Progressive pharmacies look to technology to help them accomplish their goals. But the burning question is: Should chain pharmacies buy or build such technology?

Matthew Johnson, Pharm.D.

Approximately nine out of 10 Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS). The local pharmacy has always been at the heart of any American community.

One of the biggest issues a pharmacy faces is scarcity of time. Between 2017 and 2018, the population in the United States increased by 2.3 million. As the number of patients increases, so do the number of prescription fills — which makes pharmacists busier than ever. Moreover, pharmacists desire to spend more time practicing at the top of their license, with greater focus on clinical services and patient care. The severe lack of time makes it harder for pharmacists to see how this desire can ever be attained.

Advantages of buying

  • Get a better solution while focusing on core business; pharmacies are not technology firms.
  • Lower cost, as the initial R&D and development costs are spread across other clients of the software partner.
  • Ability to pilot a solution for fit before investing a significant amount of
    resources, and use the pilot experience to better plan for successful user adoption.
  • Implementation time is faster, even with added custom-developed features.
  • With the right software partner, custom development options offer the benefits of building.
  • Maintenance and upgrades are the responsibility of the software partner.

Advantages of building

  • Full proprietary control of how the platform is built.
  • Option to license or sell the platform.

For pharmacies that wish to move nimbly and manage costs more effectively, the advantages of buying outweigh that of building their own solution. The costs for acquiring complete control are high. Due to the lack of in-house core competency in software development, a risk exists for yielding a solution that is not ideal, which may make monetizing it unrealistic. Chain pharmacies have chosen to work with software providers such as Amplicare to rapidly deploy solutions that fit their needs, and also to customize based on their specific desires. Integrating automated alerts (e.g., Amplicare Assist) in the pharmacy management system with clinical opportunities or over-the-counter supplement upsell opportunities saves the pharmacist time that would have been spent in visiting various dashboards to seek out such activities.

The time saved has enabled clinical interventions at chain pharmacies to increase substantially, thus improving patient care and fulfilling the desire of pharmacists to have a greater clinical role. CT