Global forces are transforming the siloed traditional health industry into a plug-and-play ecosystem of modules serving the consumer. Retail pharmacies can play in many parts of the ecosystem, or offer the consumer access to much of it.
Pharmacies are just beginning to leverage their assets and develop business models to relieve the pressure of filling more scripts, more quickly, at a lower cost. This is happening against a backdrop of dramatic change in the health industry.
The very value chain is being re-engineered by powerful global drivers—downward pressure on costs, increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, an aging population, surging consumerism, the embrace of value based models, and the arrival of new entrants and transformative advances in technology.
These forces are creating opportunities for retail pharmacies.
Retail pharmacies are positioned to tap these markets, assembling them into an ecosystem revolving around consumers with the help of traditional players and new entrants.
The pharmacy of the future is not a monolith, but a convener of plug-and-play partners—traditional and new entrants— serving consumers as their “health hub”. For example, a retail pharmacy company could bring together an employer, a local health system and a company to deploy pharmacy-branded automated drug-dispensing kiosks on the employer’s campus, perhaps along with telemedicine-equipped tablets.
In the hub model, the consumer looks to her neighborhood drugstore for primary care, prescriptions, point-of-care diagnostics, insurance, financing and insight into how to be well and stay well. She depends on her retail pharmacy to alert her to innovations— from 3D-printed medications to wearable biosensors—and provide access to them, when she is sick and when she is well.
The retail pharmacy uses her medical records and other data to anticipate her needs, helping her manage her health, her spending and other parts of her life, too. The company meets her needs seamlessly, in the store, at home, through her mobile devices. She feels loyalty and is likely to remain a customer for decades.
There is reason to think consumers would embrace the expansion of retail pharmacies into the broader ecosystem. Consumers have shown they will rapidly adopt neighborhood drugstores as providers of new services, citing conveniences such as ample parking and long hours of operation and features that are rare in healthcare but common elsewhere, such as on-demand service and more transparent pricing, according to interviews with industry executives.
Consumers are looking for seamless, integrated omnichannel experiences. Mastering the “last mile,” physically and virtually, will be critical for the health industry, and retail pharmacies are in great positions to help fill that void.
This means building—or plugging in—digital tools and services to help consumers find care, prevent or manage illness, control costs, understand their conditions and obtain drugs and devices wherever they are. It also means connecting everything with smart analytics that can personalize health services and education. Digital giants have the potential to make significant impacts.
Many pharmacy companies’ digital tools focus on convenience, helping consumers save spots in line or book appointments at retail clinics, refill prescriptions with a single swipe or seamlessly transmit identification, insurance and payment data. Yet embracing these innovations, and pulling them together into a seamless, anywhere, anytime service for consumers is on the horizon.