The “Butterfly Effect” is a metaphor used to describe the tiny, seemingly irrelevant events that are later identified as the inception points of significant future occurrences. A butterfly flaps its wings and, weeks later, causes a tornado. Of course, a single act like the butterfly flapping its wings cannot cause a tornado. Small events can, however, serve as catalysts that build upon one another, creating waves of change.
The COVID-19 butterfly effect began in late 2019 and it will continue to permanently reshape the healthcare ecosystem. Just as 9/11 changed America forever with its impact around immigration, travel, and global surveillance, the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic has crated a lasting impact on how healthcare is accessed, delivered, and managed.
Since the identification and subsequent spread of the SARS-COV-2 virus, pharmacies have played an essential role in providing information, testing, medicines, and, most visibly and recently, administering the COVID-19 vaccines to their community. Throughout the pandemic, pharmacy teams have been counted on to ensure their continuous operation and the provision of essential services. The pharmacy industry has learned, experienced, and adapted a lot the last 18 months beginning with how pharmacies quickly implemented procedures that minimized the risk of virus exposure to both pharmacy staff and patients. Additionally, pharmacy added or expanded service offerings that allowed customers alternate means for picking up prescriptions. Once thought of as just conveniences, delivery, curbside pickup, and drive-through pharmacy have become a standard service offering and consumer expectation. Consumer use of pharmacy e-commerce and mobile platforms continue their exponential growth trend. Pharmacy teams met the need for COVID testing both in store and across the community. These are just a few examples of how pharmacy is entangled in the COVID-19 butterfly effect. Now is the time to recognize the shifts, embrace the challenges, and capitalize on the opportunities.
TRENDS AND CHALLENGES
Patient engagement and retention
During the pandemic, retail pharmacies and pharmacists have expanded the scope of the profession by providing millions of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations. This has brought new customers into the store and strengthened an already high trust level with patients. Going forward, it will be how successful pharmacies continue to engage and retain these customers. Increasing patient counseling opportunities and closing gaps in care (i.e., identifying needed vaccinations) are just two examples of how to grow and retain valuable customers. According to a February 2021 J.D. Power report, when customers use two or more health and wellness services, overall customer satisfaction and brand advocacy increases, and average customer spending doubles.
Financial challenges for patients and pharmacy operators
Medicaid is expected to grow by 8-20 million people, nationally, in the next year. Uninsured customers and those customers seeking prescription discounts are growing. For pharmacy operators, margins continue to erode, and reimbursement continues to be an endeavor.
The ability to communicate with customers effectively has never been more important. Over 55% of Americans recently polled stated that they are using their mobile phones “way more than they did” before COVID-19, and 3 in 4 people are texting more. 62% state that they are more responsive to text messages than they were pre-COVID.
But there is an upside to all of this!
COVID-19 has created public awareness of pharmacists as providers, with expanded roles
Pharmacies now have an opportunity to leverage immunizations, screenings, and consultations to create additional and alternate revenue streams. With fewer than half of pharmacy customers using prescription-related health and wellness services, there is a significant business opportunity.
Every action you take also becomes a part of the ‘butterfly effect’. A single action can have a resounding impact on your company for years to come. To assist your organization in all its customer engagement needs, MarkeTouch offers a full suite of services and has developed new innovations that exceed your strategic sales and operational goals.
MarkeTouch can deliver to your customers operational as well as clinical messaging in the method preferred by the patient (voice, SMS/text, email, mobile push). Among the nearly limitless variety of messaging available, MarkeTouch provides notifications which support:
Available prescription pick-up options: delivery, shipping, curbside and/or lockers* 90-day or compliance pack dispensing options
Informative refill reminders with available pick-up & pay* options
Digital medication guides
Exception notifications focused on mitigating prescriptions short-fills and out of stock service issues
MarkeTouch’s mobile and web services will attract new customers and retain your existing customers by providing a world class digital customer experience. The robust and ADA-compliant design allows for:
“Drop the box”, and add the flexibility needed to change pharmacy inbound call messaging and pharmacy hours of operation in real time with MarkeTouch’s fully hosted IVR solution. In addition to centralized or local IVR system management, MarkeTouch’s IVR supports alternate pick-up and payment* options.
COVID-19 reintroduced pharmacy customers to the convenience and efficiency of appointment based immunizations, screenings, and other patient consultations. MarkeTouch’s health and wellness scheduler offers appointment scheduling on-line or over the phone. Appointment availability is set by the pharmacy and can be based on staff schedule and available vaccine inventory. Important patient forms for each appointment service can be digitized, stored, completed, printed and faxed to the appropriate pharmacy, increasing efficiency and reducing patient wait times.
You may not be able to “hear the wings of the butterfly”, but one can hardly ignore the impact that COVID-19 has had on the world. The future of retail pharmacy is changing, let MarkeTouch help your organization exceed your goals and enhance your customer experience. The ability to engage, communicate with, attract, and retain customers effectively has never been more important.
Until next time, take care.
Matt and Lyle
1. J.D. Power. Retail Health Clinic Engagement Rising; May Be Key to Supercharging COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout. Published February 2021. 2. U.S. Patent Pending (16/866,547) 3. US Patent Pending (16/903,346) *In beta