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artifical intelligence in pharmacy
With massive advances in recent years, AI in pharmacy isn’t far away. And the changes AI will bring to pharmacy promise to be massive.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

Artificial Intelligence is another term for machine learning. It traces its roots back to World War 2. Alan Turing, a renowned logician, was recruited to break the German military’s Enigma Code – a process that could not have been achieved by humans. The machines (called Bombes) learned what to do, effectively by learning what not to do, using laws of logic. Similarly, machines are now more than a match for humans at Chess, demonstrating that when it comes to logic, the human brain has limitations that machine learning does not.

Whilst the application of AI has advanced significantly since then, the core concept of how it works is pretty much identical. Humans use available information as well as reason in order to solve problems and make decisions, so why can’t machines do the same thing?

The limitation has always been the amount of information that computers can store. But increasingly, with storage (where the AI stores its knowledge) and the data sets (from which AI can learn) both massively increasing over the decades, this limitation is a thing of the past.

AI is inextricably linked to Big Data, which is just as important, if not moreso, as the data is what gives the AI the information to learn. There’s no point in having a big brain if you never learn anything. Arguably, AI is worthless without the data to learn from, whereas we’d at least be able to interpret Big Data in a limited capacity with our soft, human brains.

word cloud featuring pharmacy, data, ai, pharmacist and other associated words

How does AI impact Pharmacy right now?

The frontline of pharmacy is probably yet to feel the full force of the impact AI is making on the wider Pharmaceutical Industry. Whilst facial recognition and speech pattern monitors can be used to detect rare diseases, it isn’t like these systems are in operation in community pharmacies.

Something that is more accessible is compliance technology. though perhaps not in the guise that it’s needed quite yet.

Another accessible option for pharmacies is artificial intelligence Sentiment Analysers, which are in a trial phases of a rollout for things like phone calls.

Sentiment analysers

Sentiment analysers are artificial intelligence programmes that analyse either text, or speech & voice patterns and detect in real-time how a person is feeling based on that analysis. If you’ve ever used Grammarly, and it’s shown you how your writing might come across to your readers, that is sentiment analysis at work.

Now, you might think it’s obvious when someone is angry at you on the phone. And it is. But over the course of hundreds of phone calls, seeing the analysis of the trigger words which cause this anger, as well as the words used to calm people, might well give you insights leading to more effective phone conversations. Not only for you, but your entire team. This is the sort of insight that it’s almost impossible to analyse when we’re the ones holding the phone conversations, as we’re usually focused on what we’re doing, rather than analysing ourselves.

How can AI impact Pharmacy in the future?

The limit to this question will be found in the limitation of the human imagination. Pointed in the right direction, and given the right data, there aren’t many areas that AI can’t improve.

  • Drug development & efficacy (both linked to genetics)
  • Patient compliance
  • More data informed patient health & proactive interventions
  • Risk assessment & Fraud reduction
  • Driverless Delivery
  • Sentiment Analysers
  • More efficient clinical trials

Not all of these directly impact pharmacy, but pharmacy feels the ripple effects of the shock waves in healthcare.

These are the areas that AI can impact pharmacy. But let’s look in more detail at some of the areas where AI almost certainly will impact Pharmacy in the future.

Driverless Delivery

Driverless cars across all roads are still decades away, say experts in the field of AI. But the rollout of smaller, driverless delivery vans like the type that deliver Domino’s Pizza are on the horizon.

Depending on your model, your preferences and your priorities, you might reject this idea.

“I like my delivery driver and they have a great relationship with the patients,” you say. I think that there’s definitely a big argument for retaining the service of a delivery driver. Especially considering serving an elderly population who aren’t tech savvy. They aren’t going to want to start messing around with PINs sent by text and entering it into the van. And there’s also a strong argument for the social contact that delivery drivers give isolated patients being a part of the service to the community.

However, there is a credible argument for utilising both driverless and driver…ful vans. Just like the Pharmaself24 works alongside your counter staff, the driverless delivery van could be a great addition to your arsenal. It gives a green option to a more tech-savvy, environmentally conscious generation. And a more convenient option to those who don’t need social contact from the delivery driver.

From the perspective of a pharmacy business owner, it’s another case of automation making fiscal sense. Why pay for another delivery driver and a van, when you can just pay once for a driverless van? That isn’t necessarily a rhetorical question, but it’s certainly one you’d consider from a business perspective.

Monitoring Patient Behaviours

AI can revolutionise healthcare, not just pharmacy.

It would rely on some sort of large shared database, as machines, like humans, can only learn from information they have access to. But coupled with Big Data from health apps, medical records and other sources (ideally encrypted, protected from third parties and shared across healthcare institutions) Artificial intelligence should allow frontline healthcare professionals like pharmacists incredible insights to inform patient conversations with.

Imagine having the knowledge that 43 year old men statistically don’t finish their course of antibiotics, or that people from a certain background traditionally don’t respond well to a certain medication. Think about how much great advice you can give. If you weren’t in a care setting, you’d clap your hands together and evil laugh with all the power now at your disposal. And I painted that hyperbolic picture tongue-in-cheek because, naturally, patients still need to be treated as individuals. This sort of power shouldn’t blind us to the need for individual care. But it certainly makes giving tailored care easier.

heart rate monitor on a wearable watch

Wearables

This is an important one for pharmacies to pay attention to for two reasons.

AI knows cardiac patterns which lead to serious issues, and people wearing health tech can be given early warning signs. The more innovation happens with wearables, the more interventions can be made proactively, instead of reactively. Which in healthcare, makes a massive difference. It’s a lot easier to prevent a heart attack than it is to recover from one.

As a pharmacist, there will almost certainly be a consultation opportunity either to address these Early Warning Signs, or to monitor the use of and advise on the data provided by wearable technologies so that it never reaches that stage. AI will do most of the legwork here when it comes to interpreting and analysing the data. As the pharmacist, it will be your job to give tailored advice based on the AI’s findings. Perhaps it’s a dietary change, perhaps an increase in exercise, perhaps it’s a prescription. Either way, it’s very similar to general health checks now, except far more informed by data, not only from that specific patient, but by all the data gathered by wearables.

