Consumers live in a digital world and while that presents certain challenges, community pharmacy has to engage with that world and take advantage of what it offers, Joe McKenna director of sales at AAH Pharmaceuticals told Avicenna conference delegates.
One such challenge is “Dr Google” – 80 per cent of patients Google their symptoms before seeking professional healthcare advice, which can lead to incorrect diagnoses, wrong solutions and a lack of advice for the patient. What’s more, 71 per cent of the UK population has a smartphone, with 28 per cent of 65-74 year olds owning one in 2015 – a 40 per cent growth in two years. However, only two per cent of the population report any digitally enabled transaction with the NHS, presenting a huge gap in the market. “Patients want it, so pharmacy will have to fulfil that gap,” said Mr McKenna.
Emphasising this need, Mr McKenna highlighted a recent survey of 7,000 people which showed that: 60 per cent said they would monitor their long-term condition using a mobile app, 80 per cent would like to view medical records online, 90 per cent would use an online GP appointment booking service and 90 per cent would use a service allowing them to ask a clinician a question.
“Patients have been encouraged to have an opinion and enabled and empowered through online information to manage their long-term conditions. There is an opportunity to build on this and use the trust and respect of community pharmacy to help them,” said Mr McKenna. “With digital, there are more touch points along a patient’s journey for pharmacy to offer advice.
“The market is moving and digital disruption is happening. Pharmacy has to keep pace with the market and consumer demand.”
Explaining the disruption of big online businesses such as Uber, Amazon, Airbnb and Netflix, Mr McKenna warned delegates that if community pharmacy doesn’t change the way it interacts with patients, it leaves itself open to someone else disrupting the market. However, Mr McKenna added that pharmacies should always put patients at the centre of what they do: “What made companies such as Uber, Amazon, Netflix, and Airbnb successful was they gave people different choices and put the customer at the centre. Stay customer centric and there is every opportunity for pharmacy to flourish in the new world. “