In these uncertain times, more pharmacies are turning to technology to serve their patients in new ways. It’s time the sector joined the digital revolution, says Martin Hao

Digital health technologies are delivering wide benefits across health and care. Consumers have been using apps to measure daily food intake and track activity levels to monitor health and fitness for a number of years. The same level of interest and awareness from patients about medicine intake has, however, not kept pace. Yet as patient-centred technologies increase across the industry, this is certainly set to change.

Such change is fuelled by a number of factors. Subject to deep budget cuts, pharmacies are actively searching for new and better ways to improve efficiencies, boost customer retention, increase dispensary and identify new revenue streams. Patient-centred technologies are successfully being used to address these challenges and drive business success. There are various innovative powerful platforms that help pharmacies market and manage their offerings.

Text alerts for repeat prescriptions, for instance, have been used for some time, and now more sophisticated apps are emerging to enable pharmacies to undertake more effective communication with patients, gain greater customer insight and even identify trends. Better customer engagement reduces customer loss, drives up store traffic and increases cross-sales for over-the-counter (OTC) preparations and beauty products. It is proving an effective and targeted route for marketing to and connecting with patients, such as through highlighting special offers according to patient type.

On the patient side, people want to take greater control of their health; they want to take ownership of their conditions and be provided with the correct level of professional support to do so.

This is where change needs to happen, particularly as pharmacies begin to recognise the opportunities this creates. Patients also seek options that save time, and anything that helps here is a welcome addition; easy-to-use, intuitive digital health innovations can therefore not only be a hit with patients, they can enable pharmacies to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Digital technologies are key drivers in the changing pharmacy landscape and there is growing interest from pharmacies to pioneer customised digital solutions for patients. As the industry steps up its operations and explores new, more efficient ways of working, patient-centred technologies help to increase the momentum. Pharmacies must, however, gain a balance between efficacies and return on investment; increasingly sophisticated digital health technologies are set to have a real impact on the future of pharmacy practice.

Martin Hao is the managing director at medicines management app Healthera and a registered pharmacist