Changes abound in how Americans are thinking about healthcare. The Affordable Care Act has wrought tremendous changes in the overall healthcare marketplace, as the focus on patients as healthcare consumers—along with the mandate to incorporate digital technology—has led to industry transformation. One sector at the center of the American’s evolving relationship with healthcare is the retail pharmacy.
Located in neighborhoods across America, the retail pharmacy is uniquely positioned to confront America’s health challenges, including spiraling health costs and access. For example, retail pharmacies have been instrumental in popularizing generic drugs. In terms of providing access, they are much better positioned than hospitals to provide preventive care. With Americans only 2.36 miles away from their closest retail pharmacy, their ubiquity makes them uniquely suited to catering to the needs of the community. And, retail pharmacies are moving further in the direction of providing basic medical services--CVS’s Minuteclinics are a model example.
So what is in store for the future and what new ways are pharmacies using innovative tools to help patients take charge of their health? The future of the pharmacy is currently in flux, but there are some clear trends in how technology and changing service models are playing a role. Here are four innovative tools retail pharmacies are using to improve patient health:
Interactive Health Kiosks
Gone are the antiquated-looking blood pressure monitoring stations of old. Today retail pharmacies are installing interactive health kiosks from companies like Higi-- which partnered with Rite Aid in 2014. In the case of Higi, customers can record weight, blood pressure, and pulse at one of the in-store kiosks and review it through an online account. A health index reduces overall metrics into one number that helps users understand their overall wellness. Participation is incentivized through challenges and rewards in the form of discounts to a variety of retailers.
Next Generation Lab Testing
Walgreens has just partnered with Theranos—a biotech company specializing in minimally invasive blood testing—to disrupt the medical laboratory-testing experience. Theranos will leverage a spa-like soothing environment with the accessible footprint of Walgreens and its fast, minimally invasive testing technology to create a next generation testing experience that minimizes stress and maximizes efficiency.
Digital Health Coaching
Retail pharmacies are also taking an active role in their customers’ health by providing coaching programs. Recently, Walgreens has partnered with WebMD in order to provide these coaching programs to patients. This coaching extends across many different sorts of chronic conditions and is mediated through digital tools.
Pharmacists now help customers remember to take their medication in a variety of ways including calling, texting, and email reminders. Mscripts is another tool pharmacists can use to help patients adhere to their medication regimens. The smartphone app offers customers the ability to refill their prescriptions at the touch of a button and also offers helpful prescription refill-reminding push notifications
Retail pharmacies have proven to be unexpected laboratories for innovative technology and services. Their uniquely large footprint and accessibility make them poised to help the US address its many health challenges.