Insights from BCC Research

The Rise of the Machines (Mobile Apps) in Retail Pharmacy

Posted by Clayton Luz on Dec 14, 2016 10:15:08 AM

William Procter, the father of American pharmacy, once lamented that "if the pharmacist becomes a mere dispenser of medicines, he (becomes) a simple shopkeeper."

 
One wonders what this towering figure in the annals of pharmaceutics would have thought of pharmacy patients paying for and picking up their prescriptions without ever setting foot inside the pharmacy.
A major pharmacy chain has introduced its mobile payment solution nationwide to do just that.
 
CVS Pay, which was piloted this past summer in select states, has been integrated into the drug retailer's mobile app. The offers a simple, private and end-to-end pharmacy experience.
 
Customers can refill, manage multiple prescriptions, and get alerts when prescriptions are ready, all within the app. To pick up and pay, a CVS associate scans the barcode, which lets the customer choose a payment method from those stored in the app, and then process the payment. Once complete, the customer receives a confirmation of payment in the app.
 
“What we’re trying to do is provide real utility and solve real problems for customers using digital,” explains Brian Tilzer, CVS Health’s chief digital officer. “With one scan, we’re taking away three or four extra steps that customers have lived with for a long time.”
 
The app works at the drive-thru, as well. Procter probably never saw that one coming. Customers use the mobile app to generate a 5-digit code, which the CVS associate inputs to start the transaction. The app automatically also applies store-specific loyalty rewards to the transaction and adds new loyalty points to the cards as they're earned.
 
CVS Pay, which can only be used at any CVS Pharmacy, is available for both Apple and Android devices.
 
MECHANIZATION AND MASS PRODUCTION
 
Procter's remark, uttered in the mid-1800's, expressed his worry that automation (think the Industrial Revolution) was shifting the role of the scientifically trained pharmacist from producing medicines (think mortar and pestle) to simply dispensing them.
 
He feared the mechanization of his beloved and burgeoning pharmaceutical industry would lead to lack of quality control while marginalizing the role of pharmacists play in the health care of their customers.
 
Procter's concerns, understandably justified, bore no fruit. In fact, if anything, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, more than ever, remain vital players in the pursuit of retail pharmacies to seek new business models that promote more efficient processes and deliver higher levels of patient care.
 
In the truest benefit of automation, the CVS app reduces the number of steps a user had to take during a transaction. Before CVS Pay, customers had to either present their CVS rewards card or tell the associate their name and birthday to retrieve their account information. Then, they had to use another card to pay for the transaction.
 
Safely increasing the speed of processing orders has allowed pharmacists to spend more time consulting directly with customers. Indeed, patients view the pharmacist as a leading source of information on medication dosage, side effects, contraindications and even general health knowledge.
 
To take advantage of this relationship and create more "face" time between the pharmacist and customers, innovations like CVS pay and other emerging digital tools are allowing the pharmacist to play a key role in the health care of its customers.
 
Even the father of pharmacy would agree with that.

Topics: Instrumentation and Sensors