The online retail giant has edged into pharmacy with its acquisition of US online pharmacy PillPack. So how worried should UK community pharmacists be, asks The Pharmacist's editor Beth Kennedy
For the past couple of years, one word has been stealthily finding its way into at least one talk in pretty much every community pharmacy conference I've attended.
That word? 'Amazonisation'. The speakers' concerns? That modern consumers' reliance on online shopping would lead to a rise in online pharmacies, leaving bricks-and-mortar pharmacies behind.
While I am emphatic in my belief that 'Amazonisation' should not be a word (note: tacking 'isation' onto the end of a noun does not a new word make), I do see why those speakers were so concerned.
Amazon's meteoric rise means that it now dominates most areas of retail. From television to groceries, the retailer has disrupted pretty much every market. So it's hardly surprising that its acquisition of US online pharmacy PillPack has seen the share prices of some stateside pharmacy companies plummet.
While Amazon has yet to replicate this model over in the UK, it's probably only a matter of time. So where does that leave community pharmacists?
Well, while the novelty of being able to order your statins alongside the latest blockbuster will doubtless be appealing to some, let's not forget that independents have held their own against online pharmacies for years now.
Although the number of online pharmacies is on the rise, they still occupy a relatively small space within the sector. And this probably has a lot to do with how much patients value being able to speak with a healthcare professional when they pick up their medicines.
After all, while it may be convenient to order your medication at the click of a button, a computer can't take the time to get to know you; your lifestyle, your health history, your fears and habits. These are the things that make all the difference and lead to patients coming back to your pharmacy time and time again.
And thats why, now more than ever, it's so important for independent contractors to make the most of the unique position they occupy in the very heart of the communities they serve. As we are so often told, community pharmacists see their patients more frequently than any other healthcare professional, and it's that personal relationship that no amount of online retail acumen can replicate.
In the end, treat them well and patients are among the most loyal of customers. So keep doing what you're doing; offering a fantastic service than no amount of convenience can replace.