Using Technology to Enhance Pharmacy Care


A revolution has occurred in customer preferences.

Because of the web and smartphones, consumers now expect access to information and services — at any time, from any location. With this change in expectations and the growth of mobile prescription management, independent pharmacies can’t afford to sit idly by, especially as national chains make great leaps in their use of technology.

The good news is that community pharmacies that use technology to provide more personalized service can actually gain a competitive advantage. That’s because customers increasingly want both high tech and the high-touch service that community pharmacies are known for.

Many independents have already embraced this new business model: “Without technology, we wouldn’t be able to take care of patients in the way we want to care for them,” said Jim Jernegan, owner of Jernegan’s Health Mart Pharmacy in New London, Wisconsin. “It frees up our staff to do the things they’ve been trained to do,” explained his wife and co-owner, Cathy Jernegan.

The Jernegans made those remarks in an interview at McKesson ideaShare 2012. Jim Jernegan explained why they decided to become early technology adopters: “We saw what the big chains are doing [in terms of offering increased convenience for customers]. Instead of being left in the dust, we figured that we would have to invest.”

Using Technology to Improve Customer Service

The Jernegans understood that jumping on the latest technological gizmos just to gain bragging rights is no way to run a business. The point is to implement only those technologies that enable community pharmacies to increase their personal touch.

That requires understanding what customers are really looking for from their community pharmacies. In general, customers will welcome technology that provides:

  • Access to information. Providing answers to customers’ questions at their convenience is good customer service. So make sure to post on your website or social-media pages descriptions of your pharmacy’s services and products, contact information, hours of operation, a map or driving directions, and answers to frequently asked questions. Similarly, you can offer customers the opportunity to ask questions via email. Just make sure that you respond to all questions in a timely manner.
  • Increased convenience. Technology that increases convenience is good customer service. So call-routing technology that allows customers to quickly access the right information or people is appreciated. Call-routing that embroils customers in an endless loop without exit is not.
  • A better mix of products and services. Consumers will appreciate pharmacies that use their data to analyze preferences, as long as you use the information to offer more desired products or targeted discounts. Transparency also is important, so make sure you divulge specifically how and when you are using information.
  • Self-service options. Some consumers will value the option of self-checkout lines, if they can choose whether or not to use them. Having a choice empowers customers. Not having a choice makes them feel neglected.

A Great Use of Technology to Increase Customer Satisfaction: Text Message Reminders and Online Refills

Text messaging, online refills and mobile applications are great examples of technologies that enhance customer service because they increase convenience, while also increasing medication adherence. Text-based refill reminders and pick-up notices — as well as mobile applications that enable consumers to place refill orders directly via their smartphones — are particularly popular with busy consumers. It all leads to more efficient and effective customer care, which is why the chains are quickly adopting these technologies.

Services like Your Pharmacy Online from McKesson give independent pharmacies cost-effective access to today’s consumer technologies.

Bringing Everyone Onboard

Many community pharmacy owners are worried that technology will be impersonal and will come between them and their customers. However, when implemented correctly, technology can actually enhance the personal service that a community pharmacy already provides.

Other pharmacy owners are concerned that their staff will resist changes and require extensive training. Cathy Jernegan said that in her experience, pharmacy staff members have needed very little encouragement to learn and use technology that serves customers more efficiently.

“Our staff has been super,” she said. “Every time we’ve brought in a new technology, they’ve embraced it and made it their own. They take pride in not only learning about it but maintaining it.”

It’s not a choice of either using new technologies or offering personal service. It’s both. Technology can help community pharmacies deliver even better personalized service.