The path ahead for community pharmacy

Forefront

Date: 7 March 2018

The Community Pharmacy 2025 (CP2025) strategic advisor Pottinger and market research lead Orima recently presented to the Guild’s National Council on their initial work and findings.

Pottinger and Orima are partnering with the Guild on the CP2025 project, which has the objective of ensuring the viability of community pharmacy to 2025 and beyond, through the development of a clear and realistic vision for the sector and an action plan to achieve it.

CP2025 is an all-encompassing, no holds-barred look at the future of community pharmacy with a thorough consideration of all the key trends, drivers and risks.  

It is being informed by market research of pharmacy owners, staff and patients as well as an international comparison and requests for feedback from over 100 stakeholders from the medicines and broader health sector, and technology and business leaders.

The initial results from Orima’s focus groups and quantitative surveys found that community pharmacies of all types are meeting the expectations of patients, with high levels of satisfaction and trust.  Cost and convenience of location were found to be the most important factors in patients choosing a pharmacy.  

Patient feedback highlighted the importance of increasing community pharmacies’ service focus. Patients rate convenience-based services such as sick certificates and vaccinations as their most preferred service types and that there is a willingness to pay for a range of services, including some that are not currently being provided by pharmacies. These included mental health services, travel medicine, diagnosis and treatment of minor ailments and nutritional advice.

Interestingly, patients perceive less of a difference between smaller pharmacies and larger discount or banner group pharmacies than do staff and owners. In fact, there is somewhat of a dichotomy between owners who believe that patients choose pharmacies on the basis of the level of health care advice and expertise provided and patients who see this advice and expertise as being consistently available from all pharmacies and who make their choices based more on cost and convenience.

The research found that pharmacy staff see the trusted, one-on-one relationships that pharmacies have with their patients as a strength but are concerned that low profit margins are leading to reduced staff, lower wages and increased time pressures, with a risk of compromising customer service.  This concern is shared by owners who see increased pricing pressures leading to understaffing and lower services.

Finally, there was a common view from owners, staff and patients about the value of pharmacies being more integrated with the broader health system, with increased collaboration with other health professionals and greater use of technologies like e-health records, patient apps and script reminders.

As Pottinger continues its strategic advisory work, it has identified nine broad strategic pathways for sustainable long-term growth of the community pharmacy sector.   These are:

Health Services – provide health-related service in the pharmacy, including health-related advice, preventative health, disease screening and detection, and chronic disease management.

In-home – provide a range of allied health and associated services to patients in their homes.

New products – extend product range to leverage the physical distribution network.

Leverage brand – create own-brand products and services to increase margin and/or build brand presence.

Community health hub – provide services or space, including for third parties, to become a community/health hub, focusing on patient centred care linked with other health professionals.

Online – develop online retailing and fulfilment for both medicines and front-of-shop products.

Business operations – modify back office operations to make more efficient use of assets, supply chain resources, admin processes, people etc.

Automation – support increased use of technology, including robotics, artificial intelligence and data, to reduce time and cost, and improve service.

Coordination, accreditation and partnerships – provide coordination and/or accreditation for, and partner with, other health related services and government.

In addition to these nine strategic pathways, the Guild’s National Council has asked Pottinger to undertake further work into future medicine trends, identifying ways in which the capabilities and convenience of community pharmacies can best be utilised to provide enhanced access and personalised and integrated medicine related care and support for patients.

Pottinger and Orima will continue their CP2025 work over the next two months, reporting their findings to the Guild’s National Council and then to the APP National Conference, which this year runs from 3-6 May on the Gold Coast.  This work will include a roadmap and action plan for community pharmacies and the Guild to enable the CP2025 vision to be realised.

Contact: David Quilty

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Page last updated 30 August 2018