CVS’s recent agreement to purchase Aetna creates the potential for transformational change in the healthcare industry. As a combined entity, CVS/Aetna can consolidate significant portions of the healthcare delivery value chain, and add further momentum to the increasingly prominent role pharmacies play as a point of care in providing services. A bigger role for pharmacies, meanwhile, could mean better care, as research shows clear links between pharmacies and improved patient outcomes, higher levels of diagnosis of untreated conditions and increased adherence to medical regimens.
While attention is rightly focused on the healthcare opportunity, retail strategies for pharmacies shouldn’t be neglected. One obvious consideration: more people visiting a pharmacy for medications, consultations or diagnoses translates into higher volumes of foot traffic. That presents an opportunity to reach more potential buyers of products and a chance to leverage the physical space of the retail establishment.
To take full advantage of this opportunity, pharmacies must confront the underlying challenge facing the retail industry as a whole; namely, how to use technology to better understand what customers want, and deliver tailored products, discounts and special offers in a convenient and timely manner.
For a pharmacy, that might mean linking a customer’s health information with their fit bit app. Consider the possibilities: Mary – who is training for a marathon and running 45 miles a week – comes to the pharmacy to pick up her allergy medication. At the counter, she receives a text alert with information on training plans, tips on avoiding knee injuries and a coupon for energy gel packs.
Delivering such capabilities requires deploying innovative digital and automation technologies to drive analytics and customer insight, while at the same time modernizing legacy platforms and integrating inventory, customer and Point of Sale (POS) systems to enable visibility and seamless data sharing. Pharmacies must also walk the fine line between customer insight and intrusiveness. Operationally, this fine line requires addressing the conflicting imperatives of open integration between multiple entities on the one hand, and rigorous privacy and security requirements on the other.
Following news of the CVS/Aetna mega-deal, the question of the day is: how can pharmacies create a better patient experience, improve outcomes and reduce healthcare costs? As the market evolves, a related question will emerge: how can pharmacies take advantage of retail opportunities?