WholeLife Pharmacy & Healthfoods

Client Stories: Meet Wael Hanna from WholeLife Pharmacy & Healthfoods Langwarrin

In our latest interview, we caught up with Wael Hanna, owner and Pharmacist of WholeLife Pharmacy & Healthfoods Langwarrin and co-founder of Medmate, a powerful digital platform that connects the doctor, patient and pharmacist to provide a seamless end-to-end medication delivery solution. Wael shares his inspirations, tips, highlights and achievements as a pharmacy owner and how his pharmacy adapted to the introduction of digital technologies.

Tell us a bit about your business WholeLife Pharmacy & Healthfoods.

WholeLife Pharmacy & Healthfoods was founded in 2011 by pharmacists and brothers, Vince and Frank Papalardo who transformed one of their pharmacies in Pease Street, Cairns in Queensland to provide their customers with holistic health focussed products. The brothers spent time trialling new products and developing the concept before launching the first WholeLife Pharmacy & Healthfoods branded store in May 2017. Today, WholeLife has revolutionised how we deliver pharmacy by combining traditional pharmacy with health, wellbeing and lifestyle products to provide customers with a single destination shopping experience.

I first saw the WholeLife Pharmacy & Healthfoods concept presented at a franchise conference about five years ago and I immediately saw the opportunity the brand offered in terms of a truly holistic approach to healthcare. WholeLife provides market differentiation from the crowded discount model and puts the focus on range, service and value rather than just price.

Staff are carefully selected to support our health offering. In addition to our full-time Naturopath, our other staff either have experience that is aligned with our services or a true passion for supporting customers with their holistic health needs.

Worldwide, people are taking a more proactive, as opposed to reactive, approach when it comes to managing their health. They are more informed and conscious about what they put into their bodies. Additionally, they are more cognisant of how their lifestyle choices may impact the world around us. WholeLife provides a solution to meet this growing demand by stocking an extensive range of products including vegan, vegetarian, organic, FODMAP, gluten free, sustainable and eco-friendly products.

WholeLife Pharmacy & Healthfoods store Langwarrin Victoria.
WholeLife Pharmacy & Healthfoods store Langwarrin Victoria

What’s been your biggest highlight/achievement for your business?

I had a vision that introducing WholeLife Pharmacy and Healthfoods would be well received by the community.

Almost two years on, I’m proud to say that my beliefs were right. In fact, not only has WholeLife appealed to our local community, it has drawn customers from outside the local area. I am proud to have been an early adopter of the WholeLife model. We were the first and, at the time of writing, currently the only WholeLife in Victoria. By pivoting our business offering and making the investment to transform our pharmacy, we have created a store that is a true health care destination.

Today, the pharmacy profession has evolved from its conventional and traditional medication supply role to an advanced patient-centric approach. The WholeLife model gives me the opportunity to support our customer’s health needs further than just medication supply.

What inspired you to own your own Pharmacy business?

I derive great satisfaction from the challenge that comes with establishing a new business that goes on to becoming one that is successful and highly regarded by the community and my peers. All the pharmacy businesses I have and am currently involved with started as greenfield sites – in other words started from ‘scratch’. While there are a myriad of risks that accompany building a business from the ground up, I really enjoy the journey and having full autonomy over a project. In doing so, I’m able to influence the direction, the culture of the business and the staff I lead in order to ensure an exemplary customer experience. Of course, there’s also the financial security that comes with owning your own business, albeit with the associated risks.

The pandemic forced businesses to pivot their operations and no more so than in the pharmacy industry with the introduction of new digital technologies such as electronic prescription (e-script). How has your Pharmacy adapted to these changes?

The pandemic catalysed the adoption of innovation by consumers and has irreversibly changed the way they engage with businesses. I feel as though it is vital that businesses pivot their model in order to continue serving the needs of their customers who are increasingly turning to an online experience.

It is my view that the pharmaceutical industry has typically been a slow adopter of innovation. Customers are driving the demand for online services and we identified the need to embrace an omni-channel marketing strategy that includes digital engagement in order to remain relevant and viable.

We also saw a huge increase for home delivery, driven largely by people isolating during lockdowns. Accordingly, we increased our services to meet this demand.

