5 Trends Shaping the Independent Pharmacy Scene

The key to an independent pharmacy’s success is its ability to adapt to an ever-changing status quo. In this industry, today’s latest and greatest trend quickly becomes yesterday’s news.

If the COVID-19 pandemic and the new monkeypox crisis have proven anything, it’s that pharmacies are on the frontlines of healthcare, ready to weather whatever storm comes their way.

Ranging from prescription kiosks to VR headsets, here are the five trends that can (and already are) shaping today’s independent pharmacy industry.

1. Clinical Services - More than Just a Pharmacy

On top of customers preferring a more streamlined experience with how their medications are handled, an independent pharmacy’s capabilities are also evolving.

Gone are the days when a flu shot or shingles vaccine are a niche commodity in your local pharmacy. Patients not only expect to get medications and vaccines, but so much more.

Enter clinical services — specialized services that usually appeal to more specific or niche health demographics.

In the past, patients with particular illnesses would go to a specialty or compounding pharmacy to get specialized services. Such was the case with various health screenings, namely cholesterol and A1C checks for blood sugar. Now, you’d be remiss if your independent pharmacy didn’t offer these services.

The growing demand for clinical services speaks to the changing outlook patients have on the local drug store. It ceases to be just a drug store or merely a place where customers can pick up their medications. It’s becoming — as PioneerRx President Jeff Key put it — a healthcare destination for all a patient’s healthcare needs.

Though implementing these services in your daily workflow or software will take some investing and adjusting, the long-term benefits will quickly outweigh the initial growing pains.  

In Episode 29 of the Beyond the Scripts Podcast, Ashli Yoder, Clinical Services Pharmacist at Norland Avenue Pharmacy, discusses the wonders of clinical services and their ability to boost your independent pharmacy’s profit.

2. Automation/Dependence on Technology

As mentioned before, patients and customers want their pharmacy experiences to be as simple and hassle-free as possible. Why shouldn’t you want the same?

With the laundry list of tasks you need to complete, you need a software system that does most of the tedious heavy lifting.

You would greatly benefit from software that automatically informs patients when their prescriptions are ready to pick up, tell them their medication is out of stock and when it should come in, and other general inquiries that can be done through automated means.

Your pharmacy’s phone system should offer automated services for customers to easily use. Ranging from refill requests, prescription status updates and other “low-effort” inquiries, having your system do some of the more menial tasks allows you to focus on the bigger, more consequential tasks at hand.

PioneerRx’s software system offers all of these capabilities and more, including adherence, IVR, compounding, and long-term care services. Visit our pharmacy software page to explore features or request a demo now.

3. More Convenience for the Customer

Convenience goes both ways. Customers want their experience in the pharmacy to be simple and streamlined. They want to know the status of their order at a moment’s notice and have the ability to request a refill just as quickly.

If you haven’t already, have a mobile app — like the RxLocal app — developed for your pharmacy or an easy-to-navigate website at the very least. The slightest hint of inconvenience will often be the deciding factor between a customer filling at your pharmacy or going down the street to the competition.

Even picking up a prescription is becoming increasingly automated. Mail order delivery is becoming more and more common, with customers preferring the convenience of having their prescriptions sent to their doorstep.

Services like ScriptCenter let patients pick up their prescriptions through lockers and kiosks.

As of August 2021, 3 million prescriptions have been picked up through these kiosks. It allows patients to get their medications on their own time, even after their pharmacy is closed for the day. Consider a service like this to give your patients greater convenience.

4. COVID, Monkeypox, and Beyond

If the last two and a half years are any indication, it’s that global health crises just might be the norm from here on out.

This means independent pharmacies need to stay current with the latest updates on said health crisis — stock up on masks, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers, and other remedies that can specifically treat or prevent contracting a certain virus.

Customers look to your independent pharmacy for guidance on how to navigate the choppy waters of healthcare, so take the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the latest pandemic so you can give more effective services.

The more informed you are, the more comfortable your customers will be with you, building the necessary rapport to create a loyal customer base.

5. Virtual Reality: The New Frontier in Healthcare

The opioid crisis is a well-known epidemic that continues to impact the U.S. Though several states are taking steps in the right direction, there’s still much ground to cover.

A surprising development is that some providers use virtual reality to treat patients suffering from chronic pain, instead of dispensing highly addictive pills. In November 2021, the FDA approved the marketing of a prescription VR device to help reduce chronic back pain.

Initial results of VR treatment have been promising, treating stress, anxiety, depression, and fear, according to Harvard Medical School,  Though not currently covered by any insurance plan, there are hopes that it will be once VR technology becomes more widely used.  

Though very much in its beginning stages, Dr. David Binder, a physiatrist and Director of Innovation at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, hopes VR treatment can be a legitimate substitute for prescription opiates.

The main hurdle sustaining the opioid crisis is the apparent lack of alternative treatments that are as readily available as medications. Once VR becomes more affordable and understood by the general public, it can let pharmacies further deter their patients from developing an addiction to a prescription opiate.

How Will You Respond to the Latest Trends?

You can either step up or step aside when reacting to change.

Though it’s sometimes difficult to see whether a trend ends up being a fad or a true staple of the industry, your independent pharmacy will benefit from keeping its ear to the ground.

These are just a handful of trends that can or are already taking the pharmacy industry by storm. At the very least, these trends should encourage you to be open to new possibilities and methods of delivering exceptional healthcare to your patients.

Change is always difficult at first, but will open new doors and opportunities to exciting possibilities. Embrace what comes next and success will follow.

Ready to Take Your Pharmacy Further?
Request Software Demo