- Written by Cathy Kuhn, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, director of Strategy Consulting, Updox
Community pharmacies have served patients as the original one-stop-shops for prescriptions, medical supplies and familial customer service since the 19th century. But with the recent influx of commercial retail pharmacies, technology innovations and consumer trends transforming the healthcare industry, the number of privately-owned pharmacies has decreased over the last decade.
According to a survey from NCPA Digest, the number of community pharmacies in the United States dropped 5.3% to fewer than 22,000 between 2011 and 2017. This recent decline is in part due to two factors:
- Consumer driven trends – Patient expectations have begun to mirror those associated with retail consumerism.
- Lack of engagement with aging customers and Millennial audiences – Advancements in technology have changed the way audiences of all ages communicate and conduct business for their personal and healthcare related affairs.
With factors like these, private pharmacy owners are left to wonder… “How do I remain the cornerstone of community health?”
A Culture of Convenience
With consumerism trends characterized by online refill requests, electronic payments, online appointment scheduling, video calls and wearable technology, patients have grown to adopt the same expectations for their pharmacies as they do for other aspects of their everyday lives.
Investing in innovative technology has allowed big-box retail pharmacies – like CVS, Walgreens or Amazon online pharmacy – the ability to weather changing customer expectations by facilitating the convenience of nationwide systems that patients can easily access at a moment’s notice.
With 69% of Americans visiting their pharmacy at least once a month, and 64% considering their pharmacist as part of their healthcare team, community pharmacies must keep up with this culture of consumerism to compete. In order for community pharmacies to maintain their place as trusted care team members, and offer the same convenience options that larger retail businesses provide, they must integrate a personal touch and technological advancements to recruit new customers, maintain their current ones and make it easier for customers to step foot in their doors – both physically and digitally.
Reaching Consumers Where They Are
Accommodating the diverse patient needs of current and prospective customers is another factor impacting community pharmacies.
While they have smaller budgets for pharmacist technology services than national chains, private pharmacy owners must invest in those same services to remain relevant. Before choosing digital pharmacy tools that can accommodate secure text messaging, refill reminders and video chat capabilities, pharmacy owners must consider the following questions:
- How can this tool help me acquire new patients for my pharmacy?
- How will this tool help me engage my current customer base in a secure way?
- Does this meet consumers’ technology standards?
Technology Solutions for Community Pharmacies
Recent innovations in healthcare technology may seem frustrating in the sense that an increase in solutions also increases the number of system management pain points for private pharmacy owners. But by adopting solutions compatible with their current management software to streamline day-to-day business practices, owners can:
- Accommodate the changing needs of their current customer-base
- Meet the consumer-driven expectations of prospective customers
- Save time and money with new healthcare technology solutions.
By investing in healthcare innovations, like Updox’s all-in-one healthcare collaboration platform, privately owned pharmacies can increase their revenue, improve customer engagement and create new customer relationships.
To learn more about how Updox’s Engagement solutions can benefit your pharmacy through secure text, video chat and other digital solutions, contact us today.
About the Author: Cathy Kuhn, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, is director of Strategy Consulting for Updox and serves as “voice of the clinician” for Updox solutions and services. She is past president of the Ohio Pharmacists Association and current president of the American Pharmacist’s Association’s (APhA) Academy of Pharmacy Practice and Management and APhA board member.