Pharmacy startup robust template for the future

robot touching futuristic interface

Startups like the Capsule pharmacy concept are not going away – and so pharmacists need to be ready to embrace change.

Sabrine Elkhodr, a community pharmacist and director of digital pharmacy and innovation consultancy HealthClick, tells the AJP that with pharmacy startups popping up internationally, it’s time to think about how pharmacists can work with technology, rather than resisting its effects on the sector.

The Capsule pharmacy concept, billing itself as the “pharmacy of the future”, is one of the first high-profile pharmacy startups to have opened up, filling prescriptions and sending out medicines to customers in New York, with no bricks and mortar shopfront. Round Refill, NowRx, RobinHealth, NimbleRx and ScriptDash are more concepts in the wave of pharmacy startups.

This week, a Wired article titled “Pharmacies are Awful – but these Startups Could Fix Them” takes a look at some new concepts and how they could actually improve medicines adherence as well as customer experience.

“So, you need to pick up a prescription. During lunch or after work you’ll go to the nearest pharmacy, where you’ll stand in line at a counter,” writes Wired’s Margaret Rhodes.

“The pharmacist will ask you to wait 20 minutes, so you’ll contemplate a new shampoo or flip through magazines. Maybe you’ll leave with your pills, but maybe the pharmacy won’t have your meds in stock.

“Or: Maybe you’ll be able to use an app, or a slick chat interface, or pill bottles with sensors.”

Are pharmacies awful? Elkhodr urges pharmacists to consider why their customers might prefer a startup service, should they be offered one in the future: time.

“The greatest currency of the modern era is time,” she says.

“We live in the age of convenience and instant gratification. Consumers have become accustomed to opening an app and ordering everything from pizzas to drivers, takeaway meals and even GP consultations.

“As the millennial generation matures, we will come to expect the same for our medications. The threat may not be immediate but it is imminent.

“Consider the typical pharmacy experience: a customer walks into a pharmacy to pick up a box of antibiotics or a repeat script. They have a million other things to do but they need to allocate up to half an hour just to pick up a script that they likely won’t need an intervention or much of a consultation for.

“It’s not exactly a fun experience. However, there is an emerging breed of pharmacy entrepreneurs in Australia trying to change that experience at various points in the customer journey,” says Elkhodr.

She says the Capsule model is a robust template for the pharmacy of the future: mobile, cloud-based and data-driven.

“Technology is not a threat; it’s an enabler,” Elkhodr told the AJP.

“The primary role of the pharmacist should never have been about sticking labels on boxes yet that is precisely what we’ve been reduced to. With up to 50% of chronic disease patients not adhering to their medication regimes, we need to be far more aggressive about understanding why.

“There is a mountain of research elucidating the factors that affect adherence but we have no way of measuring the effect of those factors on individual consumers.

“Technology gives us the tools to collect real-time data and gain immediate insights into an individual patient’s medication use in the context of their daily life. The potential for technology to help us better understand and treat our patients is immense.

“Pharmacists have much to offer in terms of primary health services but we need to be willing to change. Change is inevitable; we can choose to either lead it or be led by it.”

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