It’s hard to keep up with the seemingly constant changes and developments in technology. We sought the views of a range of industry experts on the major trends, developments and concerns that you need to be aware of.
It’s hard enough to keep up with changes relating to your personal technology needs and requirements, so when business and professional technology changes are thrown into the mix, it can be a daunting prospect that leave many in pharmacy floundering.
There are constant changes in the automated systems available to help dispensing, packaging etc, changes to IT systems, dispensing software, technology security requirements and threats around data security…. The list of things to keep abreast of is seemingly endless.
We’ve spoken to a range of experts from different areas of pharmacy, and the surrounding industry, to seek their tips on some of the most relevant new developments that you need to be aware of.
4 tech trends to supercharge your pharmacy in 2019
Robert Sztar, pharmacist and tech guru. Owner of Pharmactive
- My Health Record (MHR)
With 84% of Australian Pharmacies (as at 13/1/19) now enabled to contribute to our patients’ MHR, pharmacists have the opportunity to lead from the front if we can successfully integrate our MHR interactions into our clinical workflow.
Action: (Especially for the benefit of vulnerable patients eg. Aged, Paediatric, those with carers) Ensure that all pharmacists can review their patients’ MHR data at the point of care (via PC or Tablet Access – Example Data: Clinical Summaries, Past Prescription Information from other pharmacies) to assist them in making the best possible clinical decisions.
- Is your pharmacy harnessing the power of voice?
Have you noticed that Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri, (and to a much lesser extent) Cortana (Windows) are in the process of changing the face of the internet forever? The main reason for this is the faster query response speed and the growing availability of voice-enabled devices (e.g. Smartphones, Speakers, Watches). The NHS in the UK has recognised this trend and are developing an ‘Alexa Skill’ (like an app for the voice service) to deliver expert information to patients when they ask about health conditions.
Action: Pharmacies need to ensure that their pharmacy information in key published search platforms (e.g. ‘Google My Business’, Bing Places, Yellow Pages/Sensis) as the voice assistants will feed the most relevant and accurate listings to patients using the services. Those that have absent or partially completed listings will be penalised (assigned a lower rank) by the voice services who may then refer a prospective patient to a competitor pharmacy when they ask “Which pharmacies near me are open now?”
- Add a ‘bot’ (or a squad of bots) to your pharmacy team
Much of the ‘bot’ (robot) discussion in the pharmacy industry has centred on automating the logistics of our dispensary inside the pharmacy, but we shouldn’t ignore the bot’s that can help us create a great experience for our patient on any platform they wish to engage with us on (not just inside the physical pharmacy).
Action: Create a list of all channels that patients engage with your pharmacy on. This can include (but not limited to):
Phone: Create a welcome message or IVR (interactive voice response) menu through your phone system to better direct your patient’s queries or advise of your opening hours. Enable voicemails to avoid phone calls going unanswered during peak periods.
Email: Set up a Helpdesk (e.g. Zendesk for a large number of inbound queries) or Auto-Responder (otherwise known as Out of Office Reply) to acknowledge incoming patient queries, and set an expectation of a reply.
Basic: Setup an Auto-Reply Message (a Facebook feature) when patients message your page to greet them and provide an estimated time of a reply
Advanced: Teach a Programmable Chatbot (e.g. ManyChat) to answer common questions e.g. Are you open now? Where are you?
Designate a team member (not able to be a bot, unfortunately..) to check all incoming patient communications (including App Notifications and SMS) every 10-15 minutes to ensure you’re not leaving patients waiting at your digital front doors.
- 3D Printing is coming to a pharmacy near you.. soon.
In July 2018, 50 children (aged 4-12) enrolled in a research trial to become the first in the world to receive personalised (active ingredient quantity, size, shape, colour, and flavour) 3D-printed tablets. Having found the 3D-printed tablets easy to swallow, the research team is on track to administer 3D-printed tablets containing active medication (hydrocortisone) to children who need it within the next 2 years.