Pharmacies perfectly positioned purveyors

The second reason this is important for pharmacists, is because pharmacies should already be looking to be leading distributors of wearable health technology. When people buy in-person, it’s because they want advice about the products from experts. Who better to sell wearable health technology than the health professional who works with them? When the world of wearables reaches its peak, you don’t want to be just learning about them. This is a relevant retail offering, and the sooner you get on board, the better for your pharmacy business. Activity trackers are only the beginning of wearable health tech. Innovations in this area will continue to develop, with nano-technology making the wearables less cumbersome and easier to wear. But it is AI, which makes everything possible.

Of course, there’s going to be people who reject wearing technology, for a number of reasons. So it won’t immediately make every patient interaction super easy. But for the ones who do, you can look forward to better informed consultations.

Monitoring Fraudulent Behaviour

It feels as though I read about a struck-off pharmacist every other week for some fraudulent behaviour or other. But the beauty of AI, especially when coupled with shared data, such as from SystmOne, is that once fraudulent behaviour happens, and happens, and happens again, the system learns the unconscious patterns in an organisation that lead to fraudulent behaviour. The financial world deploys similar systems. In fact, $217 billion has been spent on AI systems preventing fraud and assessing risk within the banking industry alone. Obviously, the expense of these systems is large (these systems usually start at around £100k), however, as technology advances, it will grow increasingly more affordable.

It isn’t just pharmacist fraud either. Prescription fraud faces a tough future, (provided we move to a fully digitised system,) not just with AI detecting fraudulent patient behaviour, but also from blockchain technology. Blockchain is actually the better of the two at stopping fraud (certainly for now) as current anti-fraud AI technology doesn’t work in real-time.

Could A.I. go badly for Pharmacy?

We could wish for AI tomorrow and end up regretting embracing the technology too fast, or for the wrong reasons, Black Mirror style.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Well, probably the worst-case scenario is the malevolent use of Big Data. There’s a definite argument for whoever controls the data holding too much power. Especially as corporations, whose primary directive is to make more money, are the ones investing heavily in AI. This is especially true if one company ends up as the dominant force in the industry.

Coincidentally, a short while after I wrote the sentence about Big Data being used malevolently, I came across a company called Benevolent AI, involved in drug discovery & development. It’s either sheer coincidence, or the AI industry is already proactively setting the perception this kind of criticism.

AI – Always Infallible?

There’s also the potential for AI to get things wrong. When you consider that it learns solely from data, without the experience or the perspective of a human, then what happens when the data it’s making decisions on is inaccurate, or incomplete? For instance, facial recognition technology isn’t as effective on Black & Asian faces. Imprisoning incorrectly is an issue. Diagnosing incorrectly and prescribing medication for an ailment someone doesn’t have? Also not ideal. Now, there are failsafes we can put in place. But misinterpreted data, or conclusions drawn from incomplete data are potential pitfalls that need accounting for.

What do I need to do as a pharmacist?

Eventually AI will go mainstream and become the default in healthcare settings. As and when this happens, naturally everyone must adapt.

But until that point, my advice is proactively seek out these technologies and innovations, as soon as you can. They make your life easier, and your patients lives better.

Why would you not want that as soon as possible?

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pharmacy dispensing robots buyers guide
Pharmacy Dispensing Robots can revolutionise pharmacy workflow. But significant investments require confidence in the option you’re picking. This guide curates some of the best offerings on the market into one place, giving you convenience and guidance to start your journey to the promised land of automated dispensing.

Prescription Dispensing Robots, broken down into parts.

If you’ve arrived at this page, you’re probably quite advanced in your decision to acquire a Pharmacy Dispensing Robot. Dispensing Robots automate tasks like dispensing pills, searching for medication, and managing stock levels. They can radically change the workflow of your pharmacy.

But when it comes to all the different options offered by providers, the analysis paralysis is real. Even just one provider has a wide range of options – it’s tricky to narrow down exactly the specification you need. Finding the sweet spot of balancing the cost to impact ratio is the end goal, but with so many options, it’s easy to feel overloaded with information.

So before you decide on four arms or one, Chaotic or Channel-fed dispensing, storing or packaging…read this guide and make your life a little easier. After all, that’s what Pharmacy Robots are supposed to do!

Read more

Most community pharmacies have a pharmacy website. But just having a website is pointless if it doesn’t serve a purpose for your pharmacy.

What makes a good pharmacy website?

A good pharmacy website is one that creates value for your business. Good pharmacy websites are assets, just like a member of your team. And just like a member of your team, your website should be nurtured, not neglected.

This is a list of 5 features you should treat your website to. With all these in place, you’ll quickly see the value of a “good” pharmacy website.

what does a good pharmacy website look like?

1. Discoverability (Search Engine Optimisation)

Creating a website that gets no visitors is about as useful as opening up a pharmacy in the middle of the Sahara desert. Ie, you just shouldn’t bother.

With every website should be a plan to acquire visitors. Don’t have one? Get one.

A lot of people expect that somehow when their website is built, visitors will sort of just, happen.

There’s a definite blind spot between consumers and website designers, where consumers expect this to be part of their website build, and designers don’t ask the right questions for the client to realise that the on-page content needs to be optimised for search engines to pick it up.

So, whose responsibility is it?

I sympathise a little with the designers. Designers see themselves as architects, not interior designers. You wouldn’t expect your architect to choose your wallpaper. That’s how most web developers see the written content on your website. As your responsibility. After all, their speciality is coding, not writing.

However, I sympathise more with the business buying the website. Websites are relatively new, compared to my analogy of houses and architects. And because they’re new, there isn’t a common understanding of how they work. So in my view, it’s on the agency, service provider to make sure the client is at least aware of what having a website entails.

