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Considering a pharmacy app?.....be careful...some things to think about......

Some things to think about

There’s are growing number of repeat prescription ordering apps targeting independent pharmacies offering various “benefits”, e.g. easier workflow or more scripts. Then there are others targeting your patients directly (that used to target independent pharmacies). The NHS is launching its own App nationally in England and then some CCGs have launched or launching their own apps locally. Confusing isn’t it?

With that in mind here are a few things to think about.

Do these apps enhance or deepen your direct relationship with your customers?

A lot of these apps, nhs or private, are trying to get in between you and your customers. This is entirely the opposite of what you want; which is to further lock in and deepen your own direct relationship with customers, particularly as we move more and more into a digital nhs. The deeper your relationships with customers online (as well as off), the more power you have as a sector within the NHS and as individual businesses, when fighting off competition and maximising your revenues per customer.

Is an App only approach really the way to go?

Do you want to force customers to just use an app? Your customers want you to be available in whatever way suits them best; in person, on the phone, via the web or via an app. Most of your customers are middle aged or older and most of them still like to be able to use a website as well as an app. For many it’s less fiddly to be able to use a device with a keyboard or with a large screen. So unless all your customers are affluent to enough to own IPad Pros with keyboards, you need to be offering web access and app access together.

Your customers and new customers are increasingly searching online and looking for a website with the information require.  Is it a good idea to have no proper integrated web presence?

Who do you trust with your patients?

Who is the data controller?  I.E. who owns the relationship with the patient? Read the EULA!

Sign up as an end user. Read the user agreement. Is the app provider the data controller? If so, they own the direct relationship with the patient and the agreed rights to the data. Users register with the app owner not the pharmacy. The app owner can push patients to a different pharmacy in the future if they so choose. Even so, they can still impact badly on your brand. For example, if they are chasing users and they are sacrificing convenience for security. Is there really a need for a pharmacy app to share data with Facebook, just to make signing up / logging in a tiny bit easier? Apart from the 50 Million Facebook accounts hacked recently, who knows what Facebook does with that data. Are you sure your customers aren’t seeing Ads from Pharmacy2U or Echo or Boots or Amazon etc?  

No such thing as a free lunch.

Millions in venture capital is being invested into some of these apps. Where’s the business model and what’s the pay-off expected? VCs aren’t interested in investing patient capital for a pedestrian rate of return. They are looking for high growth, an exit or both. Where do the venture capitalists see the value? Not in whatever subscription fee you might pay. They see the value in in owning your customers’ attention and in your patient data.  What happens if your app provider is sold or can’t raise anymore money? DIMEC was just bought and is now owned by the Co-op. Echo started out wanting to build a network of pharmacies to send scripts to just like Dimec and now is another internet pharmacy but via an app only. Does anyone even remember Pill Manager?

Are you extending vendor lock-in?

It may sound great right now if your app, pmr and local surgery systems all integrate but to date that’s only been available within a vertical system silo from a single vendor. Should having an app necessarily mean tying yourself down for an even longer period with your current systems vendor? If your surgery changes software system what then? If your systems vendor’s app isn’t a priority for them to develop, you fall behind.

With The Pharmacy Centre you own your customer data and take it with you if you leave.  For the last 10 years we have been trying to help you interact with your customers directly, under your own brand, online.

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