We have been watching pharmacies continue the ‘professionalism’ of healthcare advice. It’s not that it wasn’t always there, the way in which it is delivered, at least from a customer perspective, is becoming more professional.
One of the most obvious signals is consulting rooms. However not all pharmacy consulting rooms are created equal. Part time office/ part time vaccination room isn’t wrong, nor is it positioning your business as providing expert health advice.
There is a general lack of guidance and national standards which could lift the overall perception of community pharmacy. The guidance is somewhat open for interpretation. What then, should the considerations be for adding or refurbishing consulting rooms?
To start with, we advise our clients to view it through 3 lenses:
Customer perspective – we focus on the cues which help the patient to relax, build trust and position your business as delivering valuable health advice along with physically accommodating them (which may also include a carer).
Staff perspective – creating a space that is fit for purpose, in other words has the right equipment at hand, is easy to work in and feels safe.
ROI business perspective – there is no point in having a consulting room if it is only for show and you never use it! It is valuable real-estate that takes up floor space and so the Goldilocks Principle applies – not too large and not too small.
Here are 8 considerations when creating your consulting room:
Make the space inviting – create a feeling of calm through lighter colours and invest into good lighting. Consider using frosted glass as one of the materials which lets natural light through, whilst still maintaining privacy.
Soundproof the room – this seems obvious however is often overlooked. If you want to build trust with the patient, they need to know that their conversation cannot be heard. Spend a little bit extra to buy soundcheck gyprock, sound screen insulation and/or 6mm+ laminated glass or double glazing and door seals.
The professional services being delivered will flow onto storage and equipment needs. If you are going to provide wound care or provide access to pathology professionals, consider an appropriate procedures chair. If you require a sink, think about plumbing needs, a durable surface with good infection control and appropriate tapware which is fit for purpose. The number and types of items you need will directly impact the size of your space.
Flooring is often forgotten about, think infection control, cleaning spillages and cleaning protocols. Sheet vinyl is a popular choice because its cost effective, easy to clean and has good durability.
Be mindful of staff safety. We all know of pharmacists who have felt fearful around a customer who may be mentally unstable or impacted by drugs. Positioning the pharmacist close to the door can facilitate a quick exit if needed, adding a panic alarm can offer peace of mind and having part frosted glass can act as a deterrent.
Close to the dispensary, whilst not a hard and fast rule, it is ideal to have it located close by. This means it is easy to transition into a private consult area when needed. Having patients walk through a dispensary (yes they do exist) or down a poorly lit corridor does not create a picture of professionalism and can increase anxiety in patients.
What you place on the walls and surfaces can help to reinforce your role as a trusted healthcare professional. Consider the use of medical posters, anatomical models and appropriate books.
ROI – the addition of the consulting room needs to provide adequate compensation for any loss of retail space. Having a commercial approach does not negate the care you have for your patients and profession. Your objective may be around creating exceptional service which will build a loyal customer base, the sale of product or receiving a rental income from a third party who rents your room.
Remember that a well-designed pharmacy has a positive impact on your staff, your patients and your bottom line.