You’ve probably seen the little “mini clinics” popping up at some retail pharmacy locations, offering some basic preventative healthcare services connected up with your health insurance provider, often in the name of convenience. Originally, these services were very basic – you could get your blood pressure checked, you could get a flu shot. But as more and more retail pharmacies either merge with or acquire health insurance companies, and as we see more and more consolidation in the retail pharmacy market, our experience as customers and patients will be changing.
The value of an in-place distribution network
Companies like CVS, Walgreens, and others are dipping their toes into providing direct to consumer healthcare services by combining their retail pharmacy operations with traditional healthcare insurance. What these companies are leveraging is their large physical presence in neighborhoods and cities across the country and internationally. When consumers (read: patients) need to visit their doctors and then get their medications, the process is often fragmented and the experience is less than ideal. By bringing those experiences closer together – namely, by placing the doctors and technicians directly into the store, the story these companies are telling is that our experience as patients and consumers of prescription drugs will be simplified and streamlined.
The truth behind this consolidation, though, is that this type of integration of services by the brick and mortar pharmacies is a survival tactic. By leveraging their physical presence and emphasizing this type of integrated and simplified patient experience, these companies are hoping to fight off the real threat, which is coming from the skies.
Drivers and Drones
It’s no longer a secret that Amazon is planning to enter the healthcare market in a big way. Possibly the biggest asset that Amazon possesses upon entry into the market is their distribution network, and the technology behind the company’s customer experience engines. With the acquisition of Whole Foods, Amazon suddenly has physical locations to add into the network, and we shouldn’t be surprised when “mini clinics” and pharmacies start appearing there as part of a long-term growth strategy.
The combination of online distribution networks through Prime, the development of new technologies and the ability to provide integration into smart home technology like Alexa, the traditional pharmacies are now facing having to compete with a customer experience which could become as simple as “Alexa, renew my prescriptions”, complete with a drone delivery the next day.
But the threat comes not only from online – Uber is entering the market as well. Right now, there are tools to connect elderly patients with rides to their healthcare providers. But the future, complete with autonomous vehicles, could include on-demand healthcare delivered by summoned providers in a just-in-time basis, all through an app.
It’s actually not consolidation, it’s transformation
How we seek out and receive health care is changing. We can now connect with doctors via teleconference and have our prescriptions automatically delivered. But while there’s a lot of news about consolidation and mergers among pharmacies and healthcare providers and insurers, the real story is that this entire industry is transforming into a technology-based, patient-focused competition around who can provide a simple, friction-free experience for patients that is trustworthy, reliable, and accessible. Aprimo is uniquely positioned to work with companies going through disruptive transformation by simplifying content management and distribution and automating processes to help get messages into market more quickly, especially in highly regulated markets such as healthcare and insurance.
Because for your neighborhood drugstore, it’s prime time for change.