Among the findings of the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Pharmacy Study was a strong preference among consumers for "traditional" pharmacy experiences, with expectations of face-to-face interactions with pharmacists to discuss medications and other health-related issues.
This is good news for physical pharmacies, as e-commerce options become more prevalent, and threaten to disrupt the way in which Americans acquire their medications and health-related supplies. "Customers enjoy visiting their brick-and-mortar pharmacy and get a great deal of satisfaction from speaking directly with pharmacists," the survey analysis noted. "However," it noted, "the potential for technology disruption is there."
In other words, pharmacies must continue to provide the exceptional levels of service that patients expect - and give patients a reason to not switch to a competitor.
But what does good customer service look like in the pharmacy these days, especially during a pandemic?
For one thing, exceptional customer service is rooted in the pharmacy's technology system. A comprehensive pharmacy system allows the pharmacy to maintain meticulous patient records, automate labor-intensive tasks, and enable higher levels of proactive communication. While most pharmacies had these technology-based capabilities prior to the pandemic, not every pharmacy took full advantage.
Technology has emerged as an essential tool in helping pharmacies connect with patients, ensure uninterrupted access to medications, and seamlessly manage pharmacy operations. PrimeRx™ from Micro Merchant Systems has become an invaluable partner in enabling exceptional customer service, with key capabilities that include:
- Personal Connections. There's a reason why pharmacists consistently rank at the top of "most trusted profession" listings - namely because patients feel a bond with their pharmacists and seek their guidance on a range of issues. PrimeRx™ allows pharmacies to maintain detailed records of all patient interactions, which can ensure that all discussions are meaningful and on-point. PrimeRx™ capabilities extend beyond recording medication histories, which are important but do not tell a patient's whole story. Unlike many systems, PrimeRx™ allows the pharmacist or technician to input notes following each interaction. These notes document unique aspects about a patient's lifestyle, family, work, diet, as well as any chronic conditions. This information can then be used to guide in-person conversations with questions such as:
- "How are you doing on implementing an exercise regime?"
- "Have you been successful in persuading your husband not to smoke indoors?"
- "Are you still using echinacea and saw palmetto on a regular basis?
Questions such as these, that result in important information being exchanged, can be triggered by information included in a patient's detailed history.
- Medication Adherence. PrimeRx™ allows the pharmacist to easily create a medication adherence regime that will remind patients of their daily medication schedules and establish automatic refill schedules. Adherence regimes are especially helpful and necessary among elderly patients who take multiple medications, often without understanding the purpose of each prescribed drug.
- Home Deliveries. Even before the pandemic took hold, more than 75 percent of pharmacies had a home/worksite delivery service in place. While delivery services may have started as a convenience to customers, they have become essential in maintaining protocols for people to remain at home, and for minimizing in-person transactions. A well-managed delivery service requires a technology-based solution that addresses critical factors including co-pay and signature collection, inventory management, and patient records. In addition, route optimization, and considerations for situations when no one is home to accept delivery must be addressed. PrimeRx™ users can rely on two critical functions, PrimeDELIVERY™, and PrimeRxPAY™ to build a delivery service that addresses these important considerations. The PrimeDELIVERY™ module allows the convenience of home delivery with all transactions wirelessly transmitted back to the core PrimeRx™ management system. Through PrimeDELIVERY™, the pharmacy essentially goes "on the road," by ensuring an electronic paper trail records all transactions, inventory records are properly maintained, and HIPAA- compliant electronic signatures are captured and recorded. Meanwhile, PrimeRxPAY™ allows for electronic - contactless - co-pay collection and issuance of receipts.
- Flexibility. Customers have come to expect flexibility and options across all retail transactions, including interactions with their pharmacies. Customers expect the ability to submit refill requests 24/7, arrange a delivery, review their account, and even make OTC purchases. The FillMyRefills™ app addresses this need for convenience and flexibility. The app is available to patients of PrimeRx™ customers and can be easily downloaded to a mobile device. Patients can use the app for easy access to their accounts, with functionality previously only available during store operating hours.
- Minimal Wait Times. No one likes waiting, and this is especially true when waiting for medication to treat a sick child or elderly relative. While the issue of prolonged pharmacy wait times is certainly not new, innovative solutions are making it possible to address the problem. Within PrimeRx™, several capabilities help expedite the dispensing process including:
- Electronic Prescription Submission. The system seamlessly accepts electronic prescriptions from doctors' offices, which eliminates the need for a patient to physically drop off the prescription. In many cases, a prescription can be filled in the time it takes the patient to drive from the doctor's office to the pharmacy.
- Text alerts when prescription is ready. By sending a text or email to the patient when the prescription is ready, the pharmacy can help a patient avoid having to wait.
- Automatic renewals. Recurring medications can be automatically renewed, with a text reminder sent to the patient. This helps ensure medication adherence, and allows the patient to pick up medications at their convenience.
- Medication Stock-Outs. Research by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceutical found inventory stock-outs to be a significant issue among patients, with 40 percent saying they had left a pharmacy without their medication, and 25 percent saying they ended up getting the medication at a different pharmacy. PrimeRx™ allows for seamless inventory management, which allows a pharmacy to know precise levels of all drugs in stock, and the ability to automatically reorder when supplies run low.
- Personalized Services. No two patients are the same, yet it's easy for busy pharmacy staff members to overlook individual patient needs. This can include accommodations for senior-friendly packaging, flu shot reminders, or detailed prescription information. With PrimeRx™, pharmacy staff is alerted about specific needs when a patient's record is activated. Simple gestures can go a long way toward building goodwill, and truly making a patient feel cared for and appreciated.
As e-commerce and digital providers continue to gain traction within the pharmacy industry, patients will be tempted to forego traditional pharmacy relationships in favor of the convenience of online ordering. This is why pharmacies must prioritize good customer service, and continually remind patients of the importance of the pharmacist-patient relationship.