Insights From a Superintendent Pharmacist: The Omnichannel Approach

You may have heard of the ‘omnichannel’ pharmacy approach. It’s a bit of a buzzword at the moment and generally means that a pharmacy has a digital approach that links seamlessly to your offline services.

Kevin Murphy, Co-Founder and Chief Clinical Information Officer at MedPoint is a superintendent pharmacist by trade.  He’s kindly authored this blog to share his insider knowledge on adopting an omnichannel approach, having seen first hand how it benefits pharmacies and their patients.

Within this blog Kevin explains what it’s all about, why adapting to an omnichannel approach is worth considering, and how it can benefit your pharmacy and patients.

What is an omnichannel approach?

As stated above, it’s basically a pharmacy that offers a digital approach or service provision. The basic concept is that you make it easy for a customer to access and interact with your pharmacy, on whichever platform suits them, at any given time.

This can include use of social media platforms, email communication, websites, apps, and solutions such as MedPoint which offer 24/7 access to prescriptions outside of your pharmacy’s opening hours.

All these solutions will make it easier for your patients and customers to access information about your pharmacy, and ultimately use your services.

Why should my pharmacy offer an omnichannel approach?

An omnichannel approach offers more accessibility and flexibility to your patients and customers, which can improve satisfaction levels.

You may have a patient who is happy to collect their prescription in person and for a long-time, this solution has worked well for them. However, there may be an occasion where something impacts the individual, such as sudden mobility issues, a change in carer responsibilities or a change in work scheduling, meaning they’re no longer able to conveniently visit your pharmacy in person.

If you don’t offer any additional methods of prescription collection, other than the traditional in store collection, this may cause frustration and as a result, the once longstanding customer, may look at other pharmacies offering alternatives.

By offering a variety of solutions via an omnichannel approach at your pharmacy, it makes it easier for a patient to alter the way in which they access your services. It should be easy for people to get in contact and request a change to a service that better suits their needs. Change requests should also be completed efficiently, preferably the same day, as patients may be feeling stressed or short of time.

It’s about being patient-centric and sometimes healthcare providers forget to really think about the patient journey from a patient’s perspective!

What are the benefits for pharmacists?

One of the main benefits of offering digital services is that there’s more chance for increased sales and item collections. This is because an omnichannel approach reduces the barriers to accessing your services and products, which can help increase customer loyalty.

Increased accessibility also means patients are less likely to use online-only pharmacies. Yes, they excel on their digital offering, but they can’t compete with the face-to-face care and clinical services that bricks and mortar pharmacies can.

You can also create more efficient processes by incorporating digital tools.  By leveraging barcode scanning technology as part of the dispensing and order fulfilment process, patient updates should become suitable for a degree of automation – making the overall process quicker and easier.

By making it easier and more convenient for patients to interact, you also create great opportunities to signpost them to the other services you offer. Services that many may not have been aware of previously.

How can you implement an omnichannel approach in your pharmacy?

It can be challenging to implement an omnichannel approach as the market of software/hardware providers is only really maturing as we speak. The larger operators have invested in joined up digital offerings, like Lloyds buying Echo, and linking with their online doctor services.

There are various other apps such as Healthera, ManageMyMeds, Clara and “Hey Pharmacist” due to be launched soon by Numark. Even with these they are not truly omnichannel as they don’t link up with the platforms that many patients probably find convenient to use like Whatsapp and Facebook. They are a step in the right direction though, and the main thing to consider is that your patient experience is convenient and joined up!

So, by offering a social media presence, website, text and email service, that’s a step in the right direction as patients don’t need to physically call in to speak with you.

Offering additional services at your pharmacy, such as a MedPoint, can also help you offer an omnichannel approach, as patients can conveniently call by and collect prescriptions at a convenient time.

Here at MedPoint, we have built an open and agnostic API that allows for other software vendors to build integrations on top. It’s been used already as part of a patient facing app that delivers automated order updates and integrates with leading pharmacy Patient Medication Record (PMR) systems so that pharmacists can get automatic updates when prescriptions are collected by patients.

We want to be leaders with this approach as we understand that healthcare software systems have historically been slow, challenging to integrate with, and very expensive to develop.

If you’d like any further advice on omnichannel approaches and MedPoint, please feel free to get in touch!

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