However, there are a surprising number of web development agencies who wash their hands of the success of a website once it leaves the design phase.

We are very transparent with our clients that without an SEO strategy in place to attract visitors to their site, the website won’t be as effective.

What is SEO and how does it attract visitors?

If you don’t know what SEO is or how it works, I’d strongly recommend you check out our complete guide to SEO. But in a nutshell, SEO is the process of optimising your website so it shows up on search engines.

SEO tells Google what searches you’d like to show up for

Whilst there are a lot of technical aspects that contribute to SEO that do fall under the responsibility of your web development team, your on-page content (ie the words on your website) determines which search terms you want your website to show up for. So it’s massively important this is given the attention it deserves, not swept under the rug like it often is.

Is there no other way to attract visitors?

Technically, there could be other ways you attract visitors to your pharmacy website, but realistically, most pharmacies don’t have anything like the right online infrastructure in place to do this. For instance, you could have a great email or social media funnel which regularly links to your website. But even if you did, that’s no reason to close the door on an opportunity to attract thousands of new visitors.

2. Modern, mobile-friendly design

Design matters so much when it comes to your website. Website design isn’t just how a website looks, but also how it works, how it’s laid out, and how easy it is to use. And especially nowadays, how easy it is to use on a mobile device.

Why design of a pharmacy website matters so much

In this whole section on design, and I can’t promise it will end there, user expectations will dominate the conversation.

Expectation vs Reality

There are three levels to expectations. You can either exceed, meet, or fall short of them. And at the time of writing, so many pharmacy websites fall short of the public’s expectations.

Where do these expectations come from? Experience. And not just with a pharmacy website. But with any website.

Your pharmacy website should be as easy to use as any modern website, because that’s what you’re up against in the eyes of the public.

If your website doesn’t meet expectations, people will leave, and quickly.

Ever-evolving design

Great design starts with good foundations, but it shouldn’t end there. Once your site is live, you can analyse how users are interacting with your site.

Understanding how your users behave on your website helps you create an even better design, which encourages more users to spend more time on your pharmacy website. The longer they spend on your website, the more they understand what you offer. The more they understand what you offer, the more likely they are to take you up on that offer. It’s a lovely little chain that all starts with the design of your site.

What are the expectations of a pharmacy website?

Expectations for a pharmacy website would be the same as the expectations of a pharmacy:

  • Clean and spacious feel
  • Intuitive layout
  • Clearly signposted areas of interest e.g., prescriptions, clinics, products
  • Short waiting times
  • Information & advice available on demand
  • Accessible contact
  • Ability to book and pay for services & products

The more you imagine replicating your pharmacy experience on your website, the better your website will be.

A good user experience (UX)

The bar for best practice is constantly being raised, as both technology and developer’s skills improve. This is why older designs aren’t feasible anymore. It’s like modern cars being designed without anti-lock brakes, or power steering. The technology is there, so there’s no excuse to not incorporate it into your design. Asking people to use your old website with poor functionality is like trying to sell a car from the ’90s in a new showroom. No one’s going to accept it.

3. Updated Information

Updated information on a pharmacy website helps both you and your community. The last thing your pharmacy team needs is pressure from patients who’ve read something on your website that doesn’t apply anymore, such as opening times, or prices.

Consistently updating your website might seem like a lot of effort. But if you think of how many people that information serves, compared to how many times you’d have to individually explain it over the phone or in-person…it is actually a time-saver.

Imagine how many fewer phone calls you’d get if your website had up-to-date COVID information on it. (Now, that particular example is extreme, as it isn’t your information, and it’s changing constantly, but it’s a relevant example for the moment.)

Search engines love updated content

Updated information also helps with your on-page SEO, which we talked about earlier. Search engines want to give their users the most relevant information for their queries, so fresh information has a better chance of being recommended more highly.

4. Booking Calendar

A booking calendar gives all your online marketing activities a focal point. It gives your customer journey a finish line. In short, as a pharmacy aiming for more clinical bookings – it’s your marketing’s raison d’etre (the reason it exists).

Directing people to your booking calendar

Social Media Posts

Now, this doesn’t mean that every time you make any post on social media ever, you link your booking calendar. But anything that relates to your services can (and should) absolutely have a link to book the service in question.

Blog Posts

The same goes for any blog posts you do. The reason you should be blogging is to drive relevant traffic to your website. Relevant, in a pharmacy’s case, means people who might well become patients or customers. Throughout these blogs, but especially at the end of the blog, you need to provide a link and show people they’re able to book now.

If the blog is about a health condition, there’s a good chance they’ve just searched their symptoms on Google. Now they’ve come to your website because of the updated information on your website that you’ve optimised for search engines, (see points 1 & 3), you might link to booking a consultation with a pharmacist.

If they found your private clinic page, it means they’re looking for treatment, and there should be an option to book that treatment, making it as easy as possible for people to use your pharmacy.

Free up your pharmacy team

Your pharmacy team is too busy to handle bookings. Especially when it’s often not just bookings, but rescheduling or cancellations. (20% to 30% of patients cancel or re-book their medical appointments ((Well App, 2021)).

Booking calendar on a pharmacy website

This pharmacy website has a separate booking calendar for each category of clinical services.

Improve Your Patient Experience

Booking an appointment online takes less than a minute. Booking over the phone takes 8.1 minutes on average, taking into account being put on hold. (CalendarHero, 2021).

87% of potential new patients do not leave a message or book an appointment when reaching voicemail (CallTracker).

An elegant solution, a simple website addition

Let your website handle your pharmacy bookings and you get:

  • Increased bookings – physicians who offer online appointments alongside phone appointments were booked 24% more than those who offer phone appointments only (Dental Economics, 2021).
  • Out-of-hours bookings made – 43% of patients search for health care professionals after business hours (Dental Economics, 2021).
  • Minimise no-shows (especially in combination with text/email reminders)
  • Give a sensible Call-To-Action (CTA) for any service-related digital marketing activities
  • Efficient appointments – online appointment scheduling makes time for two extra patients every day (Deloitte).

