Type in your medicine name and your doctor’s name. Then have your treatments linked direct to your home or workplace. It is a hotspot offering for a busy person, but the stability of online pharmacy is far from certain.
Pharmacy multiples are putting in heavily in online services in an effort to challenge with online companies such as Pharmacy2U and other likely new competitors, including Amazon. The government says that healthcare customers are increasingly demanding more available and convenient online services that have become the new standard in retail and banking. But is pharmacy a special category?
Estimates from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) for April 2018 indicate that 17.3% of all retail in Great Britain now takes place online, surge from around 10% five years ago. “online pharmacy accounts for half a percent of the total prescription market today”, but he believes there is “huge growth potential”.
Internet-only companies have seen huge market growth over the past five years. As per the ONS, 8.6% of all retail business is done by retailers without stores — those such as online and mail order organizations, market stalls and door-to-door vendors.
The physical and digital worlds of healthcare can be compatible with each other to provide much more customer choices. The Lloydspharmacy Online Doctor services was one of the first online healthcare company to sign in with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and more than 1.4 million patients have set up with the service since 2002.
The companies are planning to introduce new services that make it accessible for patients to keep a track of their health online. Technology can be utilized to assist people better manage their long-term situation, so that is an area where we are interested in developing new services.”
Physical and digital worlds of healthcare can complement each other to render more customer choice. For instance, a patient who utilizes online doctor service may need contraception. One of the doctors can suggest this online for the patient to collect in a pharmacy. When they go to pick up their medication from the pharmacy, the pharmacist will do checks, such as checking their BMI, to make sure it is safe to dispense.”
Some Pharmacy has recently advanced an app as part of its new online prescription services. It will permit consumers to order both repetitive and one-off prescriptions and builds on continuing online prescription service and hub-and-spoke dispensing model.
Collecting medicines in a pharmacy is not going to make it for everyone and neither is doing it delivered to their home, so it is looking at both of these choices and considering others.
How big will it get?
In the United States, big pharmacy retailers such as Walgreens and CVS have been focusing on the “online space” for a moment, and online pharmacy is hugely becoming much more normalized, Sheldon says. Rumors around 2017 that Amazon was about to enter in the drug distribution space, initially in the USA, have not yet come to reality and these plans have taken rest, at least in the short term
There are a few reasons which are holding back online pharmacy in the UK, says Sheldon, in relation to a lack of customer trust. Online pharmacies, which are overlooked by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), are usually linked to online prescribing services, which have been obstructed by questions over the quality of care they render. In 2017, the CQC figured that 86% of online primary care providers were not rendering “safe” care, which led to two services closing – Doctor Matt and MD Direct.
There is also a lacuna in the regulations, online prescribing services just have to register with the CQC if they recruit a listed healthcare professional, which does not involve pharmacists.
Providers who recruit only pharmacist prescribers can use this gap in the regulations, suggesting that the systems and procedures used are not under the remit of any regulator despite the individuals themselves are regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council
While some would disagree that the appeal for online pharmacy services is likely to increase, the agreement is that the significant proportion of online sales is not likely to reach the level of the retail sector. Pharmacy consumers choose to shop online less often because having their prescription dispensed is usually reactive. Also ordering medicines online can create distance between patients and local pharmacy.
Community pharmacy has to recognize the online trend, and “likely step up what it proposes on a personal level because those kind of clinical services are moving to become more and more significant in keeping the customer patient base”.
What about smaller pharmacies?
“We think that pharmacies require an internet presence. As it’s important to aim at providing a service for the whole country. We need to utilize the internet to improve and increase the local services that we already provide. The sort of online presence a community pharmacy should provide will vary from their customer base and what customers are looking for.
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