Like all businesses, pharmacies are facing disruptive forces and sometimes it may feel overwhelming. How do you keep your business running smoothly while preparing for major changes ahead?
Focus on the big picture
When you are entrenched in the day-to-day challenges of running a pharmacy it seems that the outside environment is throwing up a constant stream of new developments that threaten the way you have always done business.
Certainly the PBS reforms have shaken up the competitive landscape and are a very real concern for many pharmacies. But rather than seeing this as a battle to be fought, it’s worthwhile taking some breathing space and seeing the changes in perspective of some major trends that are happening now – and the opportunity they bring.
The World Wide Web, email and social media networks are today’s mainstream means of communication with consumers and businesses alike connecting daily to research, share information and publish opinions.
Now, the human-based internet is rapidly expanding to the ‘internet of things’ where physical objects are embedded with sensors to enable data to be collected and feedback information.
From fitness-tracking devices, to smart devices that monitor and report remotely an individual’s blood pressure or heart rate, developments in these ‘smart’ technologies are set to revolutionise the healthcare system.
Online and always on
More and more people are using their mobile device on the go to get online rather than use a fixed desktop computer. If we follow the lead of overseas which seems likely, then mobile internet use will shortly overtake fixed line access.
In addition, the trend to be without a landline completely (for telephone or internet) is increasing, particularly among the younger demographic with over 20% of Australians mobile-only internet users, i.e. accessing the internet with their smart phone, tablet or mobile broadband connection.
The empowered consumer
Today’s consumer is connected, time-poor and more cynical than ever about advertising. The traditional linear ‘buyer journey’ where consumers had promotional messages ‘pushed’ to them from businesses, is much less relevant in the digital age. Now consumers travel a more complex and dynamic path, doing their own research, reading reviews on social media or other online forums, and interacting with brands through a range of ‘touch points’.
To succeed in this environment, businesses need to meet customers in their community where they ‘hang out’ and be part of their conversation, for example posting helpful information on a Facebook post. Consumers also value a seamless purchase experience with their service providers across their internet, mobile, phone and face-face communications.
Health, wealth and demographics
While the ageing population presents challenges to the healthcare system, longer life expectancies can also be a positive with more people taking control of their well-being.
Many older consumers are more cashed up, fitter and health conscious than previous generations and are actively seeking out quality, health and lifestyle solutions, outside of publicly provided options – which are set to become less accessible as governments reduce health budgets.
Another key trend is an increased focus on health prevention across all age groups. While awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle is widespread, people admit that they need help in translating this knowledge into healthy behaviours. This ‘health is the new wealth’ movement presents a huge opportunity for healthcare providers including pharmacies.
Next steps in pharmacy evolution
Increased connectivity and consumerism, powered by technological advancements, are set to transform healthcare provision. In this new world, pharmacies will need to adapt their businesses, perhaps updating their systems, processes and culture to meet the challenges ahead. What type of role do you see your pharmacy playing in this scenario?
CEO of Fred IT Group, Paul Naismith said that technology has changed the way pharmacy once operated and has helped close the gap between doctors, pharmacists and patients with eRx, Australia’s first and largest ePrescription exchange service, an example of this.
“eRx Script Exchange, has been a key part of this. eRx is one element of a connected eHealth system; creating efficiencies and putting health back into the hands of consumers.”