Booking software is cost-effective, especially if you have an already thriving clinical business. Just in the time saved for your pharmacy team, it pays for itself.

5. Payments

Having an online payments solution on your website hinges on whether or not you sell products or take bookings through your website. But on the assumption that you’re doing at least one of those two things, taking payments online is a real must.

Why should I accept payments on my pharmacy website?

Firstly, with a pharmacy eCommerce website, (follow the link for a how-to guide for eCommerce), payments are a must. You can’t sell products if you can’t take payments. There isn’t much more that needs to be said on that.

Even if you’re only promoting clinical services, however, taking online payments on your pharmacy website is a massive boon. We touched on minimising no-shows in the previous point, and it applies again here. When someone has paid for a service, they’re committed to showing up, allowing you to run your clinic without constantly wondering if the next patient’s going to be there.

It’s more convenient for both you and your patients

If a patient has already paid, they don’t need to remember to bring anything to the appointment. There isn’t an issue if your card machine stops working, or if you don’t have the right change.

Also…

Payments take up everyone’s time

Let’s say private Flu Vaccine Clinic appointment slots are 5 minutes, and it takes a minute to make a payment.

For every 5 patients you see, you lose an appointment slot. And if your calendar doesn’t take this time into account, it can quickly make your time run over for your appointments.

Allowing people to pay when they book kills two birds with one stone, allowing your clinic to run efficiently, and with peace of mind that those appointments will actually be fulfilled. Read more about online payments here.

Online Payment Gateways for Pharmacy

Read our article for the Top Online Payment Gateways for your Pharmacy.

 


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Looking for an Independent Pharmacy Marketing Agency can be a hard task, especially if you don’t really understand marketing. This guide explains what you need to look for, so you can find an agency with confidence.

An Independent Pharmacy Marketing Agency should:

  • Understand how an independent pharmacy works
  • Understand the strict rules around advertising for pharmacies
  • Practise what they preach
  • Offer pricing that makes sense
  • Have a range of case studies that make sense

Where to start

There’s a lot to consider when entering into any business agreement. As an independent pharmacy marketing agency working with hundreds of pharmacy owners and superintendents, we understand what makes a good partnership. Like all partnerships, it’s a two-way street. For a truly successful working relationship, you have to understand what the agency needs from you and be willing to work with them too.

But in this article, we’ll focus on the independent pharmacy marketing agency and what they should bring to the table.

Pricing

Naturally, if you’re like most people that have ever existed, your initial instinct will be to hunt down the prices and find the cheapest option.

And whilst that instinct is of course a consideration, I’ll explain why the price tag isn’t the be-all and end-all.

Don’t be drawn in by a low price tag

Price comparisons are only comparisons when the product is the same. Is the new iPhone cheaper from one supplier than another? Great. Grab the cheapest deal.

But if one life insurance policy costs £5/month, and another costs £100/month? It would be foolish to rush out and grab the cheapest deal without knowing what you’re getting. If the £5/month deal only pays out £50 if you get hit by lightning, whilst the £100/month policy pays out £1 million, whatever happens, it’s clear that the £100/month policy was by far the better option.

Comparing service offerings from marketing agencies means comparing what’s being delivered, as well as the levels of service you receive. Once you have an idea of what’s being delivered, you can begin figuring out the comparative costs.

Return on Investment (ROI)

What’s also worth assessing is what return you’re going to see on the investment you’re making. It’s something you can address with an agency in any talks you have prior to signing any agreements.

Now, marketing is hugely variable, so not even the best agencies can give you accurate figures for your business. That’s crystal ball territory. But what they should do is discuss how businesses similar to yours have performed to give you an idea of what to expect.

If an agency is proud of the results they achieve, you’ll find they post case studies highlighting the work they’ve done. Again, this isn’t necessarily replicable for your business, but it gives you an indication of what’s possible.

Does the marketing agency practise what they preach?

A pretty simple way of finding out if a marketing agency is worth employing is to check how they market themselves, especially with regards to the specific services they’re offering to you.

Sign-up to their mailing list and see what their emails are like. How does their website compare to other agency websites? Check their social media out. Do they rank well on Google for a range of different search terms? Do they create how-to videos?

You’re choosing an agency to represent you. How they represent themselves gives a good indication of how your pharmacy will be represented.

Case Studies

I mentioned them before, but as well as executing their own marketing strategy well, nothing gives you more proof than what the agency has achieved with other pharmacies like yours.

Make sure to check out the agencies’ case studies.

Compare them with other case studies. Make sure to pay attention for stats, rather than just wild claims. Anyone can say they’ve increased sales, but that might mean generating one sale.

Why an independent pharmacy marketing agency should understand pharmacy

Okay, I wrote that heading a little obtusely. It’s pretty clear that it helps to know the subject you’re going to market.

But aside from that, we know the most precious commodity in pharmacy is time. Whilst it can be helpful to get an outside perspective on your business, you don’t want to be spending all your time educating your agency and fielding questions on all the ins and outs of pharmacy.

At Pharmacy Mentor, for instance, we balance the two. Our CEO is a pharmacist, and every new team member gets trained in pharmacy knowledge. What that means as an agency is bringing all the fresh marketing ideas to the industry whilst keeping our client interactions to analysis and strategy.

Whatever agency you look at, make sure they have that understanding.

Any agency working with pharmacies must understand the advertising policy around Pharmacy

Marketing fashion or any other simple consumer products online is simple, at least when it comes to rules to follow. You’d have to do something pretty outrageous to get an advertising account banned in most industries.

But with advertising pharmacy on digital channels, caution is highly advised. We’ve had several clients come to us with accounts that have been banned for advertising prescription medicines, and others banned for promoting their COVID-19 vaccination service & PCR tests.

Once you are banned, it’s nigh-on impossible to get un-banned. This is really harmful to your marketing prospects, as advertising can be a massive source of new business.

So it’s critical that whomever so handles your advertising…is aware of the minefield they tread.

