Protect Your Pharmacy Data and PHI From Cyber Risks
Data protection and cyber security are often overlooked by small business owners and pharmacies. Most pharmacies believe they will not fall victim to any type of malicious cyber threat. Now that most pharmacies have adopted computerized pharmacy system, most PHI and pharmacy data is digital, making it a prime target for hackers.
Today it is essential to protect your pharmacy from outside attacks and yes you will be or already have been target by malicious actors whether you know it or not. As pharmacy security consultants and managed service provider we track and monitor threats to our clients every day. In this article we will go over the top 3 threats we see in pharmacy industry.
1. Social Engineering On The Pharmacy Staff
Social Engineering is probably the most successful form of attack a cyber criminal can use. An example of this is when a scammer calls the pharmacy asking questions about the computers in the pharmacy. Usually they will say they represent Dell or Microsoft and need to get connected to install an important update. As an untrained pharmacy team member, they may allow them to remotely connect. Once the scammer is connected they usually try to lock down the PC by installing a virus and will not unlock it until a ransom is paid. This is also called Ransomware.
Pharmacy staff are often easy targets if not trained
Remember a reputable business like Microsoft or Dell will never call you directly to install anything. Be sure to train your staff to recognize these types of scams and report them to the respective businesses who they claim to represent.
This form of attack is often found in emails also, however calls have been happening more recently to pharmacies. We have been seen this a lot over the past 5 years in the pharmacy industry with our clients.
2. Vishing On the Pharmacy Phone Lines
With PII (personally identifiable information) and PHI (protected health information) data becoming more and more valuable each day the number of scam attempts to obtain this data increases. A common threat we see is scammers hijacking the pharmacies actual telephone number and using it to call patients to obtain PII and PHI. Usually they use this information for identity theft.
Everyone has caller ID on their cell phones now and if you can spoof the caller ID to a legitimate business you gain most peoples trust. This is a very difficult attack to prevent since your phone number is usually hosted by your phone company.
When this does happen to your business, the best and only option is to spread awareness about the scam. Notify your patients on social media, instore and text messages about the attack and to not disclose any information on the phone. Ask your patients if they receive a suspicious call to hang up and call the pharmacy back directly.
If you believe your pharmacy has been targeted with a Vishing attack you can contact us and also report this abuse to the FCC here. Be sure to follow directions for “Your Number Is Being Spoofed” on the FCC page.
3. Pharmacy Websites Hacked and Spam
This type of attack happens to most pharmacy websites however most attempts are not successful. Usually the hacker uses a brute force method trying common username and password combos until finally they get in. Although it’s rare, most pharmacy websites still have default “admin” or common passwords associated with their websites.
You can often spot successful attacks when a pharmacy is promoting Viagra or Cialis more than normal and has links promoting other sites. These hackers are trying to promote other online pharmacy websites and rank up their search engine ranking by having links to their pages on other pharmacy websites.
ConfigRX is also a pharmacy website designer, we block thousand of these attacks everyday. We see many attempts with the login name as “admin” or “administrator” or even the name of the pharmacy. We recommend to have 2 factor authentication for all your website users. If you think your website has been hacked feel free to contact us and we can purge the malware on your site.
Pharmacy Cyber Security and Managed Services
We invite you to check out our Pharmacy Managed IT services. We developed this service to help pharmacy owners stay on top of their IT and Cyber Security threats. We actively monitor and manage your pharmacies IT infrastructure and hardware. Part of our managed services includes cyber security, anti-virus and remote monitoring of devices. This service also comes with on-call IT support and pharmacy specific IT consulting. If you have additional questions about cyber security or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact us.
If you’re looking to start or revamp your pharmacy layout, you’re probably wondering what’s the design my customers will benefit from the most. How much space should I designate for OTC and how much for the pharmacy workflow? Do I want to have an open floor plan with a waiting area or isles of products for my customers? Let’s discuss.
We often receive questions from our clients about their pharmacy layout and how to go about setting up their business. We always tell them your pharmacy should be designed based on your workflow and location. Does your pharmacy offer compounding? If so, we need to design a compounding lab or area. What about packaging? Before deciding your pharmacy design you will need to consider a few items.
What is your pharmacy workflow?
The first step we recommend is deciding on a workflow that fits your pharmacy. Usually you have two options: “Linear” (pass everything to the right or left) or “Pass to the Middle”. Some pharmacy systems work well with “Linear” while others work better with “Pass to the Middle”. This decision will guide the cabinetry placement process. If you are a busy pharmacy you may want to consider the “Pass to the Middle” approach. With the “Pass to the Middle” design, you can prioritize your main bench for filling and verification only. Data entry can be done in the back of the store, at the register/drop off or even remotely.
If you are starting a pharmacy or trying to save some tech hours “Linear” may be the way to go. With a “Linear” workflow a technician or pharmacist wears multiple hats. A technician may not be tied to just dispensing but also data entry and register. This is by far the most popular workflow I see in community pharmacies. Once you decide on your workflow you can move on to the next design step.
What pharmacy services are offered?
If your pharmacy is more than just a retail pharmacy you will need to accommodate that. For example, if you’re offering dose packaging or automation where does this go? Maybe the pharmacy doesn’t offer those services now but will it in the future? Here are some services and items to consider planning enough space for:
- Drive thru service – Do we need another register near drive thru?
- Compounding – Non sterile and sterile lab needed?
- Packaging – Enough space to layout packaging for patients.
- Specialty – Any future plans to get into specialty medications?
- Drug check in – This comes everyday, need space to check the order
- Break area
- Office or consultation room
Deciding on OTC space
How much OTC (over the counter) space is needed? Usually not a lot. We try to limit how much OTC space is available for the pharmacy. Most pharmacies make a lot from the OTC items unless they are in a unique situation and residents of the city don’t have many options for basic OTC items. For example: Unless the pharmacy is in a college town or small rural area, your OTC should be relatively small.
Think about it. The larger the OTC area the more inventory you need to stock. You DO NOT want empty shelving as you often see in community pharmacies. Sometimes OTC products expire before they are bought and have to be thrown away. Try to minimize the OTC area, maybe have some hard to find vitamins and basic OTC items but keep it simple.
This is a must have and should be more than just 2 or 3 chairs. Try to find a space next to the “Pick Up” area for a nice cozy waiting area. Adding a TV with some free coffee will often improve the customer experience in your pharmacy. Let’s be honest, waiting for your medications isn’t something anyone likes to do. With a nice waiting area your patients can relax a bit and wait for their name to be called.
Finding a Pharmacy Design Expert
There are a few really good and experienced pharmacy designers who install across the country. The business I recommend to my clients are: Retail Design Inc and The Pharmacy Design Group. A pharmacy design expert will visit your pharmacy and design a blueprint or mock up for your review. They should adhere to ADA and HIPAA compliance and have great recommendations about cabinet placement, shelving, drug bays, OTC and more.
Need additional help?
ConfigRX guides clients through designing their pharmacy layout to best meet their business needs. We have helped over 50 pharmacies across the country design their pharmacy. We invite you to check out our “Start A Pharmacy” package that includes our pharmacy design service. Our clients also receive discounts from various pharmacy design companies. If you have additional questions about pharmacy design or your pharmacies layout, contact us.
