The Pharmacy of Tomorrow is Here

As consumer convenience reigns, McKesson is providing innovative solutions to help independent retail pharmacies meet customers’ evolving expectations.

Read time: 4.5 minutes

In pre-pandemic times, the retail pharmacy experience was traditionally relegated to brick and mortar locations. Even as highly convenient digital and mail-order pharmacy alternatives entered the market, many independent pharmacies have been slow to adopt similar offerings. Instead, they largely focused their success on what they’d done for decades – driving foot traffic to their store aisles and consultation counters.

That success model was turned on its head when the pandemic struck last year. Just like doctors’ offices faced in the months that followed, the contagion concerns associated with COVID-19 drove many people out of their local pharmacies and toward contactless alternatives – ones that enabled the same pharmacy experiences without the physical exposure. Consequently, digital services that many independent pharmacies deemed “future of pharmacy” solutions as recently as last spring are what patients expect them to offer today.

McKesson is no stranger to helping customers navigate industry-disrupting events. For decades, the company has provided pharmacies with new and innovative solutions so they can deliver the best patient care while remaining optimized for success. To help them address this latest industry shift, McKesson is bringing a number of digital solutions to independent pharmacies so they can more seamlessly serve their customers however – and wherever – they choose to be served. Here are just a few ways the company is bringing the future of pharmacy to its customers today.

Telepharmacy consultations

A woman holding a medicine bottle while looking at a cell phone with her child

There’s no doubt that the use of telehealth exploded during the pandemic. While many in-person healthcare appointments have since resumed, patients and physicians have come to value the ease of “meeting” virtually. Why shouldn’t patients who want to confer with a pharmacist enjoy that same convenience?

Enter “telepharmacy” consults. Instead of scheduling an in-person consultation for a comprehensive medication review, for example, patients could do so remotely via a live video chat, ultimately enabling pharmacists to better advise patients who are unable or unwilling to come into the pharmacy.

McKesson is exploring a pilot for a telepharmacy tool that it plans to offer at Health Mart pharmacies – a franchise network of independent, locally owned pharmacies supported by McKesson – in the near future. Beyond its added convenience, the tool can also help pharmacists make sure their patients are taking their medications as prescribed.

“During a telepharmacy appointment, you can look a patient in the eye and see exactly what they’re seeing,” says Rick Sage, vice president of retail solutions, Community Pharmacy and Health, U.S. Pharmaceutical at McKesson. “For instance, if a patient asks, ‘What color pill am I looking for?’, you could ask them to pull out their prescriptions and have them hold up a pill to make sure it’s the right one. It’s a better way to interact.”

In-Pharmacy telemedicine tools

A pharmacist consulting with a patient

When patients show up at a drugstore and inquire about a nagging cough or insect bite, pharmacists can usually point them toward an over-the-counter remedy. But when a prescription treatment is necessary, pharmacists’ hands are often tied – in most states today, pharmacists aren’t licensed to prescribe.

In those instances, the only available recourse is to send the patient home and have them call their doctor.

In the not-too-distant future, however, pharmacists at Health Mart pharmacies will have another option: They can offer their customers a physician consult at their store, and in the privacy of a dedicated consultation room.

McKesson is testing a telemedicine service that allows pharmacists to serve as liaisons between patients and their physicians. If the virtual consult ends with the physician issuing a prescription, the pharmacy can fill it for the patient on the spot.

“One of the biggest challenges independent pharmacies face today is continuing to provide viable options for time-strapped patients,” Sage explains. “In-store telemedicine services add that extra layer of integrated healthcare to the pharmacy experience.”

Enhanced digital presence

A woman looking at a cell phone

Ordering takeout or groceries through a phone app is no longer a novelty – it’s the norm, especially in the pandemic age. Patients expect their pharmacy to be equally as adaptable.

Most large pharmacy chains have been in the online retail space for several years, with services ranging from one-click prescription refills to fast COVID-19 vaccine scheduling. And while many local pharmacies would benefit greatly from offering such web-friendly services, many lack the resources to develop or maintain them.

To help smaller retail pharmacies adopt their own ePharmacy solutions, McKesson is rolling out Health Mart Digital Pharmacy, a new suite of digital services designed to make life easier for community pharmacies and patients alike.

Beginning this summer, participating Health Mart locations can better engage with patients through customized webpages and a mobile app that allow for improved, more convenient communication. The new digital storefront will feature a web and app-based patient portal, HIPAA-compliant two-way messaging consultations, important alerts and refill reminders.

“The pharmacies that once got by without robust online services and mobile health solutions simply can’t do so anymore,” says Sage. “With this new digital pharmacy offering, pharmacists can not only save time and increase touchpoints with their patients, but also potentially reach more patients within their communities – ultimately improving patient access.”

And that’s the goal. Pharmacists have always been integral to protecting and advancing the health of patients in their communities. As a company who shares that purpose, McKesson is committed to helping pharmacies thrive in the digital health era and continue delivering the best patient experience possible.

Originally published June 10, 2021.