Digital disruption changes consumer behavior at a rapid pace by transforming interactions and communications between organizations and customers. Considering some of our everyday activities nowadays, we just need to press a button, and everything comes to our doorstep like groceries, cabs, medicines, etc. Pandemic-induced lockdown hastened the adoption of must needed technological advancements across industries including the pharmaceutical sector where retail pharmacies are undergoing major digital transformations. New technologies like Metaverse, IoT, and advanced analytics enable simpler ways to receive medicines, to enhance prescription fulfillment and delivery. The possible benefits of digital pharmacies include the potential to decrease drug errors, improve prescription accessibility, and provide pharmacists more time to consult with patients. To reap the benefits of digitization, many large corporations, like CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Amazon are paying attention to digital pharmacies. Some of the largest venture deals over the last few years have involved digital pharmacies:
- Startup Capsule, a digital pharmacy, obtains $300 million to fund a “one-stop-shop” for digital health.
- Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company rolls out a digital pharmacy. The business recently launched a PBM operation, claiming that doing so will enable it to reduce expenses for its online pharmacy.
- Medly raises $100 million as demand for digital pharmacies surges
- Other rivals that have secured sizable sums over the past few months include Medici, which is like a WhatsApp for remote medical care, and Tyto Care, which offers a telehealth examination and diagnostic platform.
But what makes them so competitive? It’s more than just convenience for the patient.
What’s driving the growth of Digital Pharmacy
- The global increase in the number of internet users: The goal of digital pharmacies is to fill a market gap. The requirement also stretches for multi-generations. Patients who are older might not be able to physically visit the pharmacy, but these baby boomers are fueling the digital pharmacy market. Digital natives are millennials and Gen Z, and it appeals to everyone.
- Increasing access to web-based and online services: Digital pharmacies’ popularity is not only limited to metro or urban areas. People in the cities have more options and obviously value having their medications delivered. Even in the Pharmacy desert areas with little access to pharmacies, rural people can get benefitted as well.
- Consolidation in the Market and Partnerships: Online or Digital pharmacy competition has been sparked by the entry of telemedicine startups, e-commerce behemoths, and big retail pharmacy players who saw an opening in the market and capitalized on it.
- Expectations of consumers have grown: Consumers are driving the change, but they’re also dramatically changing the entire process of the healthcare ecosystem. They want the option to select the time and location where they receive the services, which are increasingly being offered online. They desire higher standards of service, convenience, innovation, and personalization in addition to lower prices.
How emerging technologies opening doors to more services
Pharmacies can take advantage of a range of services and solutions that create value for both pharmacists and customers. These solutions are developed leveraging automation, and emerging technologies like IoT, big data, AR/VR, blockchain, metaverse, etc. to boost productivity, quicken prescription dispensing, and speed up insurance approvals.
Some of the examples where emerging technologies are playing a pivotal role in this space are:
- Metaverse: Recently, CVS disclosed its plans to offer healthcare services and sell virtual goods in the virtual world, the Metaverse may soon have its own pharmacy. In addition to “prescription medications, health, wellness, beauty, and personal care products,” CVS will also provide downloadable virtual goods. Metaverse will enable the omnichannel fulfillment needs of pharmacy, visualize the dosage amount along with enhancing the customer experience.
- IoT: The retail pharmacy sector is embracing the IoT at a massive scale. Many big companies like CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Amazon are investing in new or upgrading IoT-driven digital healthcare services and solutions to satisfy patients and consumers better. Some of the examples like Symphony, a medical alert system to meet senior customers’ healthcare needs in their homes by CVS, and testing in-store coolers with IoT ad displays by Walgreens.
- Data Analytics or Big data: By leveraging big data or pharmacy analytics helps in Consumer activity tracking is essential to this process and may be used to identify preferences, problems, and values of the customer and create data-driven objectives to improve the customer experience. Digital pharmacies can streamline their customers’ preferences for selecting certain items, alternatives, Mediclaim, and patients’ medical histories with the aid of data analytics.
Pharmaceutical and healthcare companies must leverage technological advancement to create a more individualized customer experience and patient healthcare procedure that keeps customers engaged across the journey.
The road ahead: What’s to come
Digital pharmacy’s future looks promising as many new players enter the market and existing market giants expand into digital pharmacies. The digital pharmacy market revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2022-2026) of 14.42%, resulting in a projected market volume of US$35.33bn by 2026.
Retail pharmacies, payers, and pharmaceutical companies looking to encourage the use of digital pharmacies should take the below pointers into consideration:
- Investing in initiatives to increase understanding of digital pharmacies to support, especially among seniors and rural areas.
- Supporting these services in developing strong supply networks so they can dispense and transport more medication to patients
Working collaboratively with online pharmacies to supply patients with educational resources (e.g., disease education and treatment information)