusting services or fulfillment methods to meet current demands.

6. Staffing shortages and workload demands

Staff walkouts in recent months have placed quite a bit of attention on pharmacy workloads and the increasing demands pharmacy teams are facing. Whether it’s a drug or staffing shortage, or an unfit working condition, pharmacy teams are finding themselves in a position where they are more prone to making medication errors or simply feeling overwhelmed and concerned for their health

7. Fragmented vendor ecosystem

Assembling various point solutions to deliver even a fraction of the digital patient experience that retail chains offer has historically proven costly and ineffective for independent pharmacies. However, as patient’s expectations for self-service functionality continue to evolve, this capability is becoming increasingly critical to avoid losing patients to the competition.

The good news is, there is now an all-in-one solution that fills in the gaps of your pharmacy software and enables you to provide the personalized experience that sets your pharmacy apart from the competition – digitally.

Overcoming challenges independent pharmacies face 


Introducing technology and automating as much as possible within the pharmacy will not solve every problem, but it will significantly help to streamline workflow so that your team members can focus less on routine tasks and more on personalizes, high-value interactions with your patients.

By leveraging modern technology, such as an IVR, automated text messaging, and task management tools, you can help your team feel more in control of their time and elevate productivity – taking your patient care to new heights. 

Ready to transform your pharmacy operations?

Get in touch to learn how we can help you streamline workflows, consolidate vendors, and deliver personalized patient care over a digital counter that’s open 24/7.