In the last decade we saw the rise of Irish Retail Pharmacies as major eCommerce players. Focusing on Fragrance, Skincare & Makeup they capitalised on an explosion in online interest. However, for local community centred pharmacies that had neither the range of product nor the price competitiveness required this tide did not provide the same lift
pharmacies core business is health care.
Prescriptions & Advice are the lifeblood and that was rooted firmly
in bricks and mortar. That is not a criticism
online sale of pharmaceuticals is a minefield and online it was firmly
associated with criminal elements. Both
Stripe and Google have stringent rules around advertising or payment processing
for anything even remotely pharmaceutical for this very reason. As far as advice goes, we are all familiar
with the rabbit holes we can end up falling down thanks to Dr Google.
The IPU &
HSE have been glacial in their approach to online and this is no bad thing
considering the consequences of getting it wrong but as with many other aspects
of business Covid 19 has changed the goalposts and an they have had to
respond. We are finally seeing the
emergence of truly digital pharmacies.
digital pharmacy mean? Let us start with
prescriptions. In the old-world
prescriptions are handwritten notes telling the pharmacists what medicines a
patient must have. The patient would
take their paper to their preferred pharmacy and the Pharmacists fills the
In the face
of Covid the need for physical content had to be reduced, keeping in mind that
those on regular pharmaceutical regimes were highly likely to be in the “at
risk” category the pharmacy trade had to respond. For the pharmacy they began offering home
delivery service for those in need. The
HSE responded by relaxing the rules on how pharmacies receive prescriptions
using an existing system (Health Mail) GPs for the first time ever were allowed
to email your prescription directly to a pharmacy. This is the first step towards a fully
digital prescription service. We believe
that in the near future we will see the option to have the prescription emailed
to a pharmacy of your choice or directly to yourself so that you can make a
choice. Equally we believe that
prescription delivery (Prescription by post) will be allowed and widely
adopted. This has not happened yet but
it has already existed in the UK for several years and its introduction will
give community pharmacies the ability to finally embrace online tools to the
same degree that their , more retail focussed, counterparts have.
digital transformation will not stop there as once you can receive your
medicine remotely you must also be able to access advice in the same way. Live chat is all ready appearing more
frequently and Covid has pushed us all into accepting video calls as a normal
way to converse. Pharmacies will embrace
digital communication allowing them to give advice and support to those who are
further afield or unable to travel. In a
few short years we will think nothing of joining a video call to seek advice
from the experts on everything from Smoking cessation & nail biting to that
weird rash. Pharmacies will see
consultation rooms equipped with camera & screen as the new normal.
pharmacy will not become virtual, at the end of the day many of us need to
attend in person but there too digital tools have a role to play. The HSE have set the number of people likely
to need Flu Vaccines this season at close to two million and until we can find
alternatives to injections many of those will attend their local pharmacy. In the current climate pharmacies need a way of
safely managing the Vaccine delivery whilst minimising the risk. Many pharmacies are already embracing digital
tools to do just that.
totalhealth are one such brand and across most of their 80 stores you can now book a specific time and date to attend the pharmacy for your Vaccine. This can be done via their App or directly on their website in a matter of minutes. totalhealth have already begun to develop a full range of services that can be accessed via there growing digital footprint the Flu Vaccine is just the beginning.
ability to organise a safe schedule for their customers is the driver of this
change and the community are engaging with these options more readily than ever
the recent leap forward into digital transformation was born of necessity but
the simplicity and convenience now on offer along with the growing familiarity
across all age groups with digital tools mean that it is here to stay.