By Amy Greenwood, Director of Consumer Health & Wellness, Inizio Evoke
Last week, a new proposal was announced by the government and NHS England to allow patients to get prescriptions for seven common conditions directly from pharmacies. The aim is to tackle the crisis in GP surgeries. Although ambitious, many agree the proposed pharmacy reforms are a positive step towards empowering selfcare and relieving some of the pressures on the NHS – providing the supporting healthcare systems can adapt accordingly and we can overcome the current challenges pharmacists face. From medicine shortages to a lack of qualified pharmacists and inadequate funding to abuse from customers – there’s certainly a lot to address.
Over the last few years, there has been an increasing shift in the pharmacist role - from drug dispenser to health consultant. And this reform marks a pivotal point of this movement.
What does it all mean for marketers?
It’s clear that pharmaceutical companies will need to target pharmacists to arm them with the tools they need to confidently prescribe around the seven common health conditions proposed. It’s up to marketers to find ways to support pharmacists in their prescribing and consulting role. This could be by bringing materials to pharmacies to remind and prompt them of the advice to give to patients on certain conditions and products.
A data-driven tailored approach is needed to target pharmacies with bespoke experiences. Marketers not versed in targeting this channel will need to quickly get up to speed with the nuances between different types of pharmacists – community versus chain, city versus non-city, online versus offline. They cannot fall into the trap of treating them the same as GPs or other prescribers.
And what does it mean for OTC and skincare brands?
Pharmacies have always been an important channel for OTC and active skincare brands – and even more so since the pandemic. But how will they now compete for community pharmacists’ attention? Pharmacists who are already time poor and struggling to balance the commercial needs of their business with their medical support role in the community.
Part of the answer will certainly lie in understanding pharmacists better and working closer with them to understand how to support their needs.
Or perhaps there’s a need for a complete overhaul of how consumer health and skincare brands work with pharmacists going forward? One thing is certain, they will become even more stretched for time to take on further ingredient and product information. That means marketers will need to find innovative ways to support pharmacists in decision-making. Any communication will need to stand out and add value beyond traditional training.
How can technology ease the burden and improve patient care?
To ease the increased burden on the pharmacist, the role of supporting pharmacy staff may become more integral to product communication or perhaps AI technology will play a bigger role in identifying and matching the right products for the ailment. We may also see a rise in digitalisation and technology in pharmacies to alleviate some of the pressures of dispensing and logistical tasks so pharmacists can dedicate their time to patients.
Using AI for support in asking the right and most timely questions, scanning imagery of topical ailments and providing a hypothesis to the pharmacist in real time and on demand would all help inform and tailor face-to-face time. As a result, patient outcomes would improve and waiting times would reduce significantly, as would pressure on the pharmacist. The opportunities are endless and are certainly something we can’t wait to explore further.
We are currently carrying out research with pharmacists across Europe on their changing role and their vision of the future and will include a question on the new proposal. If there is anything you would like to ask pharmacists, as part of the research going live next week, please get in touch. Contact Zak Mansford at Zak.A.Mansford@inizioevoke.com.