Polishing Your Point of Sale

The recipe for POS success mixes integrated software infrastructure with a smart merchandising strategy

pharmacy point of saleWhen it comes to your DME pharmacy point of sale (POS)—the area in your store where goods or services are paid for—there are two distinct, very important components integral to POS success: the technological infrastructure and the merchandising.

Addressing the software infrastructure side of this equation, Jason Williams, national sales manager for Retail Pharmacy and HME, Western Region, for QS/1, which produces HME software integrated with a full retail or LTC pharmacy program, says the goal for the DME pharmacist is to have a truly integrated system among your pharmacy, HME/DME department and your POS.

“A POS that interfaces to your management system will still require the pharmacy to perform a good bit of manual work,” he says. “An integrated system provides a single patient record, improved inventory control and enhanced reporting. With shared data capabilities, you can utilize doctor and patient demographics among systems.” In addition, he says Integration between systems reduces data entry and lets information move and update between the systems, providing more efficient inventory management and accounts receivable.

However, Williams says the norm for DME pharmacies is most use only a pharmacy management system and an integrated point of sale. They either do not have a HME/DME software management solution or if they do it is not integrated with the pharmacy and POS. He says that for QS/1, about 44 percent of its pharmacy customers do some level of HME, and only 31 percent of their pharmacy clients use integrated POS.

“If you apply those percentages to the entire independent pharmacy market, about 8,800 pharmacies are doing some HME/DME and fewer than 6,200 pharmacies have POS,” he says.

Phil Deschaine, marketing director for Universal Software Solutions, which offers a pharmacy solution that integrates into DME software, says, “DME Pharmacies have struggled and will continue to struggle from a tech standpoint when they try to force a pharmacy process into a DME software setting, or keep pharmacy and DME separate using two disjointed softwares. Processing a DME order is traditionally just as labor intensive as filling a pharmacy order, but without the benefit of instant verification and approval that the pharmacy relies on. DME pharmacies need flexibility. To compete as a retail pharmacy the process must be fast and polished to retain customers who are used to large national chains.”


Williams points out three major features that DME pharmacy POS software should include:

1. Since HME/DME Medicare Part B and most other insurance carries require that the DOS (date of service) be the day the patient picks up the item, your POS software should do two things. First, if the prescription is filled on Friday, March 3, but not picked up until Tuesday, March 7, the item must not be billed from either the pharmacy or HME/DME management systems until the patient picks up the item. Second, when the item is picked up by the patient, the POS should send the pick-up date back to the system and automatically update the DOS from March 3 to March 7. The item should then be released for billing to the insurance carrier.

2. A truly integrated system should support the acceptance of FSA/HSA credit cards. These are credit cards tied to a flex spending account or health savings accounts, where money is funded pretax from paychecks to pay for healthcare. While most pharmacy POS systems can handle these, many of the standalone HME POS programs cannot.

3. A single integrated accounts receivable statement for pharmacy and HME/DME patient portions of insurance-covered items, items not covered by insurance or for which the pharmacy chooses to not accept assignment and items charged at POS should be achievable. Rather than the patient getting a pharmacy/POS statement and a second DME/HME statement, a truly integrated system should have the ability to send a single patient statement.

Deschaine says that DME pharmacy POS software should allow for integration with a national drug database like Medispan. With access to a national catalog, loading new drugs into the system will be consistent and quick.

“And for the customer experience, software should offer the flexibility to quickly fill a retail pharmacy order, while at the same time allowing for compound drugs and equipment rental that enables a traditional DME to deliver cutting-edge home therapies, ultimately providing the ability to exceed the expectations of any pharmacy customer,” he says.

POS software should help reduce the amount of time a customer spends a the register signing required paperwork, says Williams.

“For example, if patients are getting a regular prescription, a Medicare Part B HME/DME item and three over-the-counter items and paying by credit card, they should only have to sign once.” he says. “Not four times: once to show they picked up the prescription, a second time for counseling, a third time for the HME/DME items and a fourth time for the credit card. An integrated pharmacy, HME/DME and POS should require only a single signature that is added electronically to the prescription record, the HME/DME transaction and to the credit card.”