Facebook & Google’s Policy on advertising pharmaceuticals

This is because Facebook and Google‘s advertising policies have extremely strict policies for certain areas of medicine on their platform. I’ve linked them there so you can have a quick peek, but often what you’ll find is it’ll say things like “as determined by Facebook in its sole discretion.”

Now, what that means is, it isn’t explicitly written anywhere what you can and can’t say. And your advertising account can be banned without warning for breaching the advertising policies around pharmaceuticals.

What that means is, if you value your ability to advertise online, you need to tread carefully when advertising your pharmacy. From an agency standpoint, that’s why it’s important to work with people who know what the rules are. Pharmacy Mentor are have both Google & Facebook agency reps who help us navigate this terrain, and it’s worth its weight in gold.

Found this article helpful?

At Pharmacy Mentor we’re on a mission to help every Community Pharmacy in the UK digitise their pharmacy and thrive in the new age of digital healthcare.

If you’d like to have a conversation with us about marketing your pharmacy, please fill out our contact form. A member of our team will contact you for a chat about what you’re looking to do and the best way to proceed.

You can also sign-up for our newsletter below and start receiving weekly emails with all our latest tips on the best ways to connect your community with your services.

About

A large pharmacy group needed a new website & wanted to improve the efficiency of their internal communications. They really wanted a partner for all things online rather than just a web agency. After developing a front-end (public-facing) website for them, they then commissioned us to build an intranet in the back-end of the website.

Challenges

The challenges faced with the public-facing website were mainly down to taking their existing bold, brave, and green branding and creating a design that looked great and modern but also didn’t alienate older customers. The issue with the current website was that newer customers weren’t getting a contemporary experience and that meant potential revenue loss.

The challenges with building the intranet were creating an intuitive intranet and getting the buy-in from the staff members who’d need to use it as a result. Up until that point, they’d been using third-party software like Dropbox and GoogleDrive, which wasn’t efficient across multiple pharmacies, nor was it as secure. There were issues of keeping important company documents and assets across multiple different platforms, i.e. Google Drive, Sharepoint. It’s hard at that point for team members to understand which the most recent document was without inefficient searching across multiple software platforms.

They also wanted to centralise end of month processes, make sure pharmacies had up to date medicine prices without sending bulk emails, and places where the staff could accessing training easily, amongst other things.

Solutions

Pharmacy Mentor first re-designed the older public-facing website. We delivered a modern website design that still retained the “feel” of the brand. This built a lot of trust with the pharmacy group as a result of the work we did here. So much so that they asked us to create the back-end of the website for them.

  • The CRM we created in the intranet has forums, allowing for quick company-wide messaging and feedback.
  • It also has a cloud-storage solution, meaning no more third-party software for important company assets and documents.
  • The whole system was created with ease-of-use as a priority, to get maximum buy-in from the staff.
  • It allows for all staff to access training easily.
  • It allows dispensed to upload month-end via intuitive forms.
  • All communication is now centralised rather than sending emails and WhatsApp’s, where things get lost.
  • They have “group forums” for all types of situations, for example, “Out of Stock Medicines” and “Pre-reg students”.
  • The solution is flexible to allow for any 3rd party integrations like Mailchimp Newsletters or Hubspot.
  • The solution is mobile friendly so that staff can access it on the go.
  • The solution has in-built HR mechanisms to support holidays/sick leave and other requests

Results

The pharmacy group can now share information company-wide, and get feedback from every single member of staff. This allows the headquarters to coordinate far easier, with much simpler management of multiple branches. It also means a more holistic experience for employees, with a system that doesn’t require much training.

This second project was a lot more involved but has been a huge success since its launch a few months ago and all company members are active on the platform. Feedback has been that team members find it far easier to get the important info they need.

Pharmacy Management System

We’ve balanked out any confidential information

Want to create a cutting-edge pharmacy website with us? Simply get in touch with us and we’ll be glad to help.

About

A pharmacy based in Wales with no digital presence at all, no website, no social media, no email marketing.  The pharmacy is in Wales which means they don’t have EPS either.  They’ve also recently started an Ear & Hearing Health Clinic, as well as signed up for a prescription-reordering app.

Challenges

The challenges of having no digital presence whatsoever were primarily:

  • Customer acquisition for private clinics, prescriptions, and sign-ups for their new Prescription Collection Point & prescription reordering app.
  • Their phone was constantly ringing and they wanted to move away from dealing with phone calls.
  • They were restricted to offline advertising.
  • Being in Wales, they also don’t have EPS, so another solution to automate needed to be considered.
  • They have no way of cross-promoting their services to their existing community.

Solutions

Website & SEO

Pharmacy Mentor began by developing their website with a booking calendar, we created Search-engine-optimised (SEO) blog posts (what is SEO?) for their private clinics (e.g., ear wax removal and both NHS & Private flu jab clinics.) We then implemented the following:

  • We created optimised blog posts, written clearly and informatively. The blogs give prospective patients all the information they need to make an informed appointment booking.
  • At the end of their SEO blogs for their clinics are calls-to-action with a conveniently integrated booking calendar.
  • We promote the prescription re-ordering app through organic Facebook channels, as well as the website.

Prescription Automation

  • We created a unique EPS-style form for them. Patients fill in the form, select their local GP and nominate them as a pharmacy. This is then sent to the GP’s for admin/approval.
  • We designed a poster with a QR code to attach to the Prescription Collection Point. This QR Code is linked to the sign-up form for the service.
  • Anyone who signs up to the PCP service gets automatically sent a custom-designed branded welcome email explaining the service and what they need to do. The email has a picture of the pharmacy team which instills a sense of connection early on. It lets the patient know that despite signing up for an automated system, there are real people working behind the scenes.

Social Media & Advertising

  • We created an optimised Facebook & Google profile for their pharmacy. Managing these with branded content is growing awareness in their community of what the pharmacy offers.
  • We create and run ad campaigns both on Google, promoting their Flu Jab clinics, as well as Facebook Ads promoting their Ear Wax Removal service. The Facebook ads in particular drive multiple bookings per week.

