Yesterday, I did a check on my balance of payments at Douglas and it seems our profit margin in the past year has halved on NHS activity. This is not only a massive detriment to myself but the staff that I employ. Furthermore, waking up this morning to the news that Amazon has moved into the pharmacy sector has led me to write this article to try to figure out a strategy for my business to figure the best way forward.
PillPack holds pharmacy licenses in all 50 states, by Amazon absorbing them for $1 billion, the largest online retailer has officially entered the Federal Pharmacy business in the US. By looking at Amazon's progression of acquisitions it is probable that this is a proof of concept before Amazon roll pharmacy services out internationally. But what does this mean for UK community pharmacy?
The reaction of the US market today to the Pillpack news was a huge drop in share price of the big federal pharmacy players (CVS/Walmart etc):
In the UK, repeat prescriptions account for 77% of all prescribed medicine with an estimated 29 million people receiving repeat prescriptions at a cost of nearly £8 billion of NHS expenditure each year. The remotely fulfilled repeat prescription business is flourishing already in the UK, there are established companies such as Pharmacy2u which now do 330k prescriptions per month and newer players like the app based Echo. However, if you dig deeper it seems that these players are not profitable and seem to be hanging on in the market for an acquisition by a logistical network such as Amazon.
So what can we do?
I think a change in direction is needed, instead of focusing on prescription levels we need to look into other services that we can provide which remote prescribing cannot. This is my plan going forward:
1. Protect your NHS business, best you can.
Those patients who cannot, or do not wish to use digital technology including people with learning disabilities, cognitive impairment and the frail elderly, will have their repeat medicines proactively managed by face to face community pharmacists who have access to their clinical record and communicate with these patients before their repeat medicines are next due. There is a drive here by the NHS to move these pharmacists inside of GPs centres which is of grave concern to our existing business.
2. Make use of passive income streams:
Embed an online doctor: douglaspharmacy.com already has an online doctor we have recently changed the algorithm so that it matches other low cost prescribing services and only charges the patient £5 per consult. The resulting prescription is then sent automatically via the hubnet.io into my account.
Free online listings: If you run a Travel clinic with us join up to Getjab.co.uk or Traveljab.co.uk to get patients coming into your pharmacy for Travel services.
3. Get rid of the governance hassle.
To refocus we need to get rid of archaic practice and focus on new private and NHS revenue streams such as starting a travel clinic or looking at local commissioning via the NHS procurement portal or directly going to the CCG with proposals. To do so we need to streamline, our £30pm subscription remove the need for you to perform:
· EPS Nominations and Repeats
Give us a call and we will digitize your entire pharmacy for you and put you on the right track.
4. Get rid of the paperwork.
A little known, free feature of the HubNet.io is our iPMR. Using this tool you can digitize your entire workflow including influenza and travel consultation risk assessment forms, in the coming months we will be releasing new how to videos to walk your through the whole system and show the benefit it can have on your practice.