Every business needs to operate effectively and efficiently in today’s fast paced business world. However, most businesses including pharmacies don’t put enough value in their technology maintenance and operation.Every day pharmacies rely more and more on technology. Ensuring that critical IT services and hardware are working as intended is key to a successful pharmacy workflow. Often an IT issue will arise that brings the pharmacy to a standstill, creating angry patients.
Most pharmacies can’t afford to hire a full time IT person to manage their critical IT resources. A full time IT employee can cost the pharmacy $40,000 – $65,000 a year. So pharmacy owners look for a managed IT services company.
What is Managed IT Services for Pharmacies?
Not to be confused with managed pharmacy services. Managed IT services is a proactive way of monitoring your pharmacy technology for the following reasons:
- Catching an IT issue before it happens usually through warning signs gathered through IT monitoring
- Ensure your technology pieces are performing at peak levels
- Preventing pharmacy downtime
- HIPAA and PCI compliance
- Software patches/updates
Essentially pharmacy managed IT services is delegating your IT to a third party provider who can monitor your technology. Ensuring your pharmacy stays working at peak efficiency on the technology side.
What pharmacy technology devices are usually covered in managed IT services?
Almost all devices are managed in the pharmacy and monitored. Especially key pieces of hardware like your pharmacy network, workstations, printers and servers. Let’s go over some of the pieces and understand how each piece of equipment plays a vital role in a pharmacy.
Workstations/computers – These devices are used more than any other IT hardware in the pharmacy. I don’t need to explain what happens if one of the main workstations has an IT issue on a Monday. Keeping your pharmacy computers updated and efficient is key to a successful pharmacy day.
Managed IT Service role: Monitor, protect (anti-virus), patch, repair and ensure the workstations are running at a level of performance sufficient to the needs of the pharmacy staff.
Printers – Everyone’s favorite piece of technology in the pharmacy (that’s a joke!) Printers print vial labels, monographs, RX images and more. They always have been important devices in the pharmacy. However, as we all know they can easily have issues. And if the printer isn’t working often the pharmacy is in trouble until it’s fixed.
Managed IT Service role: A printer can be monitored to catch issues before they happen. For example: after a certain amount of pages printed the printer will need a new imaging kit or maintenance kit. The pharmacy is then notified to purchase the item needed.
Pharmacy network – Often overlooked in the pharmacy is the network. This is a critical component connecting the devices of the pharmacy including: computers, printers, servers, phones, WIFI, tablets, ISP modems and more. Oftentimes slowness in the pharmacy system can be caused by faulty, outdated or bad networks.
Managed IT Service role: Monitoring your network for errors or dropped packets can often lead to a more efficient workflow. Having a fast network connection to your devices and servers often speeds up workflow in the pharmacy.
Servers – Probably the most important piece of technology in the pharmacy. This is where all your pharmacy data is. Ensuring this device is online and functioning properly is very important. Servers must have availability and security built in.
Managed IT Service role: Monitoring servers and services on the server, backup of data on the server and patching the operating system and pharmacy system.
A new way to deal with technology
Before managed service companies were a thing, pharmacies would use a break/fix model. That means once something breaks you call an “expert” and hope for the best. Those days are no more with new developments in technology and remote monitoring.
Now more than ever pharmacies need to be avoiding downtime due to technology issues. The need for adequate IT support and prevention of downtime is critical. Managed IT Services are the perfect fit for any business including pharmacies.
Managed IT Services and Pharmacy systems
At ConfigRX we have been working in the pharmacy IT world for 10 years now. We have worked with most of the pharmacy systems available including: McKesson Enterprise RX, Pharmaserv, QS1, PioneerRX, ComputerRX, RX30 and more.
Let our pharmacy experts help you use your pharmacy software the right way. We understand how technology interacts with each pharmacy system. It is our job to ensure our clients are using the right technology based on their pharmacy system.
The cost of a managed IT service company
There are a few pricing models for managed IT services. The model we use at ConfigRX is based on the number of devices supported. For example: if you have a small pharmacy with 1-3 workstations we place you in our small pharmacy tier. 4-7 workstations are in our medium tier and 8+ in the larger tier.
Managed service companies usually try to lock you in a contract for a few years. We do not do this, we use a month to month service plan. All of our packages include monitoring, repair, anti-virus, network administration & security, data backup and more. Our lowest tier packages start at $349/mo with no contracts.
Let the pharmacy IT experts handle your technology to bring you peace of mind
Enjoy not having to worry about your pharmacy IT and focus on running a successful pharmacy. With ConfigRX your pharmacy will run effectively, efficiently and compliantly. Our staff is here to provide high level guidance and support for your pharmacy. No longer do you need to rely on a full or part time IT employee. ConfigRX has developed our pricing model to a fraction of what an IT person on staff would be.
Who is ConfigRX? We are a team of technology experts with a focus on the pharmacy industry. We actually own and operate our own independent pharmacies in the midwest including: retail, compounding, long term care and specialty pharmacy. In addition help owners who are looking to start or buy pharmacies on the IT side.
Interested in our managed services? See our pharmacy managed services page here.
Can’t believe it!
Last Saturday morning I spent 2 hours browsing different pharmacy websites. I was amazed how many of them were not secure or compliant. I would say a good 60% of pharmacy websites are in violation of HIPAA. In addition, 75% of the websites I visited were not secure with SSL. As a website design company that specializes in pharmacy and healthcare websites I cannot stress enough the importance of security and compliance with websites.
In this article I will discuss the reasons why your pharmacy website must be compliant and secure. Many owners don’t put much thought into the security of their website. Websites are often overlooked and never touched again after completion. However, with more and more security incidents involving pharmacies it is essential you lock down your pharmacy website.
What is HIPAA and ADA?
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was passed by Congress in 1996. The act mandates standards for healthcare companies including pharmacies to abide by. HIPAA requires the protection and confidential handling of protected health information.
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) of 1990 prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. This includes pharmacies and their website presence.
Pharmacy Website HIPAA Compliance
What makes a website HIPAA compliant and why compliance is required. The answer to why is simple, patients are entering PHI (personal health information) on your website. It only makes sense to have this information secure is all forms. If a patient types in their RX Number that is considered PHI info and needs to be protected. From when the user first types their information to the time it’s submitted into the pharmacy system, e-mail or fax — this data should be 100% secure and protected.
Not only do patients send PHI information through refills request but also through contact forms. All contact forms should be 100% HIPAA compliant. Patients often send RX numbers and other PII (personal identifiable information) through contact forms. Don’t think just because your website is managed or hosted through a marketing/IVR company that it is secure and complaint.
How to make your website compliant with HIPAA?
First make sure your website is secure with SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) from your hosting company. SSL is a cryptographic protocol and will secure the connection from your patient to your website. You may have to purchase this extra but it needs to be part of your website. SSL also helps with SEO as an added benefit.
Second, make sure all of your forms (contact, refill, transfer etc) are all HIPAA compliant. There are a few form providers like Jotform that provide HIPAA protection. Jotform is the form company we use for all of our healthcare websites we create.
Pharmacy Website ADA Compliance
ADA compliance has recently became a large issue for independent pharmacies thanks to the Winn-Dixie lawsuit. The lawsuit which awarded the plaintiffs lawyers $100,000 stated Winn-Dixies’ website was not compliant for the blind.
To be ADA compliant your pharmacy website should be able to be read back to the user clearly. All videos on your website should have text transcripts. All images should have their “alt” tag field filled in. The website should be organized clearly and delineated from one another and are easily navigated throughout the entire site.