But, for now, traditional drug manufacturing isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Even the world’s first (and as yet only) 3D-printed medicine Spritam (Levetiracetam) can only make “tens of thousands of tablets a day” from their mass production 3D-printers Vs GlaxoSmithKline’s 1.6 million tablets per hour.
Action: For those among us who would like to get a little taste of 3D-Printed medicines (from what I believe is a precursor venture -also in the UK) you may wish to follow the fortunes of Nourished and its founder Melissa Snover who appeared on Dragon’s Den (The UK’s equivalent of Shark Tank) in January 2019 to attract investment into her 3D-printed customised vitamin supplement pods. The company claims to enable customers the ability to blend multiple ingredients (including macro & micro-nutrients, Omega-3-6-9 Fatty Acids, Turmeric, Glucosamine, Co-Q10 etc.) into a single daily chewable gummy pod. First deliveries are planned for March 2019.
The need to automate
Jan Pendrakowski, Willach regional manager VIC/TAS/SA
Tips to be aware of:
1.Recent technology advancement in the DAA automation space – new technologies now allow pharmacies to produce DAA’s faster, with greater accuracy and within a smaller footprint – significantly reducing costs of production. This is a game changer because community pharmacies can now supply DAA with a cost per pouch of a large commercial packing facility.
2.Pharmacy automation technologies are now more affordable. The price differential between traditional and automated dispensary has greatly narrowed. Owners need to explore new technologies, especially before committing to a new fit-out which will last for a long time. I guess now more than ever the question should be – “will my new fit-out allow my pharmacy to stay competitive for the next 10 years?”
3.Pharmacist workloads recently made the news as measured by scripts per day / pharmacist. This needs to be put into context. Current technology allows for higher speed and script/pharmacist ratios without putting additional strain on the pharmacist and with greater accuracy rates! The increased workloads are therefore only an issue when there is no structure in the pharmacy that can safely support it.
Embrace digital technologies
Matt Ryan, Program Development and Digital Health Manager, Pharmacy Guild of Australia
As part of its CP2025 vision, The Pharmacy Guild of Australia is encouraging community pharmacies to ‘embrace digital technologies’ and ‘automate’.
Digital technologies are a fundamental enabler to engage with patients and the Guild’s CP2025 vision emphasises the need for pharmacies to embrace these technologies to improve its digital health capabilities to enhance a pharmacy’s capability to support such key QUM principles of medicine adherence, medication management, screening and point of care testing services. The Guild believes that integrating digital health enablers into a community pharmacy’s clinical practice workflows will enhance patient safety, enable more personalised care, create clinical efficiencies, and drive collaboration.
The Guild also believes that pharmacy automation should also be another key tech-driven focus.
Automation can deliver efficiencies in administrative processes, including medicines picking and packing, point of sale, marketing, patient monitoring and advice, back office activities such as supply chain and inventory management, and human resource management. And with early adoption of the right technologies a pharmacy can improve profitability – from large investments such as automated dispensing machines which may only be viable in larger pharmacies to relatively low cost solutions, including platforms that automate supply chain decisions, patient communications and back office activities.
The Guild is encouraging pharmacies to make a start by:
- Integrating digital health records into your pharmacy’s clinical practice – register and connect to the My Health Record
- Utilising digital platforms to improve medication advice, management and safety – put in place an electronic services recording platform, if possible integrated with the broader digital health system and set up a services booking system and integrate with your website
- Enabling pharmacy with basic digital functions such as search engines, maps and a social media presence – Check that your pharmacy’s details are up-to-date on the myGuild member portal. This will ensure your location, opening hours and services are correct on findapharmacy.com.au and ensure your pharmacy is listed on Google’s search engine and maps by going to google.com/business/ and following the steps on the front page
- Developing online retailing channels – Investigate what stock you will sell online, pricing and how you will integrate with your POS and talk to Guild Digital.