The primary function of the ecosystem is to attract new patients digitally (ie with no input from the pharmacists) and retain them within a digital system, be that the Facebook page, an email list, the Prescription re-ordering app, or the PCP sign-up system.

Results

There are a lot of good results here, because starting from zero leaves a lot of ground to cover.

The revenue isn’t being tracked through the website, hence displaying as zero.

Website & SEO

  • We installed analytics into their site two weeks ago, 567 sessions and 1000 page views since that time. (Previous performance is, unfortunately, untracked, but these are good stats for a pharmacy that 6 months ago had no digital presence.)
  • 44% of their website traffic comes from Social Media & Google, directly through the ongoing Social Media & Blogging work we do for them.
  • The booking calendar on their website means all clinic appointments are now booked online. Meaning fewer phone calls.
  • In the past month, they’ve seen 166 appointments booked for either Ear Wax Removals, Ear Health Checks, or Flu Jabs.

Additional Results

  • Their email marketing list is currently at 177 subscribers since its creation 2 months ago. This is currently used to inform patients of services available at the pharmacy, but there’s more potential for promoting products and special offers.
  • We are driving signups to their Prescription Collection Point through both organic Facebook posting, and Facebook Ads.
  • The Prescription Collection Point also generates sign-ups through its QR code, meaning patients who see it and like the idea can sign-up immediately without having to contact the pharmacy. Meaning fewer phone calls.

Overall, the digital ecosystem is up and running successfully. The pharmacists are enjoying the time they get to spend on patient care instead of admin. The digital marketing we’re doing is driving patients to the pharmacy and all the pharmacists have to worry about is patient care. The results aren’t out of this world compared to pharmacies who’ve been operating digitally for years. But this is the very start of this pharmacy’s digital journey and they’re already seeing the benefits.

Now we have analytics installed for them, we can review and optimise our tactics further, which will mean increased success rates further down the line.

Want to start your digital journey with us? Simply get in touch with us and we’ll be glad to help.

81k visitors in 6 months - seo for websites

About

A pharmacy focused on private clinical services. They wanted to fill their calendar with clinical appointment bookings, as the profit margins on these services are substantial. They also wanted to reduce the typical level of administration that would come with managing clinical appointments.

Challenges

The clinic needed to be marketed specifically to patients with needs for clinical services, in order to keep the marketing budget efficient.

For most of the clinics, the patients would need a pre-consultation assessment, in order to assess their suitability for treatment(s).

Patients were largely unaware that a pharmacy would offer the services they sought.

Solutions

Pharmacy Mentor recommended a Search Engine Optimised blogging strategy.

Because of the size of the budget, we wanted to better track and analyse what was happening, which meant using our Advanced Google Ads management.

  • We created a series of blog posts (1 every 2 weeks) with a focus around the keywords that best represented each clinic, e.g., “Vitamin B12 injections+location.”
  • The blog posts were written clearly and informatively. Walking prospective patients through recognising their symptoms, to what to expect from the treatment.
  • At the end of the blog is a call-to-action with a conveniently integrated booking calendar.

The idea is to create a funnel for each individual clinic, giving every patient an informed, intuitive journey from Google Search to appointment booking.

Results

Each blog post for each clinic ranks #1 on Google for (name of service)+(location). e.g. Blood Tests + Location.

As a result, this pharmacy has generated 81k clicks between the end of March 2021 and the beginning of October 2021.

The margins aren’t exact, as we’re talking about a collection of different services but let’s say for ease of maths, that the average clinical appointment only generates a profit of £10.

If less than half (40k) of those clicks booked an appointment, that would be £400k of revenue generated over 6 months.

Naturally, this is a case study, so it isn’t typical of results. But it shows what can be done.

pcr x seo - graphs showing 36600 pauser sessions and over sixty thousand page views

This image above shows a recent spike in activity due to a recent re-introduction of Day 2 PCR testing. This pharmacy was already #1 on Google for PCR test+location. As a result, when the demand for this service spiked, they were the ones who benefited from 7,000+ page views a day. And that’s the secret to SEO. It is a proactive tactic to capture the business of tomorrow. If you want results today, you need to have started work six months ago (or 2 years ago, as was the case with this pharmacy.)

Want to start your SEO journey with us? Simply get in touch with us and we’ll be glad to help.

There is currently a huge unmet demand for ear and hearing health services in the UK.

With most GPs discontinuing earwax removal services, it has become increasingly hard for patients to access this care on the NHS. Average wait times (pre-Covid19) were approximately 12-16 weeks. However, many patients are now waiting over a year to receive treatment. 

It is vital patients are able to access this type of care because hearing loss causes problems with balance and falls and is known to be the single largest modifiable risk factor for the prevention of dementia.

TympaHealth Clinics

Offering an Ear & Hearing Health service, plugging the gap

Many pharmacies have already expanded their services. Helping support their local communities in accessing ear and hearing healthcare services and reduce the burden on secondary care settings.

The Tympa system is the world’s first, all-in-one hearing health assessment system. It empowers pharmacists to perform HD digital otoscopy, microsuction wax removal, and a hearing screener, in a single 30-minute appointment. What’s more, pharmacists can access remote advice and guidance from Audiologists & ENT specialist surgeons when required. This means you’re never without support if you need it.

Secure Patient Data

All patient records and data are kept in a fully secure digital system. This can be quickly and easily shared via a professional PDF, with ENT surgeons or audiologists, should the patient need onward specialist treatment.

The Tympa service offers a brand-new revenue stream for your pharmacy. Generally, you only need to deliver two appointments per month to cover the cost of the Tympa device. What’s more, the increased footfall within your pharmacy can lead to boosts in cross-selling potential for other ear-related products such as Earol and decongestants.

