How Canadian Pharmacists can use mobile to transform their role in healthcare

Disruption is happening in every industry. You only have to look as far as the bankruptcy of Blockbuster from the disruption of Netflix, or the taxicab drivers picketing the rise of Uber in cities across the world. Up until now the world of pharmacy has avoided such disruption, but that doesn’t mean it’s not coming. The wave of online and mobile shopping continues to grow. Pharmacy has been given somewhat of a buffer because of the high volume of older patients that constitute their major demographic. But that’s changing. In recent surveys, a different picture is beginning to be painted. 73% of patients surveyed said that they would prefer to use a smartphone to refill their prescription. 68% of consumers own a smartphone, and that is a 24%increase from 2015. One of the most telling statistics is that the rate of smartphone ownership in Canadians over the age of 65 grew 63% last year. Stats like this make it evident that if you don’t have a strategy to win these customers, your pharmacy may be the next Blockbuster.

As a physician myself, I’ve seen our profession go through evolution. My father first started as a physician the Doctor house call was still a thing. From that, we moved to busy waiting rooms and overcrowded emergency rooms and now it has come full circle again. More evident in the American market, the doctor will now again come to you in your home but this time through your computer your tablet or smartphone. Companies like American well and Dr. On-Demand have seen incredible growth south of the border. The change is coming to Canada as well. Young companies like Akira and Maple (Both integrated with the PopRx App for serving prescriptions) are already finding success in providing on-demand services to Canadians who are looking for alternative solutions. In a similar way, I see the world of the pharmacy and the pharmacist significantly changing over the next few years. I believe that the world of pharmacy and the role of a pharmacist sets up even more favorably for disruption with technology.

Pharmacists already see the change in their role being pushed on them by provincial governments. The days of generating income solely from filling prescription are over. This is probably for the better because a pharmacist is much more than a pill packer. Pharmacists are valued members of the primary care team and often a front line for Canadian healthcare. Low skill tasks such as filling are being outsourced to technicians or automated machines. This change should allow a pharmacist to start increasing their revenue with additional revenue generating activities ‘RGA.’

In the Canadian healthcare system, there is a void that clinical pharmacists need to fill. Canadian primary care physicians and specialists are just too busy to engage in proper medical therapy management of patients. This causes the government significant amount of money in poor drug adherence and complications of drug therapy. Canadian pharmacists should start considering prescriptions not as mere medications to fill but as a consult for medication management. Further, the provincial governments need to step up to the plate to provide pharmacists with legislation increasing their scope of practice and providing proper reimbursement for the role that pharmacists play in primary care.

Other provinces should look to examples like Alberta, who have significantly increased the scope of practice of clinical pharmacists. Services like drug injection therapy, immunizations, diabetes and hypertension management, and minor ailment prescribing are all services that should be pushed from primary care physicians to pharmacists to decrease the burden on the system.

To me, one of the most exciting parts of the evolution of the role pharmacist is that the majority of the services a pharmacist can provide a patient can be done remotely. A patient can upload his daily glucose scores for a pharmacist to review and adjust their medications, they can use Bluetooth devices to record and report vitals including blood pressure allowing pharmacists to make adjustments to medical management and lifestyle suggestions. Medical management of minor ailments can help significantly reduce the burden of the primary care system, and almost all of the can be diagnosed and treated through Telehealth consultations. This list includes:

  • Allergic Rhinitis (hay fever)
  • Contact Allergic Dermatitis (allergic skin rash)
  • Dysmenorrhea (pre-menstrual and menstrual pain)
  • Emergency Contraception
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (Heartburn)
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Herpes Simplex (cold sores)
  • Minor skin rashes, infections
  • Minor Joint, Muscle Pain
  • Minor Sleep Disorders
  • Nicotine dependence
  • Non-infectious Diarrhea
  • Oral Fungal Infection (Thrush)
  • Oral Ulcers (Canker sores)
  • Threadworms and Pinworms
  • Urinary Tract Infection (uncomplicated)
  • Vaginal Candidiasis (yeast infection)
  • Warts (excluding facial and genital)
Imagine decrease in wait times if these ailments were diverted out of walk-in clinics and emergency rooms and into pharmacies, or better yet onto telehealth run by clinical pharmacists?

These changes will not just happen. Pharmacists need to take the opportunity of patients coming in for prescriptions to engage them on a more significant level. I believe that the power of mobile is the perfect tool for this. Here are some of the steps that pharmacists need to start taking to be proactive in capturing the growing mobile pharmacy market.

  • Start collecting emails. Just like other retailers that point-of-purchase is an opportunity to start your engagement with that patient on a digital level. By getting their email address, you can send them an introductory email that can onboard them to your digital platform and informs them of all the services you can provide them.
  • Provided digital introduction to yourself and your pharmacy. Often patients will come into a pharmacy filled a prescription pay and never know where the pharmacist If you want to develop a relationship with this patient they should know who you are and what you can offer them as primary care per practitioner. Again this is not possible if you don’t have their email.
  • Engage. Just onboarding is not enough you need to give patients a reason to interact with you. Once they’ve downloaded your app make sure they know what services you provide and how they can book them. The best way to interact with them on a daily basis is to engage them in medical adherence. That way every time they take their medication they are interacting with you and your pharmacy. Here at PopRx we believe this component is extremely important. It ties into their daily routine. A simple reminder is not enough that’s why we built an amazing and interactive adherence platform that rewards patients for medication adherence with points redeemable for gift cards. We make it fun we make it a game, and that’s what you need to stand out in an app store filled with thousands of apps.
  • Offer convenience. Offer these patients the same convenience that they get in every aspect of their life. With a push a button they can order almost anything from Amazon and have it delivered in 24–48hrs. They can have their groceries delivered and with a push of a button they can order take-out or call for an Uber. Why would these same consumers expect anything less from the pharmacy?
  • Collect data. The more information you have on a patient, the more you’ll be able to help them improve their health and offer them great service. If you know your patient has hypertension and high cholesterol and what medications there on, when they fill the medications you can offer them helpful suggestions like possibly blood pressure monitoring or helpful supplements to reduce their cholesterol level. This is beneficial for both the patient and the bottom line of your pharmacy.
  • Use the power of mobile to grow. Once you’re using the power of mobile to run your pharmacy you can also use it to grow. Running viral referral campaigns using reward points as incentives and just the fact that customers can join your pharmacy without ever having to step foot in a physical location gives you an advantage over your competitors.

Mobile technology is not a magic bullet that will increase the bottom line of your pharmacy immediately. It is a fundamental shift that has to be embraced by your entire organization from the pharmacist to the cashiers. Just making the investment to build or buy a mobile app is the first step, and if you stop there, you’re likely to fail. The pharmacist needs to be interacting with patients digitally. The cashiers need to be pushing the application at the point-of-purchase. You need to make an investment in making the strategy successful.

That is where a company like PopRX becomes valuable. We’re not just developers of the most advanced mobile pharmacy platform, but we work with you and your team to make the transition to success. We provide growth strategies, promotional material, advertising campaigns, staff training, and customization for larger customers. In the new era of the digital pharmacy, there will be winners and losers. You have to decide in which column your pharmacy is going to be in. In the next months and years, there will be a rush to capture these mobile customers. Once loyal and engaged to your platform the likelihood that they will switch is highly unlikely. PopRX is working with dozens of pharmacies across Canada to help them stake their claim to these customers.

Get in contact with us today to see how you can join the PopRx family. 
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