By having HIPAA and ADA compliance on your pharmacy website you can rest assured that you are providing a safe and compliant virtual extension of your pharmacy. Now more than ever, cyber security is becoming more and more prevalent. With security breaches happening every day your pharmacy website must be secure and provide a safe place to enter PHI info.
ConfigRX specializes in pharmacy and healthcare websites. We manage our clients websites after design completion to ensure a safe environment of the pharmacies patients. If you are interested in our pharmacy web design service check out our website design page.
The pharmacy industry is rapidly changing and now more than ever, pharmacists are starting their own pharmacies. They are doing so for good reason. The industry isn’t what is used to be. Reimbursement rates are nowhere near what they were 5 years ago. DIR fees are cutting into profits. The large chains are moving more towards services with other healthcare options in the pharmacy, such as on-site wellness clinics.
The good news, it’s now easier than ever to open your own pharmacy. The chains are starting to consolidate, compounding is now more common than ever and patients are finally seeing the value in knowing their pharmacist.
In this article we will discuss 3 primary reasons starting a pharmacy in 2020 could be the right move for you.
Pharmacist hourly wages are declining rapidly.
The job market for pharmacies is quickly becoming saturated. Hours are being cut and the demand for pharmacies are going down. Recently in 2019 Walgreens slashed $500 million in pharmacist bonuses. In addition, the salary of a full or part time pharmacist is slowly declining year over year.
As employers add more and more services to the pharmacist role the oversupply gives employers the opportunity to cut wages. There’s always the next guy/gal in line just waiting for a decent paying job.
This is the reason most of our clients give us as to why they want to start their own pharmacy. With an oversupply of pharmacists in the country it only makes sense that pharmacists take things into their own hands.
Be your own boss
Becoming your own boss comes with benefits everyone is aware of. No longer are you at the mercy of an employer who schedule can care less about your personal life.
How do you know you’re ready to be your own boss and start a pharmacy? Easy, you keep thinking and dreaming about it. You’ve mentioned it to friends and done a bit of research, even reading this article! You want to break free and work for yourself but you convinced yourself it’s risky and confusing.
Most new pharmacy owners have no clue where to start. That is where we come in to help you along your journey. We have opened over 50+ pharmacies across the country. If you keep thinking about it, then it might be time to start your journey.
Make a difference in your community
Step away from the large chain stores and create a footprint in your community with your pharmacy. Independent pharmacies have much more flexibility than a CVS or Walgreens. An independent pharmacy can make a real difference in the lives of patients.
Only at a local community pharmacy can you get to know your patients by name. Understanding patients health needs to is a valuable commodity in 2020. Patients feel their just a number at the big pharmacy chains and honestly, they are.
If you really care about patient outcomes and helping patients live healthier lives, then start your pharmacy. Patients will see you clearly care about their health and would refer your pharmacy to their friends and family.
Take advantage of the current pharmacy industry and start a pharmacy. It’s not as hard as you may think and most pharmacies are up in running in less than a year.
Be your own boss, help your community. Start your pharmacy journey today!
In this article we examine the items needed to open a pharmacy. We also discuss some of the common questions we receive from our clients when starting a pharmacy.
Are you thinking of starting a pharmacy? Knowing the requirements to open a pharmacy helps. The independent pharmacy world offers a lot of opportunities for pharmacy owners. You can be your own boss. No more 60 hour work weeks for a large pharmacy chain. Actually serve customers and help them take control of their health.
This all sounds great but the truth is..it’s a lot of work to start a pharmacy. No matter what you read, it’s a long journey from start to finish. You will encounter issues along the way. For example: City permits are always a pain. Finding a GC (general contractor) who actually cares about your project. Dealing with your state board of pharmacy, oh and expect a lot of delays.
I personally have been involved in opening over 50+ pharmacies across the country. I am writing this article based off of my personal experiences. Remember every state is different and some are easier than others to open a pharmacy.
Some topics covered in this article
What it takes to be a pharmacy owner (what to expect)
Developing a pharmacy business plan
How long does it take to open a pharmacy
How much money is needed to open a pharmacy
Using a pharmacy consultant for your startup
Talk to us about your idea.
Interested to learn more about our Start A Pharmacy IT Package? We guide our clients from beginning to end and we come on-site to your pharmacy startup. We have helped over 50+ pharmacies across the country start a successful pharmacy. Don’t hesitate, start your business journey today!
What to expect and what it takes to start a pharmacy
Starting and operating a pharmacy isn’t as easy as most think. There are many items to consider. No longer are you just verifying scripts, but you are also verifying payroll, marketing, inventory and more. Below are some key traits to have if you are thinking about opening a pharmacy.
Patience: If you don’t have patience, don’t expect to be a pharmacy owner. Everything in the independent pharmacy world requires you to wait. The independent pharmacy world is slow and I like to think it’s about 10 years behind any other industry. From insurance contracts to payment processors to government agencies.. It’s slow. Later in this article I will review the time frame to expect to open a pharmacy and trust me it’s longer than you think or read.
Resilience: As you slowly start to open your pharmacy you will think everyone is against you. From the landlord to the bank. Truth is.. they probably are. Community pharmacies aren’t always successful and they take a lot of resilience and dedication to be successful. I’ve had some clients take things personal and you can’t do that in the business world. If the opportunity between you and the bank or another entity doesn’t work out, move on. It’s not worth the time and effort.
Adaptable: The reason I include this trait as a pharmacy owner is simple, you have to be open to change. Most pharmacies start off as simply a retail pharmacy. Retail pharmacy sometimes isn’t enough. A majority pharmacies end up adding compounding, packaging or even specialty to their pharmacy services. These additional services help increase the pharmacy revenue and keep the ship sailing the first few years.
Lets first go over some essential terms needed to create a successful pharmacy operation. Understanding each of these key terms and how they relate to each other will require a bit of research. Be sure you have a solid understanding of these terms before you decide to move forward with your pharmacy. We will cover a few of these items later in the post.
- Pharmacy Systems – Which is best for my services and workflow?
- Location – Is my location clearly visible to potential patients?
- Construction – I need a contractor who is familiar with HIPAA/HITECH regulation.
- Inventory – What’s a good starting inventory to have?
- Financing/loans – How do I secure my loan or do I even need a loan?
- Technology – How can I use technology to better reach my patients?
- Marketing – What works in the pharmacy world in terms of marketing?
Developing A Pharmacy Business Plan
Any savvy business owner will create a business plan for their idea. A startup pharmacy needs a solid business plan that clearly defines the business. You will need to present your business plan to investors, banks and others. Your pharmacy business plan should clearly layout your goals for the pharmacy. For example: Most pharmacies business plans include a mission statement about caring for patients by offering free delivery, one on one counseling and more. Pretty much offer something they can’t get at a large chain pharmacy. Separate yourself and give customers a reason to choose you over a chain.
In addition to the overall goals of the pharmacy there are additional items to include in the plan. Some other items to include in your pharmacy business plan:
Services offered: Is your pharmacy more of a retail community pharmacy that focuses on it’s patients? Perhaps you offer in-home or delivery services with home medical items? There are many different services a pharmacy can offer. We suggest finding out what could the community benefit most from by looking at the competition and demographic in the area.
