How can highly regulated industries, such as pharmacies, keep up with the pace of development in the retail sector and meet all the ever-changing needs of the customers? Seeking answers to these questions we had a chat with Tina Jalap, an IT Director of the Swedish pharmacy chain Apoteksgruppen.
The pharmacy business is a highly regulated industry in which drug and patient safety are the main priorities. At the same time, pharmacies are under huge pressure due to changes in consumer behavior, and the growing trends in e-commerce and home deliveries.
In Sweden, the state-owned pharmacy business was opened to competition in 2009, and since then the growth and digitalization across the entire industry have been dramatic. However, building up a profitable storage and distribution network and ensuring the safe handling of medicines and patient records is not an easy job and depends on various strategic policies.
“Digitalization and omnichannel consumption are putting a lot of pressure on pharmacies. At the same time, as people can easily order clothes and other commodities online worldwide, the regulations on pharmaceuticals and ensuring patient safety are making it much harder to develop and digitalize the pharmacy services,” says Jalap.
From multichannel to omnichannel
In the Nordic countries, medical online sales is growing rapidly and in Swedish pharmacies, approximately 18 percent of the total sale was made online during spring 2021.* Nonetheless, the correct medical advice must be given to the customers at all touchpoints.
“I often talk about the importance of meeting customers in multiple channels based on their needs as a way of guaranteeing quality services, long opening hours, and the availability of products to our customers across the country. Pharmacy services are mostly needed when people are sick, which is exactly when a smooth customer experience and secure transactions are especially important,” Jalap continues.
The e-commerce boom brought on by the coronavirus pandemic can also be seen in pharmacies. Building up a profitable distribution network is a huge project, and at the moment the home delivery of temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products is still not possible in many countries.
“When the pandemic broke out pharmacies in large experienced the same shift from in-store purchases to online as other retailers, but since pharmacies provide more than just the product itself, we also saw the need to quickly adapt to meeting the customers in a new way, such as through curb pick-up and extended centralized customer service.”
Digitalization and omnichannel consumption are putting a lot of pressure on pharmacies, says Tina Jalap (pictured above).
Pharmacies IT systems put to the test
A tested and certified information system is required for selling prescription medicines online. As the order management system manages the purchases, logistics, storage and cash, an ERP add-on designed for pharmacies retrieves the patient’s prescription and health information from the authorities electronically for use in the sales and delivery transaction.
The authorities are monitoring the safety and testing of online pharmacies, as well as the level of pharmaceutical advice provided on products and medicines.
“It goes without saying that the safety of the system and patient information is a key priority. People must have access to the right medicine at the right time and have relevant advice on medicines in all channels. At the same time, the transactions should be convenient for the consumer,” says Jalap.
In Sweden, three of the largest pharmacy chains are working together, to build and test a secure in-store pharmacy platform. Solteq is working together with LS Retail to create the pharmacy add-on for the enterprise resource planning system ERP, and Jalap appreciates the team’s role in the project.
“I really appreciate how closely Solteq works with us as a customer and how dedicated you are to making our joint project successful. You are attentive to the needs of the project throughout the various phases and have the ability to adapt to changes, making things move forward even when the circumstances change. Thank you!”