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Triumph through technology

By Irish Pharmacist - 03rd Jan 2024

Incorporating modern tech platforms into Irish community pharmacies is no longer a luxury — it’s an imperative

In an era when technology seamlessly integrates into almost every aspect of our lives, from banking to retail, there’s undeniable scope for technology to revolutionise the community pharmacy sector in Ireland. Community pharmacies, traditionally seen as a key pillar of healthcare in local communities, are now at a crossroads, and this needs to be addressed.


Cormac McKenna, founder and CEO of PharmacyConnect

Surveys show that community pharmacists are trusted more than any other profession in Ireland, and pharmacies are deeply embedded within the fabric of Irish society, with more than half of the population attending a community pharmacy at least once a month. However, to evolve into the nexus for primary care, community pharmacies must embrace a credible technology platform that not only enhances their operational efficiencies, but also fosters effective communication with their patients.

In industries such as banking, retail, and take-home hospitality, customer transactions have largely shifted to digital platforms, predominantly through apps. This transition has not only been seamless, but has also brought about improved customer experience and operational efficiency.

The need for technology in community pharmacies extends beyond just customer convenience. Traditional challenges in prescription management for pharmacies may include illegible prescriptions and manual data entry. Technological advancements encompass better inventory management, streamlined dispensing processes, and enhanced communication channels – all of which will benefit pharmacists and their colleagues. These technological advancements can significantly reduce waiting times, prevent medication errors, and ensure a smoother workflow – thereby increasing overall efficiency.

The experience of PharmacyConnect in delivering white-labelled apps for Irish pharmacies exemplifies the potential of technology in transforming the sector. The platform allows pharmacies to establish its patients’ requirements, and handle other operational aspects of the patient journey efficiently. It is notable that most of the community pharmacies that have adopted PharmacyConnect have seen a substantial increase in digital transactions since launching with the service, with some pharmacies now conducting nearly 50 per cent of their prescription business through their pharmacy app.

This not only demonstrates the feasibility of such a transition, but also underscores the willingness of the public to engage with digital healthcare solutions. Having an app on the PharmacyConnect platform has even, by some early adopters, been compared to having an extra staff member on the team, working 24/7.

In considering the role of technology, it is crucial to recognise the need for community pharmacies to achieve more with fewer resources, and to be acknowledged for doing so. Efficient use of technology stands as a safeguard against future financial pressures, ensuring that pharmacies remain viable and competitive in an evolving healthcare landscape.

However, the journey towards a fully integrated digital pharmacy system is not without challenges. A primary concern is ensuring data security and patient confidentiality, which are paramount in healthcare. Pharmacies must invest in secure, robust platforms. And while technology is paving the way forward, it is essential that the ‘human touch’ remains a cornerstone of local pharmacies. Additionally, there is a need for training and support to help pharmacists and staff adapt to new technologies so they can in turn educate and inform their patients and customers.

The integration of technology in pharmacies could pave the way for better healthcare outcomes. For instance, digital platforms can facilitate easier monitoring of medication adherence, provide reminders for prescription refills, store health records, and even offer personalised healthcare advice. This level of engagement can significantly further improve patient outcomes and satisfaction.

Incorporating modern technology into Irish community pharmacies is no longer a luxury; it is an imperative, and it is happening now. This adoption marks a significant move towards better healthcare delivery, elevated patient outcomes, and maintaining the relevance and indispensability of pharmacies in a swiftly changing healthcare environment.

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