Financing: In this section you will need to state if you are working with a bank, self financing, etc.. You also will need to layout your total budget and banks usually want these items as line items. Be sure to include your building renovations, contractors, cabinets, drug inventory, technology, marketing etc.. These can easily go over $500k+
Marketing: A good marketing plan is a must for any pharmacy. How you will grow your pharmacy is of interest to investors and banks. What is your plan to acquire new patients and keep them? You can include items like direct mail, signage, grand openings, meeting prescribers face to face and more. Marketing is key to growing your pharmacy and you must have a sound marketing plan for your pharmacy to survive.
Financing options, how much is needed to start a pharmacy?
Starting your pharmacy is going to cost you some money. You need to be able to know how to apply for business loans with banks within the pharmacy industry to get approved. Once you open you will need to speak the language of business. That means understanding your cash flow. Balancing a budget for your pharmacy. Managing expenses and bringing in new revenue to keep your pharmacy breathing.
Obtaining an EIN (Employer Identification Number): Any business needs an EIN to operate a business and hire employees. Be sure to get your EIN from the IRS. You will want to fill out an SS-4 form that you can download from irs.gov
Finding the right bank for your loan: There are few pharmacy specific banks that provide loans to pharmacy owners. The first two off the top of my head are Live Oak Bank and First Financial Bank. These banks know the loan process for a pharmacy start up better than most banks. We recommend you give them a call to discuss a loan for your start up pharmacy.
Don’t expect it to be cheap: You can easily spend at least $450,000 for a small pharmacy. Financiers will request you are willing to add your own cash as well. This tells the loan officer you are serious about your project. Be ready to have your background checked, credit and work history. These banks are dealing with you directly, not a business.
Be prepared for the future
Have your business plan and documents ready: We recommend you are well prepared and ready to submit any document asked. A business plan will be required. This is a well thought out presentation that includes: Projections, projected revenue, all costs associated with your business, how you will make money and more. To obtain a business plan we recommend following this guide from the SBA. You may also reach out to pharmacy advice consultants such as Independent Rx Consulting.
Have enough money to get you through a few years: Most pharmacies will not turn a profit the first year or two. You need to account for this in your loan. Be sure to have enough money to pay your bills, employees, insurances etc..
Location of your pharmacy is tied to the success of your pharmacy. I cannot stress this enough. Your pharmacy location must be thoroughly researched. Many pharmacies fail simply because nobody even knew it existed.
Finding the right location: Look for other pharmacies in the area. Are they independents or large chain pharmacies? Just because there is a CVS in the town doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity. Large chains have plenty of angry patients that are ready to switch for one reason or another.
Medical offices and prescribers: Look for locations near medical offices and other prescribers. Stop in and ask them if they think the community could use an independent pharmacy in the area.
Be visible with access availability: Try to be near busy intersections with clear visibility of the pharmacy. You want people driving by to clearly see your pharmacy and know that they have options. Also consider LED signage if your city allows it.
Research your target audience: Be sure you understand your community and what services they may need. Some communities can really benefit from services such as free delivery or medication synchronization. You can easily pull this information online.
These are just some of the items required in a pharmacy business plan. There are other items to include and you should be as detailed as possible. If you need help creating a pharmacy business plan check out a checklist by NCPA here.
Designing Your Pharmacy & Construction
A very fun but expensive project is designing your pharmacy. This includes the layout, construction and all your fixtures. Everyone wants a nice and vibrant looking pharmacy, while not spending a fortune. The trick is to find the right people at the right prices.
Think about your workflow: How will your workflow flow? This is what you need to figure out before you start designing the inside of your pharmacy. Will everyone pass everything to the left, center or right? Will you have an extra data entry station in the back? Where will your point of sale be located? Don’t forget about drive-thru. Most pharmacy workflows are based on the pharmacy software and technology. We will address this later.
Find a general contractor that actually cares: As a pharmacy consultant I personally have worked with many contractors. I can honestly say about 70% of them are overpriced and inefficient. You will want to ask other business owners who they recommend. Another option is to check with the BBB in your area. Consider the contractors relationship with the city. This is often where delays happen. Some city permits are submitted through your general contractor. If your contractor has a good relationship with the city, your process should move along quicker.
Leave a lasting impression to your new patients
Choose a cabinet company: There are a few pharmacy specific cabinetry companies. A few that I personally have worked with are Pharmacy Design Services and Pharmacy Design Group. A good cabinet company will work with you to come up with a design that fits your workflow and layout space. Often, these cabinetry companies will visit your pharmacy on-site to get a better idea.
Be ready to expect a hefty price tag for your cabinetry. Most pharmacy cabinet projects are at least $50,000 and easily go above $150,000 for larger pharmacies.
Comply with ADA and HIPAA: You will want to be sure your pharmacy is compliant and easily accessible for everyone. We recommend following the guidelines from the ADA checklist here. A great read at The Pharmacy Times here talks about why your pharmacy needs to be ADA compliant.
HIPAA guidelines should also be considered. A good cabinet designer will know these guidelines and apply them to your project.
How Long Does It Take To Open A Pharmacy?
Most people start out thinking it will take a few months to open a pharmacy. Reality is it takes 8+ months or even years to open a pharmacy. Be ready to be delayed by landlords, city permits, insurances, state boards, bank loans and more.
A good piece of advice is do not open until you have ALL of your important contracts. The last thing you want is a new customer to come into the pharmacy just to find out you can’t accept his/her insurance. Odds are that customer isn’t coming back.
You can often research to see which insurance is popular in your area. Do everything you can to have this contract before you open.
Pharmacy Marketing and Designing Your Brand
Just like any other business, pharmacies need precision marketing to reach new patients and prescribers. Most pharmacies think they only need to market to patients and forget about the prescribers who can send you patients! Having a good and trustworthy brand will certainly help. Your marketing goal should be to find and keep loyal customers.
Be sure people know you exist, including prescribers. Have unique and customizable services that will benefit your patients. Let’s go over some key details about marketing and designing your brand.
Pharmacy Name and Brand Design: Choosing a pharmacy name is a lot more difficult than most think. You can choose a traditional name or go for a more modern short name. Take a look at our article on choosing a pharmacy name. Once you pick your name be sure to register your domain with GoDaddy, BlueHost or another Internet domain registrar.
Designing your logo and website: Every pharmacy needs a professional and trustworthy logo and website. We recommend having a professional design your logo and website. Successful pharmacies create and spread brand awareness through professional design. Take a look at some of our logos and websites we have designed for our clients. We would be glad to help you get started with your pharmacy brand.
Marketing for your community
Coming up with a marketing plan for your pharmacy: Before and after you open you will want to have a solid marketing plan. A marketing plan includes different ideas to grow your pharmacy and reach new patients. These can include mailings, social media postings, Google Ads, grand openings and more. Take a look at our marketing plan blog post. A good marketing plan can start a pharmacy off on the right foot. Here are a few ideas for marketing your pharmacy:
- Services – Delivery, Medication sync, medication packaging, MTMs, vaccines, short wait times, travel health etc..
- Staff – Promoting your staff is great way to show how genuine your pharmacy is. If you’re in a small community this is very effective.
- Pricing – Most people think a community pharmacy is more expensive than a large chain pharmacy. Show potential customers it saves to shop local.
