Just two years ago in mid-2019, market research company J.D. Power released findings of its annual "U.S. Pharmacy Study," which found 20 percent of customers reported using a pharmacy mobile app. Interestingly though, the survey also found that patients who did use an app were significantly more satisfied with their pharmacy experiences.
That was in 2019, which of course was before the pandemic, back when everything was "normal." A lot has happened since then, including consumers' apparent change in attitude about pharmacy apps.
Consider for example, that during the early weeks of February 2021, first-time installations of apps for Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid surged by almost 50 percent. The spike came as the three national pharmacy chains announced they had been given the green light to start administering COVID-19 vaccines and that appointments could be scheduled via the mobile apps. At CVS alone, app installations grew by 68 percent during the February 1 – February 14 period.
The unanswered question seems to be whether or not consumers will look beyond the apps' vaccine registration functionality and take advantage of features designed to facilitate consumers' interactions with pharmacies – features including digital prescription renewals, online ordering, and loyalty program management.
For Walgreen's, the answer seems to "yes," as app usage increased by 22 percent during April 2020 from the year prior, according to reporting by Fierce Healthcare. The app's "Find Care" physician locator feature saw two million visits during the second quarter of 2020 – a 40 percent increase over the previous quarter.
"Those changes are going to stick," Rick Gates, Walgreen's senior vice president of pharmacy and healthcare said in the article. "The question is going to be how il consumer behavior continue to evolve."
That is to say, the genie is out of the bottle when it comes to pandemic-induced changes in consumer behavior, and there will be no going back as consumers have become accustomed to new ways of doing things. For pharmacies, this will likely mean increased use of mobile apps, with functionality that may include:
Specific app capabilities will vary based on a pharmacy's specific needs and preferences, but in 2021, allowing patients convenient, flexible, and remote access to the pharmacy is a top priority. Not surprisingly, technology continues to evolve with regard to app functionality, with solutions available for essentially every budget and need.
Micro Merchant Systems has long been at the forefront of pharmacy app technology, having introduced its FillMyRefills™ app several years ago, as a component of its comprehensive PrimeRx™ pharmacy management system. The app's capabilities underwent an extensive upgrade earlier this year, allowing FillMyRefills 2.0 to provide even greater functionality to pharmacies and patients. Current capabilities include:
The FillMyRefills™ 2.0 app is truly a win-win solution for pharmacies and patients. Patients gain 24/7 access to the pharmacy and the ability to seamlessly order refills and locate important pharmacy-and-related information. Pharmacies benefit from the app's direct integration with PrimeRx™. Every transaction initiated within FillMyRefills™ 2.0 seamlessly flows back to PrimeRx™ and enters the appropriate workflow, with all patient and business records updated and safely stored.
At the end of 2020, Apple released its list of "top free iPhone apps" which included: Zoom, TikTok, Disney+, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Messenger. Of course the list included not a single app for a retail store, bank, gas station, pharmacy, or any of the other establishments consumers rely on for day-to-day services. But if you were to ask consumers which apps were indispensable to adding convenience and flexibility to their daily routines, it's a safe bet retailer and bank apps would top the list for many consumers. Increasingly, the list will also include consumers' local pharmacies.
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