Every day, pharmacies are shifting into our homes and are presenting new areas for stakeholders to consider.
The current retail pharmacy industry is valued at $460 billion, and their consumers are increasingly demanding a digital experience that parallels the broader ecommerce experience.
That translates into omnichannel experiences, convenience, and fast digital experiences, despite the widely varied reasons for why people come to a pharmacy website.
Ensuring the experience is spot on for different groups of consumers is the priority.
For consumers who are driven by convenience, they are experimenting with new pharmacies entering the digital space, opening up opportunities for greater ecommerce competition.
Then there are customers who suffer from some type of chronic pain that are looking for clinical support both at home and digitally.
These developments put pressure on pharmacies – both traditional and new – when it comes to attempting to define their future value propositions. At the same time, these big changes present new areas for stakeholders across the value chain, giving pharma players a chance to move at speed.
S’all about convenience
Besides the two types of consumers that we touched on earlier, there is another type of consumer: those that are simply looking for convenience. Whether they’re busy parents, young pros, retirees, etc., they’re looking to make things simpler. There is where newer pharma entrants are making faster inroads to meet these demands.
They’re working to meet this need and are achieving early market traction. A physician can prescribe a new prescription online, the customer pays online, and the prescription is delivered the next day. Also, as well as providing convenience, delivery and medication synchronization can improve medication adherence.
Support for chronic conditions
The second type of consumer, those that are in need of support for chronic pain, for many of them they are trying to manage multiple medications. Bu they also want to go to a pharmacist that they know and trust.
Complex chronic homebound patients who have to take multiple medications and often face adherence challenges. Put simply, they could do with a hand, and benefit from a high-touch pharmacist model that includes adherence counseling and medication reconciliation. Also, these categories of patients are at higher risk of paying high medical costs.
Why welcome the shift?
There are plenty of questions surrounding the issue of how the delivery of pharmacy care is rapidly evolving – from tech-enabled models to traditional models, in-person pickups to delivery, and from outpatient hospitals and clinics to the greater comfort of home. This shift is being welcomed by plenty of pharma businesses because as of now, ecommerce penetration of retail pharmacy is pretty low when compared to almost all other retail categories.
But it’s not so easy to drive ecommerce deeper into the pharmacy landscape. And there are challenges of moving the pharmacy further into the home. Several challenges of serving the pharmacy market have delayed this move into the home, and they include:
Pharmacy does more than deliver drugs. New pharma businesses have quickly shown they can offer drug fulfillment and same-day delivery. Yet many patients rely on clinical support from their pharmacists. This can present itself as medication review and reconciliation, as adherence counseling, limited prescribing, and disease management. To offer these services at home necessitates a fleet of pharmacists that are able to meet patients where they are.
Prohibitive cost of goods. When it comes to the competitive cost of goods sold as well as reimbursement rates, they more often than not come with scale. As a result, it can take new pharma businesses plenty of time to establish themselves. Which they’d have to ask whether it’s worth it.
Limited digital offerings. Offerings may not include Schedule 2 narcotics (which include drugs such as methadone, oxycodone, fentanyl, opium, and codeine). They may also only focus on one- or two-day delivery (for example, they exclude difficult-to-deliver but immediately needed acute scripts). And also, they may not always offer both traditional and specialty drugs at the same time.