Know the community: A great way to market your pharmacy is to be involved in local events. Be sure to check out all local business events in your area, especially related to healthcare. Try to join local city boards and attend meetings in your community. Talk to other business owners to get their perspective on running a business in the community.
Social Media: I’m sure by now you know everyone is on social media. However, did you know you can market on most social media platforms with a small marketing budget? We advise you to take advantage of this, especially on Facebook. Target a radius around your pharmacy address and keep your page updated weekly with organic fresh content.
Pharmacy app: Think about having an app for your pharmacy. A pharmacy mobile app will provide convenience to your patients. Most pharmacy and IVR systems offer mobile app development.
Technology in Pharmacy
Technology is vital to pharmacies. Having the right technology in your pharmacy is very important because your pharmacy revolves around tech. There are many pieces of technology in a pharmacy. For example: Pharmacy systems, automation (robots), workstations, printers, networking devices, IVR systems, internet/phone providers, Point of Sale, delivery routing and more. We invite you to take a look at our Technology Learning Center to learn more about pharmacy technology. Each piece of technology helps shape your pharmacy, lets take a look at some of them.
IVR Systems: An IVR is menu that callers hear when they call into your pharmacy. IVR also allows your patients & prescribers to request refills 24/7. This is very important and many patients and prescriber expect this. Therefore, all pharmacies should have some sort of IVR in their pharmacy. IVR services can also do outbound notifications. For example, when a script is ready to be picked up. The IVR service can automatically notify the patient. Some IVR services work better with certain pharmacy systems. Here are a list of IVR services:
Location and Market Research is vital
Pharmacy Hardware: When it comes to computers, printers, scanners, tablets etc.. You have a few options. Purchasing directly from the pharmacy system or buying items yourself. If you decide to purchase directly from your pharmacy system, expect to overpay because their equipment is outdated and overpriced. Pharmacy systems make money off the hardware you purchase from them,
If you are looking to save some money however, purchase the equipment yourself. Often doing this will result in newer equipment at a better price. To make it easier for you, we created a list of the popular hardware in pharmacies. Take a look at our list of hardware and pharmacy networking items to save some cash purchasing items yourself.
Note: Certain items for example, the pharmacy server and POS items we recommend purchasing from the pharmacy system.
Talk to us about your idea.
Interested to learn more about our Start A Pharmacy IT Package? We guide our clients from beginning to end and we come on-site to your pharmacy startup. We have helped over 50+ pharmacies across the country start a successful pharmacy. Don’t hesitate, start your business journey today!
Reliability and uptime are key
Phone and Internet: Pharmacies utilize both phone and internet services to operate. You will want to make sure you have a consistent internet and phone connection. A backup internet is always recommended because there will be times your internet goes down. Another item to mention is VOIP phone services. VOIP is newer technology allowing phone calls to go through the internet. VOIP often has much lower prices than traditional phone services.
Be sure you get a good rate on both services. Take a look at our free pharmacy internet and phone search here. We developed this page for pharmacy owners to receive discounted rates from all major phone and internet providers.
Security: A must have in any pharmacy is security. Therefore, we recommend having cameras and alarms in all pharmacies. Most states require an alarm system but cameras are optional. Alarms and cameras these days are controlled and viewed on your smart phone. They don’t cost an arm and a leg anymore. We have partnered with most major alarm companies in the country, feel free to contact us here. We will make sure you are not overpaying and you have the right alarm system.
Which Pharmacy Systems should I use?
Choosing the right pharmacy system is a long process full of demos and research. You may be going to pharmacy trade shows and seeing amazing booths and tons of freebies. That’s all great, but what really matters is how the software helps you reach your pharmacy goals. Don’t be fooled by flashy new features, do your research and choose the right pharmacy software for your business. Remember, we are also here to help you with choosing a pharmacy system for your pharmacy. Below we take a look at some items to consider when choosing a pharmacy system.
What are your offered services?: A pharmacy system you choose should have modules for all of your services. For example, if you plan on offering compounding and mailing, be sure your pharmacy software offers great modules for these services. Some pharmacy systems have better modules for certain services than others. We recommend talking to other owners and asking them their opinion.
Spend a week on demos: Take a full week and demo 4-5 different pharmacy systems. Learn and ask questions about each product. Remember to have your workflow in mind and how this software can help make it more efficient.
Learning curve: How long does it take to train a technician or pharmacist on the software? I personally can tell you some systems are so robust it will take you 4-6 months to fully understand. However, some systems you can learn in a few days. Do you plan on having multiple pharmacies? If so, perhaps a easier and simpler system is more appropriate for training purposes.
Be sure to include future growth when evaluating
Mobile: Does the pharmacy system offer mobile functionality? Can you access your pharmacy system on a laptop from a health fair or a physicians office while you are working a flu clinic? How about mobile payments at their front door during prescription delivery? Speaking of delivery, some pharmacy systems can actually map your delivery route for you.
What training is available?: Every pharmacy system should offer some sort of training on their system. Some will come on site to your pharmacy while others will offer training over the phone.
Point of Sale system: One aspect of pharmacy software that is always overlooked is the POS system. The pharmacy system should have a clean, straight to the point POS system with great reporting. There are some really terrible POS systems out there, make sure you ask to see the POS system for any software you evaluate.
Which system to choose? Here is a list of some pharmacy systems available for start up community pharmacies. We are available to help you choose which system, feel free to contact us. We are pharmacy owners and have installed and worked on most systems available to independent pharmacies.
|Best RX||Enterprise RX||HBS|
Start the hiring proccess
If you’re at this stage congratulations! You’re almost finished and can open your pharmacy soon. It is important to hire the right employees for your pharmacy. There are rules involved with hiring and you want to make sure you stay within those rules. Get advice on tax forms, government regulations and insurance requirements before you start.
Perhaps you have some experience hiring employees at your previous job, that is great. However, as you may know hiring is an art form. Your first employees should be excited about the start up pharmacy. Lets explore some hiring requirements and tips.
Register with your state labor department: This is a requirement for any employer hiring employees. Once registered you will have to pay state unemployment compensation taxes. Your payment goes to your states compensation fund for unemployment. Check out the Department of Labor’s page for a list of state unemployment insurance tax agencies.
Workers’ Compensation : Another requirement is workers’ comp in most states. This protects workers from on the job injuries.
Patients are an employees priority
Post a job description online: This is always a challenge for most pharmacy owners. You don’t want to forget anything in a job description. Therefore, you should write a detailed job description for your pharmacy. Most independent pharmacy employees wear many hats unlike the large chains, be sure to include as much as possible in your job post. Here is a great guide on writing job descriptions for business owners.
Interview your potential team members: Before you meet the applicant in person have a 10-15 minute phone call. During this call make sure they meet the basic requirements and listen to their phone etiquette. During the in-person interviews be sure to ask the right questions. Ask about their history in pharmacy. What are their strength and weaknesses? Be sure to emphasizes patients come first in community pharmacy.
In the interview process determine if they will be a good fit with you and your team. Making sure employees work good together is probably the most important factor.
You’re Not Alone in your Journey
Pharmacy consultants are great resources. Consultants have experience opening their own pharmacies or helping others. A pharmacy consultant helps you make accurate business decisions. They should be able to tell their clients to pursue or walk away from opportunities.
Pharmacy consultants offer a variety of services. Including location analysis, inventory management, loan consulting, business plans, market analysis, lease negotiations and more. Consultants can often save their clients thousands through their partners/vendors. Consultants receive better deals from vendors and this deal gets passed along to their clients.
