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The Transformation of Pharmacy

“I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant: I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.”

– Hypocratic Oath

It has become a leitmotiv: “Pharmacy needs to transform from product to service.” But how so? As part of the healthcare ecosystem, pharmacies share common objectives such as improving and maintaining the health of patients at the lowest possible cost to the system. Retail pharmacies are now thinking about the Pharmacy of the Future with a stronger integration of the pharmacist as a personal care point of contact who can guide patients along their healthcare lifecycle. Pharmacies are changing from a transactional model to a relational model, where pharmacists are at the center of the experience. 

One important thing to notice is that pharmacies present intervention for multiple buyer personae and at different stages of the health cycle. Pharmacies can be a “destination for the healthy” and a “solution center for the sick” at the same time. When people are healthy, the pharmacy is the logical choice for products and services to remain healthy. When people have chronic illness, pharmacists can help them manage their condition. When they have an injury or illness, pharmacy is the top of mind choice to guide them on their journey back to health.

A first set of actions consists in expanding immunization programs. Today pharmacies mostly offer seasonal flu shots. What if, in the future, they could offer year-round immunizations allowing patients to access all types of vaccines against pneumonia, shingles or even travel vaccines. 

Another set of actions to become a first-hand center for the sick would be to convert into a point-of-care testing. Patients could proceed to basic testing at the pharmacy for blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar. Early detection and diagnosis would enable immediate treatment and avoid costly complications later. As Chris Dimos, President of retail solutions at McKesson anticipates, retail pharmacies could even offer things like “pharmacogenomic testing to help patients understand how their genes affect their body’s response to the medication and which medication may be right for them.” In other words, multiply the number of point-of-care technology for screening and testing.

In addition, pharmacies could become an omnichannel platform for health resources. An app could connect patients to online health information. Specialists could offer face-to-face counseling with patients on wellness topics such as smoking cessation, planned parenthood, or nutrition. Videos could run in-store, and flyers could be provided at the counter.  Patients could enjoy two-way digital communication with their pharmacist via an app or video conferencing. The customer journey would be more integrated as well, with patients ordering refills online and getting their drugs delivered to their home, as the digital pharmacy Alto is already enabling: it streamlines the prescription procurement process and offers digital tools to further improve the experience of every party involved. Patients can consult with Alto’s support team seven days a week and get prescriptions delivered to their door for free through Alto’s mobile app; doctors gain time thanks to the AltoMD solution that automates time-consuming prescription management tasks.

Finally, wearables, sensors and remote monitoring could provide additional data for the pharmacist to alert patients with asthma that they’re at risk because of their ambient air quality and provide recommendations such as using a rescue inhaler or staying away from high-allergen areas. Smart bathrooms equipped with connected toilets will help gather further patient information (Read our article Are we ready for Smart Toilets?). Collected patient data could also help build predictive analysis models and improve diagnosis and recommendations. 

Consequently, the Pharmacy of the Future will continue to sell medicine and wellness products, but in addition it will provide patients with clinical services (immunization, testing, first-aid), as well as health and wellness information. A correlated questions is: how are pharmacists be prepared for this change of job, which will not only include further knowledge of drugs, but also communication skills? And always the recurring yet crucial question: who will pay for these extended services?


Published by Sylvia

Futurist - Futures Thinking & Strategic Foresight

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