Savvy innovations keep drug stores ahead of the game

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT Consumers are working more, playing more, shopping more and learning more online than ever before. So the click-and-consult services proffered by Walgreens and Rite Aid not only represent today’s cutting edge technology, but also provide a peek into how consumers may interact with their healthcare team tomorrow.

(THE NEWS: Walgreens extends online pharmacy with Pharmacy Chat. For the full story, click here)

Other national pharmacy operations can’t be too far behind. Because making pharmacists accessible to patients on their terms, in their time, allows pharmacy retailers the chance to "shake their moneymaker," as the saying goes.

Pharmacists are drug stores' most valued assets, and making them available to consumers 24/7 through their own computer screens is an important extension of the brand that doesn’t necessarily incur greater labor costs. Especially as these cyber-pharmacists are able to consult patients from coast-to-coast out of one central location. And if more patients get it in their heads that consulting pharmacists at their convenience on their laptops, smart phones or iPads is the new time-efficient way to get the best answers to their health questions, that can only improve efficiencies at the store level.

Providing a more comprehensive pharmacy service by incorporating an interactive online component also may boost patient retention. During an exclusive interview with The Drug Store News Group last fall, banking veteran and now Walgreens' SVP e-commerce Sona Chawla explained that those forward-thinking bank institutions that had implemented online banking services in the beginning found that those account-holders who took advantage of those services were less likely to migrate to another bank and just as likely to visit an actual brick-and-mortar branch.

And now Walgreens and Rite Aid will find out if the same will hold true for pharmacy patients — making a more loyal patient who not only increases his or her actual interaction with the pharmacy online but also continues to make as many visits to the actual stores.

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