If you are considering a pharmacy startup you should consider our Start A Pharmacy Package where we come onsite to your location to setup your pharmacy. I also recommend you check out our article on hiring a pharmacy consultant.
As stated in the first paragraph, opening a pharmacy is hard work. You will have ups and downs before and after you open your pharmacy. It often takes 1-2 years for an independent pharmacy to break even. If you are determined enough and willing to put in the hours your pharmacy will be a success. Keep in mind there are tons of resources at your disposal including books, consultants, blogs, workshops and more.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.
Other interesting reads about pharmacy
Every pharmacy owner wants to gain a marketing edge against their competition. This is especially true if your pharmacy is in a competitive market. One way to stand out is with a custom prescriber prescription intake form for doctors. Not many pharmacy marketing plans include these intake forms, but yours should.
Unlike a typical intake form a patient fills out at the pharmacy. A custom prescriber intake form is a custom form for a prescriber by the pharmacy. These forms often have common medication listed on them. A prescriber can simply check the box for the medication that is needed, sign and fax back the form. These forms create an easy way for the prescriber to send a patients medication to the pharmacy.
Compounding and e-scribing
Another great reason to add intake forms to your pharmacy marketing plan – Compounding medication. Compounding isn’t as straight forward as e-scribing is. Compounds require unique strengths, ingredients and quantities. A custom prescriber intake form is perfect for this. The pharmacy can give the prescriber different custom compounding options on the intake form. The doctor can then check and fill in the blanks on strength, quantities, ingredients, refills, etc..
Currently most pharmacy owners are creating these intake forms on word processors and are very simple and bland. ConfigRX can create custom intake forms that look professional and allows your pharmacy to stand out. Each form is custom for the prescriber with their information. The form is designed for the doctor to confidently check, sign and fax. If you would be interested in a custom prescriber intake form to add to your pharmacy marketing plan, contact us.
Online custom intake prescriber forms
Recently, we have heard from prescribers they would like the ability to request custom compound prescription electronically. This wasn’t possible until recently. ConfigRX has created a secure HIPAA complaint online portal where prescribers can log into and request refills. These refills are then e-mailed or printed at the pharmacy for filling. This is a great tool for any pharmacy to market to prescribers in their area.
Pharmacy Website Design and Pharmacy Website Template
Pharmacy Cyber Security – Can Pharmacies be hacked?
Pharmacy Marketing Plan to increase prescription sales
Innovative Independent Pharmacy Business Ideas Designed to Elevate Your Pharmacy
What is a Pharmacy Consultant?
A pharmacy consultant in a nutshell helps you make accurate pharmacy business decisions. Pharmacist consultant services are designed to help pharmacy owners with various pharmacy related projects. Here are a few areas Pharmacy consultants can help:
- Buying a pharmacy
- Starting a pharmacy
- Selling a pharmacy
- Retail pharmacy
- Compounding pharmacy
- Pharmacy technology and security
- 340b consulting
- Specialty pharmacy
- Pharmacy marketing
- Long term care pharmacy
The consultant is there for you to bounce ideas and questions off of. The consultant should have years of experience running a pharmacy and will be able to accurately respond.
Why should you work with a pharmacy consultant?
If you are a new pharmacy business owner you should consider working with a pharmacy consulting service. For example: You are thinking about starting a pharmacy. A pharmacist consultant can provide you with location analysis. A location analysis is in in-depth look at a target market including competition, demographics, prescriber locations and more.
Looking to buy a pharmacy? A pharmacy consulting service can find pharmacies for sale. A pharmacy consultant usually has contacts in the industry. Once a consultant narrows down a pharmacy for sale they can analyze the data to determine if the pharmacy is worth buying.
A current pharmacy owner? A lot of current pharmacy owners seek advice from pharmacist consultants to expand their operations. A pharmacy consultant can seek financing for your ideas. Consultants often work directly with banks like Live Oak, First Financial and more to get excellent bank loans.
Save time and money using pharmacy consultants
Most pharmacy consultant services are designed to save their clients money. For example: Here at ConfigRX our goal is to reduce costs on all technology related services for the pharmacy. We have seen pharmacies overpaying for telecom, IVR services, pharmacy systems, websites and hardware. We help our clients save money every month on technology services. As a pharmacy consultant not only do we save our clients money but we also help them create more efficient workflows for their pharmacy. Having the correct technology in place at the right price is key to a successful pharmacy.
Other pharmacy consulting services such as Independent Rx Consulting have different services, however they are built to save the pharmacy owner time and money. There are many consulting services available for certain services including:
- Pharmacy License assistance
- Pharmacy Marketing ideas and plans
- Wholesale negotiation
- 3rd party vendors
- Pharmacy Financing
- Pharmacy Accounting
- Lease negotiations
- Pharmacy technology (PMS, e-scribe, EMAR, IVR etc.)
- Pharmacy services (MTM, inventory, prescription delivery, sync etc.)
- Pharmacy packaging
If you need help deciding on which pharmacist consultant you should work with then contact us or call 937-907-0078. We are here to point you in the right direction for your independent pharmacy.
Work with a trustworthy pharmacist consultant
While there are a number of pharmacy consulting services – make sure you have the right consultant. A lot of the pharmacy consultants charge a high fee but some clients don’t get much in return. When you are searching for a consultant be sure to ask the right questions such as:
- What other pharmacies in my situation have you helped?
- Tell me your consulting fee, do you charge per project or per hour?
- What all is included in your package ?
- Do you only work with proprietary systems?
- Do you offer any hands-on consulting or are you strictly advising?
- If your consultant works for a whole seller they often want you to use their warehouse and their PMS – ask if this is required before you sign up.
Pharmacy Consultants can provide a custom approach
Pharmacy consultants understand that every pharmacy is different. There really isn’t a set template to use. Every pharmacy comes with it’s own unique challenges and opportunities. A pharmacist consultant should be able to guide you to make the correct decisions. Different avenues to approach your obstacles. Consultants are paid to deliver customized solutions tailored to your pharmacy.
The final decision
If you are thinking about using a pharmacy consultant for your pharmacy remember this. A true pharmacy consultant has been there, done that. The consultant should have recommendations on how to pursue or stay away from the opportunity. A real consultant will have hands-on experience running their own pharmacies. Industry contacts to leverage. Discounts on certain services and more.
Feel free to reach out to us at (937) 907-0078 if you have any questions or comments.
Pharmacy Website Design and Pharmacy Website Template
Pharmacy Cyber Security – Can Pharmacies be hacked?
What is Pharmacy Technology Consulting?
Innovative Independent Pharmacy Business Ideas Designed to Elevate Your Pharmacy
As a pharmacy consultant I am able to talk with many pharmacy owners. One topic that always comes up is how to increase their pharmacies digital footprint online. This starts with a trustworthy pharmacy website design and should be followed up with a custom pharmacy mobile app. We tell our clients to avoid pharmacy website template and we explain why in this blog post.
In this article we will look at how successful pharmacies use their pharmacy website design to reach new patients and keep existing patients. We will also explore the difference between a pharmacy website and a custom pharmacy website. As well as why your pharmacies website should focus on your pharmacy services and how patients and prescribers view your pharmacy website.