Hardware components that make up the POS technology infrastructure include some type of cash register that works with your POS software, says Williams. This should include a computer, monitor (touchscreen if your POS software will support it) barcode reader, keyboard, receipt printer that can also fill out the check, and a credit card/signature pad that has both a credit card swipe and a chip reader. Optionally you might want to provide a ‘shopper display’ so customers can see the price of each items as it is scanned.


Williams says that many pharmacies are running three inventories:

1. The drugs and other items stored ‘behind the counter.’
2. The DME items on display, or in a back room, or warehouse space.
3. The OTC items sold in the retail area of the pharmacy. If your POS is not integrated with your HME/DME system, it is impossible to do real inventory control with automated purchasing for your HME/DME items.

“There is a reason that almost all retail businesses use POS and barcode scanning: It is faster and more accurate during a POS transaction,” he says. “When you invest in POS hardware designed for the software you are using, it can complete the front of the check with your business name and the dollar amounts and print the endorsement and deposit information on the back of the check. Sales at the POS automatically reduce inventory and capture the cost of goods for reporting purposes, which should allow for better management of the DME pharmacy by reducing the time it takes to do purchases, replenish inventory and print management reports.”

Williams says that If you use an electronic signature pad with the POS and the POS vendor’s approved credit card vendors, the register clerk can save time and have information automatically updated.

“A good point of sale should analyze the drugs and OTC items purchased and ‘suggest’ related items that could benefit the patient,” he says. “As an example, some drugs reduce calcium absorption so a good POS would recommend high-dose calcium supplements. Or if the customer purchases Band-Aids, the system should prompt the clerk to ask the patient if they have antibiotic ointment for the cut or wound. If a patient is getting a hospital bed the system should recommend a trapeze bar, bed wedge and an over-the-bed table.”

Finally, your POS system should support store-created coupons, such as buy one get a second at half price or free, says Williams. Also, a good POS should handle sale start and end dates on items with the sale pricing for tighter control over correct pricing. It should also be able to handle vendor coupons.


The second key element to successful POS is merchandising, such as the impulse buys and displays that try to appeal to customers surrounding your POS. When it comes to the merchandising side of DME pharmacies, the weakness are very similar to that of traditional DMEs.

“It is oftentimes forgotten that the customer buying experience does not end after they pick the product they came in for; it lasts until they walk out the door, including the time they spend around the point of sale,” says Rob Baumhover, director of the VGM Retail division of VGM Group Inc. “Because of this, it is important to capitalize on that time.”

Baumhover says the store goals of POS merchandising is to continue the customer buying experience. The merchandising should flow with that of the rest of the store, encourage buying and compliment the customer experience. Customer goals and expectations are straightforward – a simple, quick and easy transaction process to get them out the door and on with their lives.

“Impulse buying is a very under-utilized retail strategy in the DME industry,” says Baumhover. “How often have you been waiting in line at a traditional retail store — be it a grocery store, a clothing store, make up store, anything — and at the last-minute grabbed an extra item to add to your purchase? Probably more often than we would like to admit. The same strategy can be implemented in this industry.”

While not large ticket items, products like lotions, lip balms, handheld massagers, etc., are great last-minute add-ons to many purchases. Tips on what kinds of products or displays work for encouraging impulse buying:

  • Interactivity—Customers will want to touch it, smell it, taste it, etc. Allowing them to do that will increase the chance of purchase.
  • Attract attention—Bright colors, lights, sound, movement, or humor are unique features of impulse items that will draw the customer’s eye.
  • Convenience/functionality—Reading glasses are a great example of a convenience product; customers can use them to write their checks and then purchase them on the spot.
  • Signage—Colorful and eye-catching signage is also key to encouraging impulse buying.
  • Easy to Grasp (physically and mentally)—Impulse products should sell themselves and clients should easily be able to add them to their basket. If they have to ask what the item is, it’s not a good impulse item.
  • Excitement or novelty—Original, unique or hard-to-find items are also great impulse items.

This article originally appeared in the DME Pharmacy April 2017 issue of HME Business.