Program has prescription for success

 - 
Friday, January 27, 2017

Community pharmacies are doing more these days than just filling prescriptions. They’re  offering immunizations, lab testing, educational classes and other services that reflect the growing role of pharmacies as part of the healthcare team. 

But their customers, who are increasingly going online for guidance with their healthcare decisions, aren’t always aware of what’s available. A recent agreement between the National Community Pharmacists Association and RxWiki, a digital health company, aims to help independent pharmacies expand their digital presence and better market to prospective customers.

The two organizations signed a five-year renewal in December that offers NCPA members access to RxWiki’s pharmacist-written content, social media help and discounted rates on a suite of products including HIPAA-compliant mobile apps with refill capabilities, appointment scheduling and patient reviews.

“Pharmacies have such good relationships with their current patients but they are not always as good at marketing or bringing in new customers,” said Kurt Proctor, senior vice president of strategic initiatives for NCPA, which represents about 22,000 independent community pharmacy owners and members. “We’ve got to meet our customers and patients where they are. If they like to do refills by a mobile app, then we have to help our members to understand how they can do that.”

It can be hard for independent pharmacies to compete with big-box retailers who already offer refill apps and product-focused newsletters. That makes the offerings from RxWiki particularly helpful, Proctor said.

Chris Loughlin, CEO of RxWiki, said the company has invested $5 million to build its “Digital Pharmacist” platform, which offers branded websites, e-newsletters and mobile apps. It is working with about 1,870 stores.

“It’s a lot to ask of pharmacists to build and deploy a mobile app with reminders that is also HIPAA compliant,” Loughlin said. “By building something for a large group of pharmacists, we can make it profitable for us and very affordable for the pharmacies.”

Digital marketing also provides consumers the chance to wield their considerable online power through customer reviews. RxWiki can help pharmacies harness this for promotional purposes, Loughlin added.

“Their customers think they’re amazing,” he said. “They love the service, the knowledge and they also love the delivery aspect. (Sharing that information via customer reviews) is where community pharmacies can win against big-box chains.”