Pharmacy is operating in a more and more competitive environment. In some countries digital pharmacy is a real threat both to multiples and to independent pharmacy. Digital pharmacy is flexible, allows easy access to patient and has cheap distribution organization. An increasing number of patients is choosing to get their prescription from an online dispensary, which is having a detrimental effect on local pharmacy. England’s largest online-only pharmacy is planning for an even bigger expansion by opening a new dispensing facility in Leicester, which will be six times the size of the facility it currently operates. The new facility, which is due to be fully operational by 2021, will give the capacity to dispense a total of 7.5 million items per month.
From an other side Pharmacy is getting in the last few years bigger and bigger financial cut from insurances and governments: in other words it is asked to do more for less. In England, in Holland and in many other countries both in Europe and North America the trend is reducing the fees pharmacy gets for the provided service. In some cases, as UK, the change seems to give more importance to counselling, education and consulting rather than just dispensing. In any case pharmacy’s job is becoming more difficult and profitability is a tougher challenge.
Should all those difficulties bring us to the assumption that the model of community pharmacy is declining?
The answer is not that easy and probably it is not just black and white. For sure the traditional brick and mortar pharmacy it is less and less competitive and will have declining profit. So the solution is probably finding a balance between the level of service and patients care the community pharmacy can provide and the efficiency and cost savings that online pharmacy can guarantee.
Some multiples but also smaller chains and independent are trying to move in this directions: efforts are already in place for combining physical and digital service. From one side they are offering new App to patients where nominating pharmacy or repeating a prescription. From the other side the installation of automated pick-up stations are installed at pharmacy’s window for offering better and 24/7 service to patients. So community pharmacy is moving and trying to change in order to face the today challenges. As already happened many times in the past, the ones moving first will have a great advantage and will get new market shares. Doing nothing and hoping the storm will finish soon is definitely not the best strategy.