“We have traditionally been all about dispensing the medicine, and yet now we can dispense care, we can dispense health, we can dispense a better quality of life and that’s an honour to do that. The bottom line is this service is invaluable.
Bernadette Brown – Pharmacy Owner

“Patients are getting more than just ear wax removal, they’re getting an ear check-up, they’re getting a healthcare professional looking in their ear, who can then actually prescribe for them.
Kara McIvor, Pharmacist

The Tympa System is a win-win. Your pharmacy can benefit from increased revenues, and deliver vital ear and hearing health services to your local community. With hearing loss rapidly becoming one of the UK’s top disease burdens – overtaking diabetes and cataracts by 2030 – now is the time for your pharmacy to be at the forefront of ear and hearing healthcare.

ear and hearing health service

The Tympa Health Kit

Want to find out more about bringing TympaHealth services to your local community?

Please contact enquiries@tympahealth.com, and one of our team will be in touch. Or, head to the TympaHealth website to find out more.

Found this article helpful?

A big thanks to TympaHealth for contributing this article, giving our audience some great insights into the benefits of the Tympa Service.

You can find all our articles and subscribe to our mailing list on our website. We’re always helping pharmacy owners to make the most of their pharmacy business with the very best in pharmacy marketing tips and guidance. We’d love to see you join our community!

About

A pharmacy with a travel clinic providing PCR testing. They were managing their own Google Ads, and spending a lot of budget without seeing much return.

Challenges

The market was competitive, in a big city, especially after the local airport started doing same-day testing. They were spending between £82-£156 a day on their Google Ads, and their conversion rate was 1.5%.

Conversion rate with an ad is the number of people who saw the ad who also then went on to take action (e.g. by calling the pharmacy). This was set by default to anyone who called the pharmacy counting as a lead. Often calls would be a waste of time, and so the conversion rate wasn’t really meaningful.

That means they spent on average £1 for every lead, and only 1 lead out of 100 was converting into a customer. Unless that one lead was buying multiple PCR tests, they weren’t making their money back on that ad spend. We spoke to them about improving their return on investment.

Solutions

Pharmacy Mentor took over the management of the pharmacy’s Google Ads, to link with the Search Engine Optimised (SEO) landing page for PCR testing we had done earlier.

Because of the size of the budget, we wanted to better track and analyse what was happening, which meant using our Advanced Google Ads management.

  • Utilised Google Tag Manager to monitor activity on the landing page.
  • Tailored every aspect of the ad to suit the business.
  • Analysed the budget to control the cost of each lead, including staying competitive with competitor budgets.
  • We set a parameter of a call lasting over 45 seconds with the pharmacy to count as a qualified lead. Calls under that time were usually a waste of time and of no value.

Results

The conversion rate after we took over the ad exploded from 1% to 21%. (not forgetting that we’d actually made it harder for someone to qualify as a conversion.)

We estimated conversions conservatively at £95 (the cost of a single PCR test) which brings you to the £257k figure shown below in the red box.

That’s the estimated revenue generated.

£257k.

With a spend of £19k.

In reality, people often bought more than one PCR test when booking, so the actual revenue generated may well be higher.

Whether it could’ve been higher or not, £257k return from £19k investment is a result I don’t think anyone could argue with.

 

 

If you’re looking for help in marketing your services better and building on your online presence, then please get in touch with us and we’ll be glad to help.

how to setup a successful pharmacy ecommerce website
A successful eCommerce website massively expands your customer base and increases spend from your existing customer base. How? By putting you in front of their faces when they’re ready to buy.

Online sales rise continually year on year, but if you don’t have a pharmacy eCommerce website, you won’t see a penny of it.

ecommerce sales as a percentage of total retail sales

The components of a successful Pharmacy eCommerce Website

This article is a recipe for sweet success when it comes to eCommerce. But what are the key ingredients you need for the delicious end result?

  • Information-rich product pages/descriptions
  • Simple (and secure!) checkout process
  • A good eCommerce platform
  • Customised design for your specific business
  • Intuitive and convenient categorisation & navigation around the online shop
  • A mobile-responsive version of the site.
  • SEO

Before we start putting the pieces together for a successful site, let’s first take a step back and look at the big picture. (That’s what my mum always told me to do with jigsaws.)

How Pharmacy eCommerce works

Pharmacy eCommerce is about taking your pharmacy business online. Not just the marketing, but the actual sales themselves. We’re not talking about just booking services anymore, but setting up a full online store with products, payments, and postage.

For your customers, this means they can buy from you without ever leaving their homes. Super convenient.

For you, this means expanding your business beyond the previous geographical limits. Check the case study below for an example of what success looks like with a pharmacy eCommerce website!

The present and future of eCommerce

In 5 years’ time, you’ll wear a pair of glasses that connect to your temples. When you think about something you need, the glasses bring up an option to order it straight away from the most relevant supplier.

Ok, I made that up. But only to prove a point. Because that’s essentially how Google works already. And increasingly, how audio works. Let me explain. If you already know how Google and smart devices work, skip the next two headings.

eCommerce on Home Voice Devices

This is how easy ordering products online with smart household devices is.

  1. Start an order, say something like “Ok Google, buy Ibuprofen.”
  2. Google reads off the top search results and asks for confirmation.
  3. Say “Yes” to order, or “No” to get the next search result.
Smart Home Devices can be used for shopping online

Smart Home Devices are increasingly used across modern households.

Depending on your device, you can also specify a preference for a specific company. Simply say “Buy Ibuprofen from JP Pharmacy” to only get results from your favourite shop. Already bought an item? You can say “reorder Ibuprofen” to place the same order again, which should default to the same place you bought it from.

Recognising convenience as the biggest strength of eCommerce, you see how this process could be used to capture and lock down repeat business.

Pharmacy eCommerce websites on Google

We’ve talked many times about how when people need something and they don’t know where to get it, Google is where they go. And so ranking highly on Google is critical to any eCommerce strategy. I won’t go into too much detail here, but if you want to understand why ranking on Google is so important to your strategy, read this pharmacy guide to winning Google.
The additional element you need for eCommerce is optimising those product pages. Pertinent information and relevant product descriptions helps Google index your site, as well as giving a great shopping experience. The combination of those two means you’ll rank well on Google and will reap the profits as a result.