How a patient views your pharmacy website
A patient is going to view your pharmacy website a few different ways. Often the patient is trying to find out more about your pharmacy they will check out the website. Maybe they drive by your pharmacy everyday on their way to work and saw your flu shot sign. They will look you up on Google and verify if your pharmacy is worth their business. Is the website modern? Can I trust them with my prescriptions, credit card information and personal health information?
A website is often the first impression a patient will have with the pharmacy. It takes less than a second for a patient to make the decision to stay or leave your website. That is why having a trustworthy, custom and updated website is so important. Long gone are the days of template and text based websites. Your pharmacy website needs to stand out from the others, and honestly it’s not that hard. Most pharmacy websites are of poor design, unsafe or templated.
If your pharmacy does have an older pharmacy website then consider updating now. If the pharmacy is in a competitive market, your website should be one of your top priorities. Today websites are all about content, pictures, videos and SEO (search engine optimization). Your website should reflect all of these. Everyone is online now and searching for the best deal. Pharmacies are not an exception. Everyday more and more online pharmacies are being created shrinking the market for brick and mortar pharmacies who don’t fully take advantage of online marketing and SEO.
Pharmacy SEO and content is king
Does your pharmacy offer services such as compounding or free delivery? If so do you show up in a Google search when someone types in “Fresno free prescription delivery”? SEO and keyword optimization is something 90% of pharmacy websites do not have. Why? Because it’s difficult and usually requres an SEO expert. There is a lot of competition for certain keywords such as “compounding” or “pharmacy”. If your pharmacy website was designed 5+ years ago you aren’t going to be in the top results.
SEO for websites is a growing and competitive field. That is why we recommend that whoever your pharmacy website designer is – they include at least basic SEO when designing your website. Later you or a designer can optimize more advanced SEO with keyword planning or blog posts like this one.
Types of SEO
Paid SEO: Another consideration is Google AdWords if you want rank at the top in less than a day. With Google AdWords you can set a budget and show up at the top of searches. For example: Set a budget for $35/day for the keyword: “compounding Pittsburgh”. A patient will see your website link on the top after a Google search. Once the link has been clicked a certain amount of times your budget will be reached and your link will not display the rest of the day.
Organic SEO: Oranic SEO refers to the methods used to obtain a high placement (or ranking) on a search engine results page in the unpaid section. This is highly desiered and very difficult to achieve. However it can be achieved through highly valuable content, blog posts, and more. That is why we suggest listing services like compounding and vaccinations on your website. These are subjects that most pharmacy owners and knowledgeable about and can often provide valuable content about on their website. Google encourages valuable content for readers and this helps with organic SEO a lot!
List your pharmacy services on your website
Not only should you list your services for SEO reasons but also because most patients don’t know the pharmacy does more than just fill prescriptions. Listing ALL your pharmacy services on your website is key to growing your pharmacy. When listing pharmacy services explain the benefit and why the pharmacy offers the service.
Be sure your patients know all of the services the pharmacy offers, not just on the website but in store as well. In-store signage is great for this type of message. Marketing your services should be your focus everywhere, not just on your pharmacy website. Creating a marketing plan that focuses on your service is key to growing any pharmacy.We encourage you to view our marketing plan blog post to learn more.
Pharmacy websites aren’t just for patients, focus on the prescriber also
When working with your website designer be sure to mention prescribers as part of your target audience. Prescribers do check out local pharmacies websites. Prescribers want to be sure they are sending their patients to a trusted pharmacy.
Another great tool to offer providers is a Prescriber Portal. A Prescriber Portal is an online portal that is specifically for prescribers. A prescriber can login with their unique ID into a trusted HIPAA compliant web portal. Once authenticated – the prescriber will be see various prescription forms. Prescribers can then check which prescription or compounding formula they wish to order for a patient.
ConfigRX is the first pharmacy web design company to launch a Prescriber Portal. This is a great marketing piece for any pharmacy to stand out from the competition. If you are interested in a Prescriber Portal for your pharmacy contact us.
Avoid the pharmacy website template design services
Many pharmacy websites companies are very “cookie cutter” or templated, and should be avoided. There are a number of pharmacy web design businesses offering website design. These are sometimes IVR companies offering a copy/paste website design as an add-on product.
Pharmacy website template are limited on design options, SEO and customization. Sadly, the pharmacy world is ran by a few large web design companies that use the same template and content on all their websites. Nothing is unique and when the search engines like Google views repetitive content/verbiage those websites actually take a negative SEO hit. Search engines love custom content and can easily detect when something is taken from another website.
We recommend staying away from pharmacy website template and the large pharmacy/ivr web design companies. Often they overcharge for their template websites. Work with a designer for a custom pharmacy website design. You will end up paying less for a unique higher quality website.
Optimize for mobile
A pharmacy website should be optimized for mobile devices like phones and tablets. More users are viewing websites from their personal mobile devices rather than a desktop computer. If a website isn’t mobile friendly most users never return to your website. This is why mobile optimization is key for patients requesting refills or wanting to learn more about your pharmacy.
Another key benefit from mobile optimization is SEO. Search engines rank mobile optimized websites higher than non-optimized mobile websites. To see if your website is mobile optimized for Google check out this link directly from Google.
Get VIPPS Accredited ASAP.
VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) is an accreditation program offered through NABP. VIPPS was created because of various online illegal pharmacy websites popping up. These illegal websites are out of compliance with US pharmacy law.
We recommend registering for VIPPS. Actually VIPPS is a requirement if you plan on marketing your website through most search engines including Google. VIPPS is also a requirement for some mail order pharmacy networks. We recommend reading more about VIPPS from NABP. This will also help SEO for the pharmacy website.
If you need help with VIPPS accreditation feel free to contact us. We have helped pharmacies become VIPPS accredited.
Choose the right pharmacy web design partner
If you are ready to move forward with an SEO friendly custom pharmacy website – talk to us or fill out the form below. ConfigRX is the industry leader in pharmacy web design. We invite you to check out our portfolio with some of our work.
Related pharmacy posts:
Pharmacy Marketing Plan to Increase Prescription Sales
7 tips that will help you choose between pharmacy names for your pharmacy
Innovative Independent Pharmacy Business Ideas Designed to Elevate Your Pharmacy
Know the Risks, Your Pharmacy Can Be Hacked
Think your independent pharmacy isn’t affected by hackers? Think again.
As a pharmacy technology consultant, I talk to many pharmacy owners across the country. I would say a good 60% of pharmacy owners believe their pharmacy isn’t susceptible to any type of cyber security threat or data theft. Of course, they all hear the security and data breaches on the news. But it would never happen to an independent pharmacy, right? Wrong. Independent Pharmacies are more at risk now than ever before.
Pharmacies are an excellent resource for hackers to steal PII (personally identifiable information) and PHI (patient health information). Why? Because pharmacies are easy to hack. They usually have an outdated firewall, if they even have a firewall. (A firewall is a device that protects the pharmacy internet network from the outside network or internet) Their router is usually of home grade security or hasn’t updated it’s firmware in years. Pharmacies usually are on outdated version of their operating system (WindowsXP, Windows 7). Pharmacies are also susceptible to social engineering attacks (see below).
What threats should my pharmacy worry about?
Pharmacies rely on a lot of different vulnerable technology. This is going up every day as pharmacies increase their reliance on tech. Let’s take a brief look at some of the threats facing independent pharmacies and pharmacists.
