I recently listened to a presentation on the NHS’s plans for Digital Healthcare. They are huge, comprehensive and integrated around a new NHS App. They will eventually touch everyone who is either a provider or user of healthcare services. Worryingly, when I asked the speaker about community pharmacy’s place in that integrated system, she went blank then said “…not sure community pharmacy is my thing.”
Community pharmacy and digital healthcare is very much the focus of this year’s Pharmacy Business Conference and will be referenced in my business planning talk at the Pharmacy Show and by others I am sure – pharmacy owners need to listen and act.
The majority of community pharmacies have yet to embrace advances in technology and digital channels to promote what they do. Indeed many have only recently signed up to NHSmail and some remain dependent on fax transmissions as a means of being reached. PMR system suppliers are only now waking up to the need to create a fully integrated clinical patient management system rather than a PMR system that has barely evolved in a decade and some are still largely a labelling and ordering system that happens to interface with EPS, SCR.
New technologies including cloud-based patient-owned data, smartphone apps, smartspeakers, wearable devices, point-of-care diagnostics, robotics and artificial intelligence are coming to market at an increasing rate and this will only accelerate. This will enable a greater population reach and impact for any provider who appropriately adapts and adopts innovations within this important and developing market.
I also read a fascinating insight into Google’s (Alphabet) plans for healthcare – link this to activity and plans by Amazon, Microsoft and Apple then the healthcare landscape really gets disrupted. Imagine this scenario: you ask Dr Alexa for an appointment which is video streamed on your smartphone, prescription sent electronically to Amazon Pharmacy with an adherence and lifestyle support consultation through your phone and medicines delivered same day to your place of work, a collection box or home. All this fed into your patient health record which you, and anyone you consent to, can access through an App.
If community pharmacy fails to engage with this rapidly changing digital ecosystem it will be left behind and, at best, be outside the integrated system. We must not let that happen.