The Pharmacy Industry has always been a highly competitive industry. Up until recent years, competition was easily managed and understood i.e. good store location, good store presence, good personnel and stock selection/buying strategy all backed up with a good online store presence and marketing strategy would make your pharmacy highly Competitive.
Now though in recent times, the need to be even more competitive is manifesting as a result of tighter margins, new legislations and the growing presence of larger Chains.
Due to these pressures, many Pharmacies have begun looking to the PharmaTech sector to see what innovations can help them to become more disruptive to gain a larger competitive edge. For a while now these innovations have come in the form of EPOS, Dispensary and Stock Control software's which have without doubt benefited pharmacies. Pharmacies though are really looking further afield to see what is the next best innovation that can affect Customers Experience, Loyalty, Patient Engagement and have most impact to their bottom line.
The trend now from 2018 we are starting to finally see some real innovation into the Pharmacy Sector through Mobile & Apps that can assist with all these areas. This article contains a list of advantages and disruptions Apps offer that Pharmacies should be aware of and should possibly consider as reasons for developing a Mobile App to protect their markets from competitors while driving incremental savings and revenues on top.
1. Mobile Direct Engagement Channel:
Right away, the most obvious reason for developing a Mobile App is similar in a way to reason why your Pharmacy developed a Website. Creating a website gave you an online presence for your products and services. Developing a Mobile App on the other hand gives your Pharmacy permanent physical presence on the Patients handset and can allow you to engage with Patients instantaneously regardless of their location and activity for all services. This level of engagement makes this one of the most important communication channels you can have with your Patients that should not be ignored or left open solely to your competitors to occupy given its reach, convenience and potential.
2. Enhancing Prescription Management & Experience:
Prescriptions have to be one of the highest priorities for Pharmacies just by nature of trade and a Mobile App can significantly offer an enhanced mobile experience for same. For Prescription ordering for example you can facilitate to your Patients instant re-ordering of any repeats stored on file. This is achieved as the Patients current and active prescriptions can be listed in app automatically back from your MPS Dispensary. Note the App can even facilitate first time prescription ordering also with Photoscript ordering feature.
All Mobile Prescription orders are then of course proviso you have an MPS Dispensary system, automated next to appear in your MPS Dispensary Queue. Not only is this offering an enhanced Patient Experience so they can skip any queuing time but simultaneously adding efficiency to your dispensary operations by making dispensing time more efficient through automation.
The power of this can be quite significant, placing all power to the patient to instantly and conveniently order prescriptions and view their Patient records with the Pharmacy. More over the app can open up instant messaging channels so Pharmacists can communicate with Patients instantly e.g. if not all stock available and wish to offer a generic. The use cases here are endless.
The most important aspect is that all of this enhanced experience can be securely offered in compliance with Data Protection by encrypting all traffic directly between the Patient and the Pharmacy Dispensary. Combining this security then with more in terms of Finger Print login to allow swift no hassle but secure access to their records to order prescriptions. It's an unmatched user experience that really differentiates Pharmacy apps to be immensely useful and convenient.
3. Extending Additional Services To Mobile:
Following on from the above, through this new channel all your additional existing services can be similarly enhanced. Not only can you instantly extend your Online Store presence to this channel but also for example offer a fully automated appointments booking system allowing users to find available slots e.g. for the Flu Shot, book that appointment directly instantly.
These are just two examples for extending Front of Shop Products or Service Appointments to Mobile, however you can even offer any unique Health Content or any of your other services in a similar way. In effect Mobile becomes another store and front for your Pharmacy direct to Patients.
4. Evolving & Enhancing Service Experiences:
Now that all your Pharmacies Products and Services are represented to the app channel via an app and because apps themselves are software solutions, they can add functionality that can greatly enhance the experience. Take example in screenshot above, where a simple notification can driving loyalty with Prescription refills, where Patients can receive a notification a few days before they need to refill a prescription item on file. This notification not only enhances the customers perception of care to them from your Pharmacy but dramatically increases the likelihood of a repeat visit to collect from your store.
Similarly appointments booking feature can be enhanced so Patient can be reminded day or hour in advance to boost attendance to affect revenues as well as allow Patient full self management to move dates reducing any internal admin.
These are just a few examples but show how apps can completely disrupt and enhance existing service experiences.
5. Apps Revolutionize Medication Compliance:
Another new area Apps are now facilitating is Medicine Compliance. Apps can have a full Medicine Reminder feature built in and automated for Patients to help remind them to take medications on time. Enhancing Medicine compliance to assist a Patients welfare is a positive brand association and increases again loyalty around prescriptions. Not only is this ethically a great thing to offer in terms of Patient welfare but it also ensures Patients takes medication as frequently as should and prompts that they refill with your pharmacy when complete for any refills due.
6. Convergent Opportunities:
One of the most exciting areas though is how Mobile Apps can help with other innovations and initiatives to boost their impact and success to become truly disruptive. For example many Pharmacies are now engaging in Prescription Delivery services. The Mobile App can play a central role in enabling and facilitating such a service right from ordering, to payment, to tracking and to order completion. Many Pharmacies have different models of how to operate a delivery service but a Mobile App would be crucial to be an intermediary channel to enable and facilitate such a service better.
Another appears to be Loyalty Platforms. We have a separate blog related to that here. In summary any loyalty program can be integrated to the Mobile App so now Customers don't need to carry plastic cards and can instantly view their points/rewards that applies to them boosting any loyalty scheme.
While the above is just a short summary teaser, the full impact of what an app can do for your Pharmacy is largely drive by your USP and current services offered and how they can be enhanced. Developing a Mobile App Strategy should start initially with an MVP (Minimum Viable Proposition) of the core needs that can boost your pharmacy in the quickest time. Then quarter by quarter or year by year add new functionalities to your app in an iterative format so as you can gradually grow the app easily in a manageable way out in response to your Patients needs and based on app performance results.
The overall conclusion though is these enhancements are so disruptive and convenient for Patients that Pharmacies need to consider not being left behind in the coming PharmTech wave and losing out to their competitors who establish a really disruptive and compelling app proposition. Pharmacies that develop an app sooner than later would be prudent to de-risk any threat while at same time maximising any disruptive gain opportunity. Moreover the costs to explore this opportunity have now been reduced significantly due to technical innovations making it a simple matter to evaluate the results for yourself.