Expanded retail pharmacy services can lead to increased consumer health outcomes and business profits

Joelena Leader

Collaborators Grant Wilson (Lecturer) and David Zhang (Associate Professor) are faculty members with the Department of Management and Marketing at the Edwards School of Business. Their collaborative research explores the strategies employed by retail pharmacies in an effort to increase their dual objectives as healthcare providers and commercial enterprises.  They found that retail pharmacies implementing strategic orientations as well as expanded professional services lead to both increased health outcomes and profits.

Q&A with Grant Wilson and David Zhang

What’s your big question(s)?

How can innovations and business strategies increase positive outcomes for multi-stakeholders in the healthcare sector?

Describe your research program and why it matters

David: I think the status quo or by default, a lot of business strategy is singularly focused on profitability, the economic impact to society. How are we going to make more money? How do we make the company more efficient? For the past few years, my research and our joint research has added the consumer aspect to it. The purpose of a business is not just profit. We need to take the consumer or end-user into account. For the next five or ten years I am going to move forward because I can see the public discourse has moved on to more concern about sustainability. It’s going back to the triple-bottom-line essentially. Number one, you must make the business more successful. Number two, you must have society, the end-users and the social networks in place. Third, it becomes clear that the long-term sustainability and impact to the environment needs to be considered as well. Previously, the attitude has been a niche research area for non-profit or social entrepreneurship, which I have done some work with Lee Swanson. In the future that will become mainstream and it will be weaved into any discipline of business research. That’s my belief and that’s something that I would aim for as well.

Grant: It is creating value for multiple stakeholders or simply multi-stakeholder value creation. It could be business profitability for owners or health outcomes for patients. How do we do that? It requires fully understanding the expressed wants of customers and their deeper latent needs as well as being innovative and creative value for them – a multi-stakeholder approach.

David: For example, we look at the patient quality of care as one outcome and then we look at the company profitability as another outcome. That has been the approach that we were taking. If I were to do the same study again, I would investigate more into how patient health would increase the societal productivity. A healthier population in Canada means more than the individual not being sick and the company making money, but as a social good in that regard.

Grant:  Through serving one stakeholder, there are many ancillary benefits. For example, focusing on patients and doing what is right for them, creates trust and loyalty.  It is this trust and loyalty that is of value to this stakeholder group.  Ultimately, it creates benefits for other stakeholders. Specifically, it creates a long-term customer relationship which means repeat business and increased profitability. We explored the effect of implementing new pharmacy services and it advances health outcomes and profitability.  If you zoom out further our research shows that patient value creation has positive externalities for other stakeholders.


What do you find most exciting about this area of research?

David: My area of research for the past number of years has been on GM technology. The genesis of that idea was opportunity driven because I got a grant from the agriculture college and then it steered into that direction. Now if I’m going to design a new project, I certainly would start out by thinking of the bigger picture more. For the last little while I’ve been working with honour’s students and master’s students who have been focusing on one thing at a time and to see how that will cause an incremental contribution to the outcomes. Now is the time to zoom out looking at the bigger picture. What excites me is on the rare occasion when we go out and talk to lay audiences. I particularly remember when I did the M.Sc. talk and I received so many phone calls from different people from nursing asking me whether I want to get on to their band wagon and join to do a new SSHRC and people from AFC, the Agriculture and Agri-foods Canada. The Federal government and provincial government phoned me and emailed me about certain things. That is really exciting and has the immediate gratification that somebody noticed this work and thought what I had to say, and the findings were valuable and interesting, and they want to know more and perhaps want to join us in future research. That’s very encouraging and satisfying. 

Grant:  I agree. I like the multi-disciplinary impacts. There’s health, economics, individual firm performance. You are not just looking at whether one strategy increases a firms’ performance, this has larger benefits than that. I like the fact that it has bigger impact than just one firm or one industry. A pharmacy board has called me and wanted me to give input on their implementation plan for their services. The most exciting part to me is that it has wide-scale impacts and is really practical.


When did your collaboration begin?