Malware – These are often found on social media, websites and email. Malware includes worms, trojans, viruses, spyware etc.. Where in pharmacies? Pharmacies usually get infected with malware by staff clicking on the links in social media or opening attachments in emails. Another place we see malware in pharmacies is when a staff member is doing research online and clicks the wrong link.
Social Engineering – This is when someone tries to manipulate pharmacy staff into giving them confidential or personal information that may be used for unintended purposes. Where in pharmacies? We see this when someone visits or calls into the pharmacy asking various questions, in an effort to receive valuable information. A recent situation with a client of ours was the following: A scammer from India called into the pharmacy claiming they were “MIcrosoft Technicians” and needed access to the computers for a “required security update”. These attacks happen everyday on small businesses and only awareness can prevent them. If you allow these scammers to connect to your computer they usually install ransomware.
Ransomware – This is software designed to encrypt your files on your computer or lock you out. The only way to remove this is to pay the “ransom” according to the ransomware. Where in pharmacies? This is found anywhere online. E-mail and websites being the most vulnerable to this attack. Hackers will send out mass emails with ransomware and hope someone opens the attacgment. Once a user opens the attachment it takes away the availability to certain data or systems unless the ransom is paid.
E-mail is the most vulnerable
E-mail – Pharmacies use email everyday to talk to patients, vendors, precribers etc.. However e-mail isn’t secure no matter your provider. These often can carry virus/malware attachments or phishing links. Proper training is needed with all pharmacy staff that uses e-mail. Getsafeonline.org offers a great article regarding e-mail safety.
Phishing – Unusually accomplished through e-mail phishing attempts to trick users into thinking they are submitting info to a secure site. Where in pharmacies? We have seen this as scammers/hackers try to send pharmacist to fake federal and state websites to steal credentials.
Vishing – This attack is becoming more and more prevalent. With VOIP phones being very popular a hacker can spoof/fake their caller ID. Where in pharmacies? Patients are being contacted by scammers using the pharmacies caller ID. Scammers are asking patients for credit card info, personal information and more. Scammers target the patients within a radius around the pharmacy. This attack is never good for the pharmacy because patients lose trust in the pharmacy. However, the pharmacy has nothing to do with this attack.
If your pharmacy is a victim of vishing contact us. We have experience on how to respond to this attack.
Pharmacists and pharmacy owners shouldn’t be thinking if but when I get hacked.
What should a pharmacy protect?
A pharmacy has a slew of information and technology they are obligated to protect. Everything from your pharmacy phone number – to patient info – to your digital certificate to order CII’s. These are just a few items to protect. A pharmacy is full of PII and PHI info.
Today pharmacies and health care providers are becoming even more connected through e-scribing portals and eMar systems. These provide additional gateways for hackers to cause problems. While these systems are usually somewhat secure, your pharmacy is still at risk just due to association.
Is my pharmacy liable?
Ultimately everyone should be responsible for protecting data, PHI, PII etc.. However if your pharmacy uses a persons data, you have an obligation to protect it. Currently it’s unclear who is ultimately responsible for small businesses. However, you can bet – if your pharmacy is the target of breach your reputation will take a huge hit. Many businesses never overcome a security breach and some ultimately go out of business. If you’re not taking security seriously this will eventually become a reality. The average costs to recover after a cyber breach for a small business is around $500,000.
If you are a victim of a data breach, you are required to notify your patients of this breach. The matter of notice time depends on your state. Each state address security breach notifications differently. Take a look at the NCSL (National Conference of State Legislators) website for your state regarding data breaches.
Does your Pharmacy System have a cloud environment?
Almost all pharmacy systems house all their data on a local server in your pharmacy. This creates even more data for a pharmacy to protect. However some pharmacy systems like McKesson Enterprise RX has a cloud (hosted) version of their pharmacy software. By using a cloud version of the pharmacy system you are transferring the risk to your software company.
Not all pharmacy systems have this option currently. Check with your pharmacy system to see if this is an option. If not – ask them some tips they recommend to protect your pharmacy data stored on their server.
Website Security / Patient Refills
Does your pharmacy have a website? A website is an extension of your business and you are responsible to protect it. Pharmacy websites are prime targets for “PharmaHack” – a hack where rogue injection are applied to pharmacy websites. They usually promote Viagra, Cialis etc..items that are illegal to promote online. If you click them you are sent to an illegal website to purchase these items. In most cases if you’re hacked with the PharmaHack any link on your website is redirected to the illegal website.
Does your website have online refills where patients enter prescription information? If so be sure your website is up-to-date with the latest updates and patches. Patients are trusting your website it secure when they enter their personal health info.
If you are concerned about your website might be hacked or susceptible contact us. We design custom pharmacy websites that are secure and professional. ConfigRX understands cyber security and the risks associated with running a pharmacy.
How to mitigate risk to your pharmacy
To be fair, managing your pharmacies security does take some time and money. However, time and money is something pharmacies usually don’t have to dedicate to security. So how do you protect yourself and your pharmacy from cyber threats? What we recommend to pharmacies who can’t afford manage services is to:
- Install anti-virus software, and keep it updated!
- Upgrade to business grade firewall/router
- Do awareness training to pharmacy staff member about security threats (E-mail, Phones, Fax, Internet Browsing etc)
- Use a policy of least privilege. If they don’t need access to it – don’t give access.
- Isolate your wireless network from your local area network (where your data resides)
- Reach out to your pharmacy management system. Ask them how they protect your data. What do they recommend?
- Install BitLocker on your workstations and servers
- If you don’t recognize it delete it – DON’T OPEN IT
- Keep pharmacy private information off social media
- Look for insurance related to cyber security
- Keep your plugins and CMS (WordPress, Joomla etc) up-to-date
- Install HTTPS on your website so website data isn’t in plaintext.
- If using a theme make sure it’s the most current version
- Monitor your website and block unwanted countries from access your website
Document document document your security
A good practice with security is to document everything you do. If the pharmacy does get breached you will want to have proof you did your due diligence. Although it can be tedious and time consuming, documentation can provide you with a record. This also helps for insurance and legal matters.
Don’t overlook pharmacy cyber security
Cyber Security is often added on after and owners do not consider security when planning a pharmacy. Which means most pharmacies are just doing patchwork to protect their systems and data. Always try to consider cyber security in any business venture from the ground up. That way you aren’t playing catch-up.
Sad truth is, you can never be 100% hacker proof. With technology changing everyday, new hacks and viruses are there to exploit the same technology. If you aren’t keeping your patches, operating systems and firmware updated, you will always be at a higher risk.
Managed pharmacy services with cyber security
Most pharmacies simply do not have the time to devote to security. With pharmacy managed services by ConfigRX we can help you reduce your security risk. We designed our managed services to include cyber security threats. We work with Intrusion Prevention and Detection Systems to monitor your network traffic. This allows us to find unusual or unwanted network traffic, prevent unauthorized access, and protect your pharmacy technology.
Managed services by ConfigRX is designed to improve your pharmacy operations. On top of security can also provide you with IT support, IT monitoring, data backup and more. Get out of the “break/fix” mentality and take control of problems before they happen with managed services.
Our team has over 8 years of pharmacy IT experience. ConfigRX understands the pharmacy industry better than anyone. We work with you to come up with a security solution that fits your budget. To learn more about our managed services, visit our pharmacy managed services page.