What trends can we expect to see in 2021 that will influence the world of independent pharmacy? Areas of focus may differ from pharmacy to pharmacy, but there are some overarching ideas that seem to be consistent among industry leaders. Pharmacy vendors, including PioneerRx, spoke to ComputerTalk about their outlooks for 2021 and how their technology will adapt to best support their customers. Going forward, technology will continue to be a driving force in the success of community pharmacies by allowing them to be flexible in their business models and adapt to customer needs.
COVID-19 disrupted pharmacy in 2020, but the pharmacies who embraced the challenges and continue to do so will be successful in the coming year. These are some emerging topics that are positioned to impact pharmacy in 2021:
The growth of AI (artificial intelligence) in pharmacy is something to look out for this year. You’ve probably heard of AI associated with high-tech applications such as self-driving cars or robots – but it’s not as ‘futuristic’ as it may seem. AI algorithms can be useful in navigating tasks that require complex thinking and decision making, such as the tasks a pharmacist performs every day. An enormous amount of data is entered into pharmacy systems, and AI can help pharmacies quickly process this information and get on-demand support to streamline their workflows.
Patient connectivity will continue to be a critical factor in the relationship between a pharmacy and its patients. Having an open line of communication and continuous updates with your customers in a fast-paced world helps build loyalty, especially after the pandemic has decreased in-person contact. Many pharmacies have become more active on social media to stay in touch with their customers about the services and promotions offered at their store. Utilizing HIPAA-secure messaging and mobile patient portals, like the RxLocal app, is another convenient way for patients to stay connected to their pharmacy at their own pace and take control of their health.
The expansion of telemedicine took off at the start of quarantine lock-downs, and while its growth will likely not continue at such high levels, it is definitely here to stay in some shape or form. Telehealth has transformed from what it used to be, and patients have come to appreciate its benefits and convenience. Community pharmacies will have the opportunity to step in as an ‘extension’ of telehealth, by performing POC tests that accompany these virtual health visits. PioneerRx is also partnering with MDBox through our RxLocal app, so that PioneerRx pharmacies can facilitate telemedicine visits between a patient and a medical professional, and then fill any medications prescribed during the appointment.
Point-of-care testing is a rapidly growing opportunity for independent pharmacists to diversify their revenue and have high-touch interactions with patients. Particularly with the pandemic, COVID-19 testing will continue to be a high-demand service to provide to your community. To efficiently run a POC testing program, it is important to have the right systems in place and have all the necessary certifications.
Administering vaccinations, namely the COVID-19 vaccine, is one of the greatest responsibilities for pharmacies this year. COVID-19 vaccine preparations include training staff, setting up workflow, obtaining supplies, performing customer outreach, reporting to vaccine registries, and maintaining documentation for reimbursement. Pharmacies that wish to offer immunizations should follow these preparations, as well as obtaining the necessary certifications.
Offering enhanced clinical services is definitely a theme for 2021. Pharmacy can no longer just be about dispensing medications. Diversification is a necessity to survive and continue to be successful in a changing industry. Finding new opportunities to train your staff and offer specialized services can expand your revenue, provide more value to your customers, and increase customer stickiness. Listen to what your community needs and what services are in high demand.
2020 may be over, but 2021 is not guaranteed to be easier. Pharmacies need to be prepared with the right mindset, the right technology, and the right strategies to be successful in the coming year. Having tightly integrated solutions and a holistic pharmacy system is key for being flexible in the face of new challenges.