The key to a successful pharmacy layout is ensuring that the layout is designed to perfection inclusive of many factors that will affect efficiency and profitability. The layout should also promote customer satisfaction and appeal as well as the maximum workflow for employees. Improved productivity makes it easier for customers to get what they want in less time, and it takes less time for employees to perform their jobs effectively and promptly. If you are unsure about the overall efficiency of your current pharmacy layout, consider the following five factors to help you in your determination. An experienced pharmacy planning consultant can guide you through the proper steps.
#1: How much space do you need?
While pharmacy planning is complex, it can be broken down into smaller segments to help you better understand what works best and what doesn’t. One of the most significant factors to consider is how much space will be required to accommodate all departments. It is important to list everything to be included within the four walls, such as the number of toilets, storage, offices, etc. in addition to the dispensing and sales area. An experience pharmacy design consultant will request an itemized list and begin allocating the proper space for each area. If you plan a compounding lab, that will require extra space due to the new USP800 regulations for non-sterile compounding. Perhaps your pharmacy will service nursing homes or other outside facilities. However, most new pharmacies select an existing space or one under construction. It’s never too early to start planning the layout before hiring an architect or general contractor. An experienced pharmacy planner will be aware of building codes as well as the Board of Pharmacy requirements that differ from state to state.
#2: Why does the shape of your pharmacy matter?
The shape of the space will have a huge impact on the layout. For example, a 20 ft x 100 ft space is less desirable than a 40 ft x 50 ft. while each has the same 2,000 sq. ft. of space. Many states are now requiring customer accessibility to a toilet. That presents a challenge in a narrow width because you do not want a patient traversing through the dispensing area or other secure area that violates the Board of Pharmacy restrictions. Furthermore, a prescription department that is long and not very deep can hinder proper work flow. The same is true with just about every part of the pharmacy. Therefore, the shape of the space has an enormous effect in developing the most efficient pharmacy layout and design.
#3: Why should I consider a drive-thru window?
The drive-thru window has been controversial because it may seem too impersonal to pharmacists who want to provide more than dispensing scripts. If they never enter the pharmacy, they may miss some important advantages offered. However, after all is said and done, drive-thru windows offer more pros than cons. They can easily add 15-20% to the prescription volume and some have reported higher percentages. Chain drug stores are unlikely to open a new neighborhood pharmacy without drive-thru windows. The disadvantages are somewhat greater for chains because customers are not exposed to a lot of departments. My answer is that a drive-thru window will attract more customers and therefore a higher profit. Although it may seem to some as impersonal, we know that convenience rates high in customer surveys. I suggest adding a brochure with each new prescription outlining all the advantages your pharmacy offers such as patient services, compounding, and perhaps other health-related departments and services that just may influence them to come inside next time.
#4: What OTC departments should I include?
The ratio of Rx volume to non-Rx volume has changed drastically over the past few decades. Fifty years ago, the average independent pharmacy Rx to non-Rx volume was about 50/50. Today it is around 93/07 with some exceptions. The data revealed includes some very large pharmacies that continue to do business. The decision should relate to the owner’s personal passion, the available space, and a department that clearly differentiates your pharmacy from the competition. My personal opinion is to concentrate on health-related departments and services. Most new independent pharmacies are much smaller than their predecessors so I would utilize the space by adding a large nutritional department and get proper training on the advantages of specific products and how they correlate with their prescriptions. I am not a huge proponent of displaying dollar items, small gift departments, or other categories that may give the perception that your pharmacy is just a smaller version of the chain drug store.
#5: How much attention should I give to design effects?
Layout and Design have often been used with the same meaning. However, layout is the arrangement of everything inside the four walls while design pertains to aesthetics or what the store looks like. Layout is more important to get right at the beginning because it is more difficult to make changes later on while design includes colors and appearance. Since independent pharmacies are much smaller today, lighter colors overall emit a more spacious store. Dark colors make the space appear smaller but can be used effectively as trim or accent such as letters, graphics, etc. Although the layout is not apparent to most people, it greatly affects how the pharmacy performs. It includes many factors such as proper use of the space, workflow, security, compartmentalization, traffic flow, and other attributes. Spending a lot on décor may be a waste of money without any contribution. In fact, a boutique appearance may be counter-productive. The pharmacy should have an inviting atmosphere drawing the customers’ attention to the merchandise rather than a colorful floor or bright colored walls.
The main thing to keep in mind is that the over-use of angles and curves utilize much more space than a grid-style layout. The cost can be much higher. That means running each area parallel and perpendicular to the exterior walls. Some angled counters may be necessary due to the shape of the building. The main thing to remember is that a wasted square foot cost the same as a productive square foot so a well-planned pharmacy will help reduce overhead costs while improving efficiency.