Will tech take the place of speaking with pharmacists face-to-face?

Discussion
CVS Caremark PBM call center employee - Photo: CVS Health
Aug 22, 2019
George Anderson

Customer satisfaction levels in the U.S. pharmacy industry are high and that is largely due to interactions with pharmacists, according to the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Pharmacy Study released earlier this week. 

“As technology companies promise to change the way Americans address their pharmacy needs, our data suggests that changing such entrenched behavior will be an uphill battle,” said Greg Truex, managing director of health intelligence at J.D. Power, in a statement.

“Customers enjoy visiting their brick-and-mortar pharmacy and they get a great deal of satisfaction from speaking directly with pharmacists,” said Mr. Truex. “However, the potential for technology disruption is there. Although the frequency of use of digital solutions is low, early adopters are showing high levels of satisfaction.” 

Eighty-nine percent of customers report engaging in face-to-face interactions with pharmacists and staff. Those who use mail order pharmacies, while not speaking face-to-face with pharmacists, use email and chats and report similar levels of satisfaction with those engagements.

The study found that only about 20 percent of pharmacy customers make use of mobile apps. Those who do, however, report satisfaction levels as much as 23 points higher than those who do not.

The number of topics covered in interactions with pharmacies is a key indicator of customer satisfaction levels, according to the 12,000+ people who participated in the study. Satisfaction levels are above 940 (on a scale to 1,000) when four or more topics are discussed, while that number drops to 917 based on two and 884 on one. 

The J.D. Power study found that Good Neighbor Pharmacy (914), Health Mart (893) and Rite Aid (865) ranked highest for customer satisfaction among drugstore chains based on a scale of one to 1,000.

Sam’s Club (890), Costco (879) and CVS/pharmacy inside Target (869) were the top three chains for mass merchandiser pharmacies. 

Wegmans (915) was tops among supermarkets and pharmacies overall. Publix (897) and Winn-Dixie (896) also graded out well among consumers.

Mail order pharmacies received high marks, as well, with Humana Pharmacy (900), Kaiser Permanente (886) and OptumRX (869) leading the way. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think the need for face-to-face interactions with pharmacists and pharmacy staff will increase or decrease in the future as pharmacies roll out a greater number of health services? In what ways do you expect technology to change how Americans interact with pharmacies in the years ahead?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I hope pharmacists stay focused on continuing human interface versus relying on bots."
"Yes technology will make a difference but a focus on the human interaction is going to make the difference where people get their prescriptions filled."
"Technology can help every single store owner, but you must provide a face to face interaction for those customers who seek personalized services."

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10 Comments on "Will tech take the place of speaking with pharmacists face-to-face?"


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Anne Howe
Guest

Questions about taking pharma drugs (especially about side effects and interactions) are scary for even the healthiest of the population. Technology and advertising for drugs has added to the confusion. I hope pharmacists stay focused on continuing human interface versus relying on bots. Patients often need reassurance and crave the feeling that someone knowledgable actually cares about their concerns. Impersonal communication, however smart, does little to alleviate stress.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

Human assistance, when knwoledeable and respectful, can engender trust, a very important element of any pharmaceutical purchase. While technology can serve the industry in many positive ways, I hope and expect that human pharmacists are here to stay.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Call some big corporation and endure their voicebot jail — then ask yourself if this is how you’d like to communicate with your pharmacist. Personal trust is important.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

As a pharmacy user, since I have gotten older, I have found the interaction with the pharmacist very beneficial. Doctors often overlook the interactions possible between different drugs and the pharmacist has become an important part of the healthcare delivery system.
Yes technology will make a difference but a focus on the human interaction is going to make the difference where people get their prescriptions filled.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Questions about healthcare and medications are too important to trust to a bot.

As Baby Boomers age the need for face-to-face conversations will grow. Ideally, this happens with someone at the pharmacy counter, but easy to use tech that involves a customer talking to a real person works, too.

Lauren Goldberg
BrainTrust

I believe the pharmacy sector is one that is dependent on personal interactions and can’t be easily replaced with technology. Healthcare is complicated and that human touch is important. From a retail perspective, pharmacy choice is often dictated by location and considering there’s a pharmacy on every corner, personal relationships can help provide value and earn a customer’s repeat business.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

In my experience the pharmacy tech systems make mistakes or do not interface well across systems. The saving grace has been the pleasant and helpful pharmacists who can interpret what is happening, fix mistakes, and tweak the systems. Until the tech systems really work as promised (which is many years away), the pharmacists are critical for success. With the aging population and new systems or system changes, the need for pharmacists is not going away.

Tony Orlando
BrainTrust
Customer service is often discussed here, and yet the technology experts believe face to face service can be replaced by a call center, or worse yet an online menu of most asked questions, with prepared answers, that may or may not help solve your inquiries. Department stores have cut their staffs in order to stay lean, and some consumers simply can not find what they need and leave the stores with little or nothing including pharmacies, which deliver your prescriptions without any need to go to their stores. I don’t see this changing. Staying competitive requires the ability to provide both services. Bottom lines are slowly shrinking, as raising prices is a sure way to lose business in the ultra competitive world we live in. There are exceptions in many pockets of very healthy economies, where both can co-exist and make handsome profits, but many smaller towns are finding it tough to compete with both online giants and mega stores 10 miles down the road. That is simply how it is today. Technology can help… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Looking at this realistically, I believe as technologies improve, consumers will adopt less human intervention, just as they already have in other aspects of their lives.

Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

The primary differentiator for pharmacies, i.e., the reason people stick with a particular pharmacy, has always been the trust the patient had in the pharmacist. While moving to bots might make sense for the retailer in the short term, it takes away a critical connection point with the patient, as well as an important point of difference. Doing so will likely open the door to more online ordering and mail delivery as an unintended consequence.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I hope pharmacists stay focused on continuing human interface versus relying on bots."
"Yes technology will make a difference but a focus on the human interaction is going to make the difference where people get their prescriptions filled."
"Technology can help every single store owner, but you must provide a face to face interaction for those customers who seek personalized services."

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