Steve Jobs said that “innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat.”
2020 has been a year filled with seemingly constant change, and nowhere has that been truer than in the healthcare sector. And, with each change (and challenge) this year has brought, so, too, have opportunities for innovation. At Alliance Healthcare, that opportunity has come in the form of digital portals.
Pharmacies’ ability to support patients has always been vital to healthcare systems. But when the COVID-19 outbreak began, anxiety amongst consumers spread quicker than the virus itself. Many people wanted to stock up on medication and supplements so that they could lockdown in their homes and feel safe, protected and healthy. Some were reluctant to visit healthcare practitioners, opting to go without their medication to avoid potentially catching the disease at a doctor’s office.
After realizing the impact the virus had on its patients and customers, Alliance Healthcare – WBA’s pharmaceutical wholesale business, and a leading distributor of pharmaceutical, medical and health and beauty around the UK and Europe – worked quickly to develop innovative digital portals that would help its customers continue to supply medicines and give healthcare advice.
Accessibility is paramount
In the UK, Alliance Healthcare wanted to make sure that medication was available to anybody who needed it, wherever they were. The solution? To expand on the digital portal they introduced in 2019. They decided to develop their digital service so that it could provide pharmacy customers with a simplified online platform, allowing them to access its systems and order products online, as well as send reports if something was missing or process a return.
“We are doing everything we can to partner with community pharmacy and help them better serve the patient,” Julian Mount, managing director for Alliance Healthcare UK says. “This Alliance Healthcare Portal is another fantastic example of how we continue to make doing business with us easier.”
To date, over 19,000 customers have registered for the portal. Olutayo Arikawe, who works at the Priory Community Pharmacy, an Alliance network pharmacy in Dudley, England, is one of them.
“The Portal is helping me save time by reducing the need to call in and place an order,” Arikawe explains. “Everything I need is in one area. It really is the future.”
Speaking of the future, Alliance Healthcare UK sees digitalization as just that: a key to the business’s success in years to come.
“The Portal is just the start of our digital transformation,” says Mount. “We are embracing digital technology like never before, and very soon customers will be able to order surgical products through the portal and manage their statements and invoices.”
Alliance Healthcare Spain also saw an opportunity to invest in digitalization as a way of helping their pharmacists – with a bit of a twist. They launched a new training platform, the Alliance Healthcare Academy, to provide their pharmacy clients with helpful solutions such as pharmacy management systems and merchandising guides, as well as topical content on current events and trends in the pharmaceutical sector. The platform even enables users to attend webinars hosted by Alliance Healthcare and leading experts from other companies in the sector.
"This new platform will allow pharmacists to learn and develop their skills in a flexible and comfortable way, with up-to-date content for the modern pharmaceutical sector," says Remedios Parra, manufacturers and pharmacies director at Alliance Healthcare Spain.
If change and uncertainty lead to innovation, we also need to make sure the innovation in question remains relevant once things return to normal. For Alliance Healthcare, the increased digital offerings spurred by the pandemic are not only here to stay but speak to the ongoing ability of the company to respond rapidly to customer needs. The portals will bring new efficiencies in the years ahead, whether it is saving a pharmacist’s time or increasing the reach of pharmacy expertise. But for now – and until the pandemic crisis is completely over – the digitization of these services will continue to help pharmacies keep their doors open to their patients.