- Calculate the time spent doing repetitive tasks that are not patient focused and look at examples of pharmacies that have used automation to reduce this burden – Undertake some initial planning. Establish a budget. Talk to your team and ensure they are aware of your plans to use automation to enhance the overall efficiency of your pharmacy and are trained in the new systems.
Pharmacists also should be aware that the Federal Government has raised the threshold for the instant asset tax write-off arrangement from $20,000 to $25,000, allowing a write-off for each asset valued at under $25,000.
The raised threshold follows the extension of the program for the 2019-20 year.
The move helps community pharmacies reinvest in their business and replace or upgrade their assets.
How technology is assisting pharmacy retailing
Andrew Hall, EBOS Group, General Manager Pharmacy Technology
There is no shortage of technology solutions available in the pharmacy retailing landscape. Here are some easy to implement tips to boost your efficiency, sales and profitability.
1. Use an accurate product database to save stock managers’ time and reduce manual data entry errors. Look for a solution that features a comprehensive and accurate product database, including pertinent details like barcodes, product descriptions, ordering codes and PDEs.
2. Send SMS messages to let your customers know their scripts are ready or send personalised appointment reminders. This can improve customer service, increase foot traffic and save staff time. Check whether your pharmacy management system has an in-built SMS message function. This will ensure all customer information and communication is consistent and kept together.
3. Conduct regular stocktakes to enable your pharmacy to effectively manage cash flow and inventory. Minfos recently released an app that allows staff members to use iPhone and Android mobile devices to manage stocktakes, identify products and queue labels for printing.
4. Save time by automating software updates. A single manual software update may take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes or more. You may find that some software packages require up to
12 updates a year, meaning that you could be wasting around 4 hours on manual updates every year, for every piece of software in your pharmacy. Keeping your software updated also ensures that you can access the latest features and fixes for known glitches.
Technology solutions can improve stock management, dispense accuracy, support better patient care and reduce administration time. However, the key is in using the right technology provider that supports a robust and innovative product with staff training to ensure that solutions are used effectively.
Top 4 IT Solution Trends for 2019
Paul Naismith, CEO, Fred IT Group
Digital transformation remains the single major focus influencing pharmacy trends in the next five
years as digital changes ripple through pharmacy.
Privacy and security with cloud computing
The digital transformations that we have seen in pharmacy—and life—in the past 15 years have real implications for how we safeguard privacy and security while still connecting to systems that make pharmacy life easier and faster. Think MIMS Online, the Australian Medicines Handbook, PBS, eRx, MyHR, FredNXT, MedView and many more.
Data security will continue to be a challenge. 2019 will increase the urgency to ensure that your core dispensing systems are fit for purpose in this era of digital connectivity.
Real time prescription monitoring saving more lives
Pharmacists have been calling for better protections to save lives from accidental prescription drug deaths for decades.
In 2019, thankfully, lives are being saved as real time prescription monitoring becomes a reality.
Tasmania is online (DORA), and Victoria is seeing a difference as SafeScript rolls out.
Expect to see the remaining states and territories commit in 2019. Keep talking to your local GPs about why this change is needed, as real time prescription monitoring reduces risk for everybody—patients, families and communities, pharmacy and medical professions.
You can board a plane, attend a grand final, and complete your taxes without paper. The next big change will occur when consumers can make this same choice about having their prescriptions dispensed.
Buckle your seatbelts for this one. The Federal Government has committed to looking at the
legislation before the end of 2019—and this change is likely to affect how you engage with your customers and patients in future (and your workflow).
Online commerce and patient apps
Consumers are voting with their fingers now rather than their feet. In the next three years, the digital experience will become as important as your storefront in keeping customers loyal to your brand. There are two macro trends here:
• Increasing online innovations in how patients and customers can engage with us (eg, Click and
• Continued growth and competition in patient apps, such as Medadvisor and MyPharmacyLink, and an increasing link between apps and professional services.
Look out for further innovation in this space.