Is E-Commerce the Answer for The Future of Pharmacy?
The pharmaceutical industry is in the midst of a new digital revolution, driven by two major factors: increasing customer demands and the recent pandemic. The growth of e-commerce has been rapid, with some companies doubling their revenue in less than 1 year.
In recent years, virtual patient care and e-commerce for pharmacies have increasingly spread across the industry and have now become an integral part of healthcare delivery.
Consumer expectations, changes in legislation, and the drive to lower prescription prices are driving the growth of pharmacy e-commerce. Pharmacy leaders need to consider the challenges and best practices of e-commerce in order to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the digital service model.
The great shift in consumer purchasing behavior
While e-commerce is nothing new, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a huge shift in consumer behavior as traditional in-person healthcare services have gone virtual and online prescription buying has gone from a mere convenience to an essential lifeline. Pharmaceutical e-commerce shows no sign of abating in the next post-pandemic world as many consumers have become accustomed to the convenience – and often lower cost – of remote delivery.
What’s driving the growth of pharmacy e-commerce?
Government and consumer demands to reduce the cost of prescriptions, as well as industry and regulatory efforts to ease restrictions on telepharmacy, are among the factors driving the growth of pharmacy e-commerce. Recognizing the opportunity, e-commerce giants and telemedicine startups have tapped into the online pharmacy market, spurring competition between established pharmacies and other healthcare providers.
How can independent pharmacies compete?
To compete successfully in this growing market, independent pharmacy owners must understand the challenges and opportunities associated with moving to an e-commerce model, as well as best practices for launching a successful pharmacy e-commerce platform. Customer requirements, competition and regulatory barriers are all challenges independent pharmacy owners face. The evolution of consumer needs and preferences due to COVID-19 has made pharmacy e-commerce an integral part of healthcare delivery.
Consumers’ expectations have increased
More than a year after the start of the pandemic, consumers now expect all retailers, including pharmacies, to provide online convenience with fast (and usually free) shipping. Consumers don’t just expect price reductions; they demand superior levels of service, convenience, innovation, and personalization. They want to be able to choose when and where to receive services that are increasingly being provided online. When it comes to customer service, consumers compare pharmacies to all other businesses, regardless of industry.
The challenges pharmacy faces
This challenges pharmacists not only to deliver a positive customer experience in person, but also through digital channels. Even before the pandemic, independent pharmacies were facing challenges, including reduced reimbursements and reduced prescription rates. When the pandemic hit, pharmacies faced reduced attendance due to stay-at-home orders, delayed election procedures, and COVID-19-related job losses, resulting in the loss of health insurance for millions of people.
In addition, there are competitive threats, with a US e-commerce giant entering the pharmacy industry, a large warehouse club retailer offering same-day delivery to the pharmacy, and large pharmacy chains consolidating to increase their presence and market power. Faced with all these challenges, many community pharmacy owners have been looking for exit strategies, leading to more consolidation. Geographic restrictions on telemedicine services and federal price cut proposals threaten the margins of many pharmacies.
Advanced technology opens doors to more services
While COVID-19 has led to the relaxation of some digital pharmacy regulations, and some form of telemedicine itself is permitted in all 50 states, 32 states are considered “restrictive” when it comes to e-commerce pharmacy services. Usually in practice, according to TelePharm’s analysis. Additionally, public anger over rising prescription costs and price differences between the U.S. and other industrialized nations has sparked regulatory interest in price controls. However, regulations that may lower prices for consumers do not necessarily lower costs for independent pharmacies.
Consumer demand, advanced technology and the expanding role of the pharmacist present opportunities. E-services are accepted not only by young people. Contrary to what many believe, baby boomers are fueling the e-pharmacy market as Americans aged 50 and over are now adopting consumer technology at a rate close to those aged 18 to 49, according to a 2020 AARP report.
In addition, according to a survey by Healthinsurance.com, the use of telemedicine among Medicare recipients increased by 340% during the pandemic. A third of respondents reported that they ordered prescription drugs from an online pharmacy. And almost a third said they monitor their health with wearable devices.
By investing in better technology, as well as expanding their retail footprint, independent pharmacies can benefit from a host of services and tools that add value to both pharmacists and consumers, including telemedicine, vaccine delivery, and remote patient monitoring.
Although the adoption of digital pharmacy services has been gradually increasing until 2020, with the outbreak of the virus, both adoption and usage have skyrocketed. Says Nicolle McClure from GRX Marketing, who specializes in digital marketing services for independent pharmacy owners.
The easing of restrictions due to the pandemic has allowed pharmacists in many states to process prescriptions and drug orders remotely, allowing community pharmacies to remain open and in touch with customers.
The patients digital experience is important
Pharmacy e-commerce must now become a mainstay in healthcare delivery as consumers and pharmacists reap the benefits. Immunization services generate income both from the services themselves and from attendance. Independent retail pharmacies are playing an important role in delivering COVID-19 vaccines using technologies that provide an end-to-end digital experience.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) technology collects health data from individuals and shares it with healthcare professionals to assess patient health outside of the clinical setting. With RPM, local pharmacists can play a key role in patient care, as they are already trained in interpreting biological data, managing medications, and advising patients for a variety of chronic conditions. In addition to data tracking, pharmacies are well positioned to deploy these devices, providing an additional revenue stream.
Pharmacist roles are expanding
The traditional role of the pharmacist is based on the technology behind the delivery of prescriptions to patients, but many pharmacies do not use all of the patient-centered technologies available to them. Attention to patient care is particularly important as pharmacists do more than just write prescriptions such as patient education, drug therapy management, drug monitoring, disease management, and vaccine administration. Indeed, various lobbying efforts have prompted pharmacists to seek nationwide supplier status, as their legal options vary from state to state.
Author: Carole Jackson | Sofyia Rx
About Sofyia Rx
Sofyia Rx helps independent pharmacy owners maximize their spend and grow their bottom line.
Sofyia automatically compares VAWD/ADD wholesalers and optimizes your cart, so you maximize on your complimentary distributor allowance. Our powerfully simple solution takes the guesswork out of saving on your pharma purchasing.
Our platform is the most powerful, yet easy-to-use and secure way to maximize profitability on every product your pharmacy needs. Time is money and Sofyia is the only platform that saves you both.
Our network of the top VAWD (ADD) accredited distributors, wholesalers, and manufacturers provides you access to the highest-quality products at the lowest prices from suppliers you can trust.
We’ve taken the traditional price comparison platform and redefined it to be a true solution for the Independent Pharmacy. Time is money. Sofyia is the only platform that saves you both. Compare prices on thousands of medications from accredited suppliers across the nation.
Contact Sofyia Rx