David: When Grant was doing his master's degree I officially sat on his committee and then we talked about ACM and other conferences, structural equation modeling, and other methodologies. We had quite a few sessions from there. We have been working together on many projects since. 

Grant: David was a great mentor in research and academia, from theory, to subject matter, to analysis.  He asked hard questions like “so what, now what?” and questions like “what’s the big picture?” David has been instrumental in not only asking the right questions.   We have worked together since 2011, almost a decade.  

David: I think there is this common interest in entrepreneurial orientation and market orientation. Those are the central constructs that we are applying in a different context, and the interplay and the result that may come out of that or different variations of that. It makes it very natural to stem from that to develop projects.


Why does working together work for you? What’s the best part about working together?

Grant: The best part about working with David is we always learn something after every meeting. 

David: We have had productive meetings. 

Grant: I have a solo project I’ve been working on and last week I brought it to David for input.  He sat down, invested the time to review it and gave me great feedback. He has always invested in me. We always try to help each other on projects. It’s always good to bounce ideas off each other. Of course, he’s a friend too and I enjoy his company. 

David: You need to have this mutual trust and being relaxed and truly yourself. That is how you can get your mind and ideas to flow.

Grant:  Collaboration is about being able to say something off the wall. It is about being relaxed, no judgement, and letting your guard down. That is built on trust and friendship.


How can this research help business leaders, decision-makers, governments or healthcare professionals make better decisions?

David: After several rounds of going through SSHRC applications and sitting on the adjudication committee, you start to think before you design a project. You think, “how can I do a research project that would have value to the business and policy leaders?” That is not an after-thought but was intended that way. You are going out to find a solution to a problem that people can use. It’s not hard to do a survey and get some data. It’s harder to think about how this idea can be used.

Grant: The impetus of this project was: a) I was starting a Ph.D program looking for a topic but in all the background, the industry was shifting to take more pressure off of doctors and to do more by implementing new services. I found it interesting how some provinces were implementing more services than others. Are there different characteristics between Saskatchewan and Alberta pharmacists if they are wanting to do more? That’s maybe where the market/entrepreneurial orientation comes in. At that time, coincidentally maybe, there was this issue and the overall question was, should they implement these new services? Overall, they have these big impacts. It supports the change and the provinces that haven’t added new services, they can look at this and say “wow, we should be doing more.” All the retail pharmacies can be making more money and all their patients can be better adhering to prescriptions and making fewer hospital visits. That has a pretty big impact on the overall health system. It has a lot of implications for the business owners and government. There are some real implications. 

David: We’re talking about collaborative research and it’s not just the collaboration between two academics sitting in the ivory tower. The good ones already have collaborations. For example, Grant’s Ph.D research, early on he already had this collaboration with pharmacy associations and a lot of the questions were coming from their desire to know the answer to specific questions. Naturally the results will feed back to the association and will be relevant to them because that is what they wanted to know. I think this academic, industry and perhaps later government collaboration, this multi-stakeholder collaborative research, produces a result that is also collaborative. While participatory action research is often used in community-based or Indigenous research, and sociology, I think it can be applied to business strategy research as well.


Recent Publications

Wilson, G.A., Perepelkin, J., and Zhang, D.D. (2019). The roles of diversification and specialization strategies in the entrepreneurial orientation and performance relationship. Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship. DOI: 10.1080/08276331.2019.1646532

Wilson, G.A. (2019). Expanding pharmacy services increases both health-care and profit outcomes. The Conversation. Featured article on The Conversation and the Usask News website.

Wilson, Grant. (2019, Aug 8). Should pharmacists expand their health care services? CBC Radio One.

Wilson, G.A., Perepelkin, J., and Zhang, D.D. (Accepted). Improving Pharmacy Performance Through Market Orientation and the Implementation of Expanded Services. Health Marketing Quarterly (February 14, 2019).


Recent Awards

Best Paper Award, Wilson, G.A., Perepelkin, J., and Zhang, D.D. “The Role of Market Orientation and Expanded Service Implementation in Furthering Pharmacy Performance,” Healthcare Management Division, 2019 Administrative Sciences Association of Canada.

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