Life goes on, albeit a little differently. But what doesn’t change is people needing their medications and maintaining one’s health and wellbeing – it will be more important than ever to all of us. Pharmacies and pharmacists will continue to play an important role in communities as an essential healthcare provider. Providing the products and services to keep us healthy and maintain our physical and mental wellbeing. Natural disasters like bushfires, floods or global pandemics have not stopped pharmacies from opening their doors to meet the needs of their local communities.
With change comes opportunities and as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic it has increased the rate of change across many industries and businesses. Consumers habits have also changed with Australian shoppers switching en masse to online purchasing. Some categories like groceries have seen increases of over 300% in online sales. Australian site Kogen.com had 130,000 new customers use their site in April.
There will always be winners and losers whenever there is rapid change. Those who embrace change and act fast will be the winners post Covid-19. Based on my observations of local pharmacies I had visited during the lock-down period, they did act quickly and adapted to the new circumstances.
What pharmacy changes have been accelerated during the Covid-19 crisis and are likely to stay?
- Technology, use of Apps to manage, order and deliver medications.
- Move to accepting digital script images from doctors instead of ancient faxes.
- Telehealth & Telepharm
- Home deliver services (Covid safe)– Aust Post & others linked to Apps like MedAdvisor etc.
- Transition to e-commerce (click & collect)
- Exclusively cashless transactions – I have not used cash for 12 weeks.
In the coming months some pharmacy owners will come to realise that they are not in the category of people who deal with change well. Owner fatigue, lack of motivation and lack of technical skills are common characteristics for owners who struggle to adapt to how best to service their customers in the future.
There are young and experienced pharmacist who are excited by these changes and what technology can do to enhance and improve pharmacy businesses in the future. Motivated pharmacy buyers are out there and range from the young first timers, to experienced multi-store owners or larger groups still looking to expand. Neither the Covid-19 pandemic or looming 7th CPA have had an impact on the volume of pharmacy transactions, demand has remained strong. Since news of Covid-19 broke in late January many pharmacies have listed, sold and settled during this period which proves the resilience, appeal and strength of the pharmacy sector.
- Banks are still lending for pharmacy purchases.
- Interest rates in Australia are the lowest ever.
- Most pharmacies outside the large shopping centres or CBD’s have shown they remain viable and profitable as an essential service during uncertain economic times.
I stumbled across an article from 2015 promoting a speaker named Marty Wilson (pharmacist, comic and speaker on ‘Change’) who gave the keynote address at the PSA15 conference. The article had some quotes from Marty which remain true today. Marty said “pharmacy has changed enormously in the past few years and is going to change more and faster in the future. Pharmacist have to accept that the past is gone forever and become early adopters, continually seeking out new ways to deliver what today’s customers want or they will be left behind.”
Stability usually results in status for the large majority, exciting times for those that take their chances now while the world is open to it.
– Ian Fedrick, Partner and QLD Sales Manager at AP Group