When customers order medicines online, they still need a consultation. Full-service mail-order pharmacies with online stores therefore need the right tools for effective telemedicine.

A Editorial of the FOM Magazine
The COVID crisis has been the primary topic in the healthcare sector over the past two years. With the pandemic subsiding, physicians and pharmacists can now turn their attention back to issues of the future.

This became clear at this year's German Pharmacists' Day (DAT) in Munich, where one of the topics discussed was digitization and full-service mail-order pharmacies with online stores. Pharmacists would like to see more efficiency and better processes in this area.

When it comes to digital pharmacy, there are two main issues:

  1. Which processes can be digitized to improve the efficiency of online stores and stationary pharmacies?
  2. How should digital consulting services be provided in online pharmacies?

e-File in stationary and online pharmacies
With regard to the first question, there was a great deal of agreement at the DAT: More support from politics was called for in order to be able to digitalize process flows in the pharmacy.

For example, health insurers should in future automatically create an electronic patient file for their patients without first obtaining their consent. Instead, there should be an opt-out procedure.

The e-file is important for pharmacists because it provides an overview of the medications prescribed and already taken. It could also be used, for example, to document drug allergies or the patient's medical history. That would be helpful, whether inpatient or when customers order medications online.

In addition, it is also important for pharmacists to exchange information with other healthcare professionals. To this end, the legislator should reimburse the costs of the necessary software. However, such reimbursement would require a corresponding amendment to the Fifth Social Code (SGB V).

Digital consultation in the online full-service pharmacy
However, the pharmacy community is less unanimous on the subject of digital consultation in the online pharmacy store. In most cases, the consultation takes place in the stationary pharmacy, because very few pharmacists offer online consultations via chat or video telephony. In most cases, this is only possible as part of a cooperative venture, as an online store and delivery service would also have to be offered, for example.

But not digitizing at all is also a risk for pharmacists: because many pharmacies are feeling the competition from online providers. Even before the COVID pandemic, every second customer in the German market bought medicines online at least once a year, according to the consulting firm Avenga Germany. In some cases, customers also obtain information in the stationary pharmacy and then buy from low-priced online providers.

Digital consultations would also be a way to reduce the pharmacy shortage and reduce the industry's carbon footprint.

Ad-hoc meetings and online consultations structure
There is no question about the need for digitization. But how can the meeting experience be designed to benefit both customers and pharmacists?

The answer is FOM software: A consulting session should follow a formalized procedure so as not to become a time-eater. Of course, the personal relationship is also important, which is why small talk and relationship building can also take place in online consultations. However, this does not stand in the way of a planned flow of the counseling interview.

FOM software helps pharmacists and customers in several ways:

  1. Privacy: FOM software sends a secure link to dial into the video chat, guaranteeing privacy and data security. For this, it is best for pharmacists to work with a German software provider that ensures compliance with strict German and European data protection laws.
  2. Interactive agenda: FOM software enables the display of an interactive meeting agenda. This allows pharmacists to access agenda templates for different cases with questions for consultation. One could also prepare an agenda for individual drugs with the most important points about the drug in question.
  3. Logs: All conversations are recorded automatically. This gives pharmacists legal certainty if they are accused of providing incorrect advice.
  4. Meeting data: FOM software stores meeting data such as meeting duration, number of participants or online tools used securely and anonymously, so that decision-makers can then make evaluations and optimize the quality of consulting.

Not only telemedicine, but also professional exchange

Pharmacists not only speak with customers, but also with other pharmacists, alternative practitioners or pharmaceutical companies and attend conferences. In all these meetings, FOM software can improve the meeting experience.

For example, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach participated digitally in the DAT. He spoke to the delegates in Munich via video call. Afterwards, questions from the podium to the minister were possible. FOM software could make it much easier for pharmacists and their associations to organize such hybrid conference formats.

Other industries have also already recognized the advantages of FOM applications. For example, the digital main hearing was a topic at this year's EDP Court Day in Saarbrücken.

Are you running a pharmacy and wondering how to improve your meeting experience? Perhaps you already use FOM software in your company? We look forward to your input. Write to us at contact@fom-magazin.de.