Creating a successful Pharmacy eCommerce website

Now we understand how they work, it’s time to follow our recipe for creating that successful Pharmacy eCommerce website.

Firstly, select the right platform

We use WooCommerce, because of its seamless integration into WordPress sites. What this means is the complete functionality of WordPress with your shop.

Why is that good?

Glad you asked. Just for absolute clarity – an eCommerce platform is not the same as a website. So, using WooCommerce (eCommerce platform) because it works well with WordPress, means you can create an entire website with eCommerce, rather than just one or the other.

Next, Customise your Website

This is important for your shoppers and your pharmacy business too. Once we’ve got our platform, it’s time to think about how it appears online. Customising its appearance and structure makes a massive difference.

For happy customers

Your online shop should be as distinguished an experience as shopping in your pharmacy. That’s not to say it’s the same level of experience. But just as you’d hope to give someone a better experience than your competition, you should strive to deliver a better experience than your competition.

For an efficient pharmacy business

Customising your website for the way you work is another cornerstone for success. Because the website is only the front of the business, like a physical pharmacy building. It still requires work behind the scenes to deliver on the orders.  Understanding how you operate and incorporating that into the website is critical.

On the customer side, it ensures excellent service. From your side, it prevents administrative workload issues. Further than that, the right website design brings a level of automation that improves the profitability of your overall business.

There are also different models and focuses of pharmacies now. Customising a website with these focuses in mind is important. The difference between success and irrelevance can be fine margins. The devil is often in the details.

See that in action as we build an eCommerce solution for an Aesthetics pharmacy in the case study below.

Website Design

Now it’s time to think about presentation. The eCommerce platform was the skeleton, your customised website is the muscles, now it’s time to put the skin on and make the whole thing look pretty.

Interactive and responsive design, including contemporary look-and-feel, good usability and high-quality graphics is the pinnacle.

If people don’t feel like your website is up-to-date, it won’t inspire confidence that your products or services are. I’ve seen websites look so dated, I didn’t buy from them in case it was a business that didn’t even trade anymore. I wouldn’t want my money going somewhere unless I’m sure I’m going to get the product.

Cultivating the intuitive navigation and layout

Presumably you put thought into the layout of your pharmacy. Where products go, what signs you use for different sections, like Prescriptions, Skincare etc. More recently you’ve implemented one-way systems and social distancing stickers on the floors.

This all needs doing for your online shop. Don’t forget the number one reason people are shopping online in the first place – convenience. Making your website as easy as possible to find both the products that people are visiting specifically to buy, as well as recommending similar or alternative products mirrors the journey they’d experience in your pharmacy.

Creating a product ecosystem with integrated SEO

Product ecosystems are simply products that interlink with each other in some way. Think Apple’s iPhone, Airpods, and Apple Watches. If you have one, chances are you’ll want the others.
Product ecosystems help both the buying journey and the Google ranking, so it’s a must for any pharmacy eCommerce website. Linking optimised content with relevant, optimised product pages sounds technical, but it’s really simple in concept.

All it means, translated into simple terms, is that you’re combining the information and advice with your product, as well as linking relevant products. Buying throat numbing spray? You might also be interested in Vapour Rub, Lemsip, and Lozenges.

Including a “How-to-use” guide (or similar) with your product not only helps people to find you on Google, but also instills confidence in the purchase at the moment of decision-making.

Having the relevant information on your product pages boosts your Google rankings too, the same way blog articles and other web pages rank higher with well-organised and relevant information.

Safe & Simple Checkout Process

Picture it.

You pop into the supermarket and pick up a carton of juice for the morning. You get to the checkouts and it’s like Christmas Eve, every checkout has at least three packed trolleys. Do you wait half an hour to buy that juice? Of course you don’t. Because you don’t have the time.

So you leave. You head to a corner shop and pick up juice there. The woman behind the counter says they only accept credit cards. She pulls out a machine that doesn’t look anything like a normal card machine. She says she’ll need to take a photo of your card for security and your signature. Again, you put down the juice and say it’s ok, you’ll go somewhere else.

These are parallels by people’s experiences when giving up online. Even if the website was modern enough to attract the customer and simple enough for them to quickly find what they needed. If the checkout process isn’t simple and secure, you lose customers.

Bear this in mind when selecting an online payment gateway for your pharmacy.

Mobile-responsiveness is now Mobile-First

Once upon a time, optimising for mobile might have been the icing on the cake. Now it’s the self-raising flour. Without it, your website will fall flat. Google recently changed its algorithm, which is the system it uses to analyse and rank websites. Now, your site is judged on the experience it gives to mobile users. This is MASSIVE.

“If it’s your intention that the mobile version has less content than the desktop version, your site may lose some traffic when Google enables mobile-first indexing for your site, since Google won’t be able to get the full information anymore.” – developers.google.com

Why this is important is that you could previously heap tonnes of information onto the desktop version of your site, be judged on that, whilst your stripped-back, simplified mobile version would cruise off the success of your desktop site.

Now, that isn’t the case. This makes it slightly more difficult to strike the balance between informative content and sleek design. You want the information there, but you want to avoid the dreaded “wall of text” that puts off so many users from websites.

Necessary, but desirable

Whilst the Google update now makes Mobile-Friendly websites imperative, the number of mobile users shopping online should be the real incentive.

That one word again. Convenience. If there’s one thing you take away from this article, make it that convenience rules supreme online.

Of course, there is another way…

Just like a recipe, you can take this, and use it to create your own dish. (Though you’d need the technical know-how on top.)

Or, if you’d prefer, the Pharmacy Mentor MasterChefs can whip up a mouth-watering eCommerce solution for your pharmacy. We work with you, understand exactly what it is you need, and produce it. Just like we’ve done countless times for other community pharmacies.