Everyday Practice: Evaluation of Dispensary Options
When it comes to business revenue, a well-functioning dispensary can provide a significant contribution to your bottom line. Some practices report that supplement income makes up almost half of their practice revenue! Thankfully, today there are several dispensary options which can meet differing practice needs. Let’s explore the most common.
The most frequently used dispensary type is the in-office dispensary, where practitioners hold product inventory within their office that can be handed to patients during their visit. Some providers choose to hold their products behind the counter, while others merchandise them in a retail area.
The in-office dispensary is very well suited for practitioners who have front desk staffing, as they can fill orders for patients who walk into the office. There are advantages to an in-office dispensary, including offering enhanced patient contact, and with staff’s support can offer additional education to patients. It can also enable a higher margin (although this doesn’t factor in the actual costs of selling supplements out of your office including credit card fees (usually 2-3%), space requirements, staffing requirements, spoilage and expired product, etc.) The challenges with in-office dispensaries include the time to manage the dispensary as well as overhead costs (purchasing and holding product). With proper planning, practitioners can minimize product loss due to expiration and minimize products that are out of stock.
The online dispensary is growing in popularity, although is still not as common as stocking product in-office. Using software to set up and maintain an online “store”, patients can be sent treatment plans via email with an action—to click a button to purchase the products that you recommend from a trusted source. After the initial order, patients can revisit that treatment plan to view it, can easily see your recommendations, and can refill seamlessly, without calling your office. There is usually a service fee built into the online model, where you pay a monthly fee or a per-order fee, or alternately, a percentage of product sales.
Online dispensaries usually offer the opportunity to restrict products to your patients, or to offer a broader set of wellness products like basic supplements, personal care products and other health items.
With online dispensaries, you don’t have to keep product in stock or manage inventory, and it doesn’t require staff time to manage patients’ supplements or refills. Additionally, patients are more likely to refill the products because there is a low barrier for them to take action, as it does not require a visit back to your office. From a business perspective, while you may not capture the higher margin that you may charge in your in-office dispensary, the ease of reordering means you are more likely to have patients repurchase from you. And most importantly, easier reorders mean that more patients are more likely to stay on your protocols!
You CAN have it all!
In many instances, it’s helpful to have both in-office and online dispensaries. This allows initial recommendations to be handed directly to patients at the time of prescription, and then offers an easy way for patients to reorder your recommendations, online. Some practitioners prefer to have product in hand to display or show to patients as they talk through their treatment plan. Many practitioners use these two dispensary types seamlessly.
Emerson’s team of clinicians often consult with providers who are looking to set up a dispensary and need support selecting the right type of dispensary for them. Be sure to set up an appointment through Customer Support at (800) 654-4432, so our Medical Education Team can help you discern the best dispensary option(s) for your practice!
By Jaclyn Chasse, ND