The introduction of electronic prescription (e-scripts) in 2020, revolutionised patient accessibility to essential medicines. Following a face-to-face or telehealth consult, a patient can receive an e-script on their phone which they can forward to a pharmacy of their choice or to a family member to have the medication dispensed. We were one of the first pharmacies in Victoria to implement e-script dispensing capability under the Communities of Interest program.

We see you are a Co-founder of Medmate. Can you tell us a bit about this?

The concept of Medmate began well before the pandemic. A friend of mine, Dr Ganesh Naidoo and I were discussing the day-to-day challenges many patients faced in having reliable access to their essential medicines. In fact, around 50% of patients are non-compliant with taking their medications. While the reasons can be multi-factorial, a common cause is often logistical. Some of the reasons can include disability or disease inhibiting their ability to go to the pharmacy, work commitments affecting their ability to access a pharmacy during trading hours or simply forgetting to get their script filled before their medication ran out.

It seemed ironic that you could be at home or work, order a pizza and have it delivered. This made us start thinking about how we could create a similar experience with medications.

Since then, Medmate has evolved into a powerful platform that connects the doctor, patient and pharmacist to provide a seamless end-to-end solution. For example, following a telehealth consultation, the doctor can send the patient an e-script that is uploaded into Medmate. Using Medmate, the patient forwards the script (and front-of-shop lines) to a pharmacy of their choice for dispensing. The pharmacy receives a paid order ready for processing and once prepared, the order is delivered to the patient within 60 minutes by a Medmate logistics partner.

Medmate supports patient continuity of care by providing them with convenient and reliable access to essential medicines. It is also an enabler of community pharmacy by providing pharmacies with a powerful channel to digitally engage with their patients.

We know it’s been a tough few years for the Pharmacy industry but are there three tips you would give to another Pharmacist who is thinking of becoming a Pharmacy owner?

1.Are you really ready to own a pharmacy or do you just like the idea of being a business owner? Many prospective owners lack a true understanding of what it takes to run a pharmacy – the risks, sacrifices and challenges involved and how to be a successful leader. They need to learn to walk before they can fly. In other words, master the basics of running a pharmacy before you consider taking over the responsibility of owning one.

2.Engage with the right professionals, preferably ones that specialise in the pharmacy industry – particularly accounting, financial services, legal services and insurance.

3.Due diligence – get your advisors to thoroughly review the financial health of your prospective purchase. In addition, carefully review the lease (rent and terms) as this can have a critical impact on business viability.

Can you tell us why you chose Carollo Horton to help with your insurance needs?

I really value the personalised service Carollo Horton provide. Giuseppe takes the time to understand my business and tailors the policy to meet my needs. Initially I had only insured one of my pharmacies with Carollo Horton but now I insure three pharmacies and other assets with them.

Carollo Horton saves me time and money – I trust Carollo Horton to source the most cost-effective policy that adequately meets the requirements of the particular asset. Knowing my insurance needs are in capable hands frees me up to focus on other things.

Additionally, Carollo Horton provide advice and risk mitigation strategies that extend beyond the insurance of my hard assets. For example, Giuseppe took the time to explain cyber security, the real threat of IT breaches and the importance of cyber security. Carollo Horton are able to provide a solution that is tailored to our needs.

What’s next for yourself and WholeLife Pharmacy?

There is constantly new product development emerging in the holistic health category. We will keep expanding and evolving our product range. It’s important to us that our product range remains relevant and aligned with the current trends and needs of our community. With pandemic restrictions easing, we are looking to introduce product sampling/tasting as new products are introduced into the pharmacy.

We are also looking to expand and promote clinical services, including Naturopath consultations, regular health clinics, one-on-one consults and vaccinations.

Being a pharmacist in today’s world and into the future offers more opportunities than ever before. Our scope extends well beyond the simple, although crucial, function of medication supply. I’m proud that pharmacy is increasingly being recognised by our community and the healthcare industry as a key partner within the Primary Health Network. Our participation in the delivery of critical health initiatives, such as the National Covid Vaccination Program reinforces this position.  

For more information on WholeLife Pharmacy & Healthfoods Langwarrin visit their website here.

Wael Hanna, owner and Pharmacist of WholeLife Pharmacy & Healthfoods Langwarrin and co-founder of Medmate
Wael Hanna, owner of WholeLife Pharmacy & Healthfoods and co-founder of Medmate