Community Pharmacies can use AI to keep their competitive edge

Episode 34

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This episode of Pharmacy View features a fascinating conversation about the power of AI (artificial intelligence) to keep community pharmacies competitive. Host Scott Carpenter welcomes Michael Alexander, a pharmacist and tech entrepreneur whose insights you won’t want to miss.

Michael shares his perspective as someone who has worked in the pharmacy industry both in Australia and the U.S. and for companies both large and small. He breaks down some of the differences between the consolidated chain-oriented market in the U.S. versus the culture of independent pharmacies in Australia and how they differentiate from big-box discounters.

While certain intangible things, like customer loyalty built over years of transgenerational trips to the pharmacy, cannot easily be replaced there is still a mandate for independents to remain competitive. The best, most cost-efficient and effective way to do that? Michael believes technology platforms point the way. They can improve patient communications, tracking, hiring, administration and inventory. Michael has even developed an online communications platform whose AI can turn the shyest of pharmacists into confident, outward-facing public speakers. You can learn more about Audirie here Home | Audirie

Click here Shopfront Solutions to learn more about Shopfront Solution, sponsor of this episode of Pharmacy View.

You can enjoy previous episodes of Pharmacy View here

Topics Covered:

  • Who is Michael Alexander? A bit about his upbringing in Los Angeles and migration to Australia, where he received his pharmacy degree some 20 years ago, and subsequent career milestones.
  • Having recently worked in the U.S., Michael has observations to share about innovations going on in that space that might be adopted in Australia in the future.
  • The U.S. pharmacy environment is more “cookie-cutter” because so many chains have merged and consolidated product lines in recent years. On the upside, they benefit from the power of efficiencies of scale.
  • A look at some of the differences inherent in the more individualized pharmacy ecosystem in Australia versus the homogenized merger template in the U.S.
  • Scott highlights the multi-tasking model that Australian pharmacists deploy versus the systems in place that streamline operations for pharmacists in the U.S.
  • The role and response to community pharmacy outreach through various technology platforms, including a variety of tones and ways of communicating messages.
  • Whether you’re working as an employee of a big-box discounter or running your own independent shop, pharmacists all share a desire to provide the best possible care.
  • Michael is a passionate believer that community pharmacy is only just starting to leverage technology for competitive advantage.
  • Discount pharmacies have improved their customer interactivity on the floor, thus slightly closing the gap on that differentiator for community pharmacies.
  • Michael believes community pharmacies can thrive and survive through patient-centric tech solutions that reinforce and deepen understanding as well as loyalty.
  • Choosing the right technology is key given the array of platforms that are available at various price points and levels of complexity. You don’t have to be cutting-edge (which can entail some risk).
  • All about Audirie, an online platform co-founded by Michael that uses AI to assess communications styles and provide analysis and coaching. Potential community pharmacy uses? Recruiting/staff augmentation and customer service training.  

Key Quotes:

  • “You go into CVS and it kind of looks like a Walgreens, which kind of looks like a RiteAid, and really that is one of the negative aspects (of consolidation).” (07:25)
  • “(Pharmacists) make time for things that we feel are important for the health and well-being of our patients. If we really feel outreach is important, we’ll make time for it.” (14:05)
  • “When we talk about technology, the great thing is that we can leverage technology to give us efficiencies that give us the time to do patient outreach.” (14:15)
  • “The first question any pharmacy owner today should be asking themselves is, ‘What technology can I use to make this process better, or this system more efficient or allow me to provide a better patient experience?” (17:00)
  • “You can leverage tech that’s been around for years – even decades – that I don’t think is leveraged at community pharmacies enough to create those (personal) conversations.” (23:14)
  • “Algorithm is a scary word sometimes … but all it means is there’s data we’ve collected and put in to create a tool that can help people do things a little bit better, a little bit more efficiently, with insights they wouldn’t have otherwise.” (35:27)

Social Media Clips:

  • The pros and cons of pharmacy consolidation in the U.S., including a lack of brand diversity on one hand and economies of scale on the other. (07:25-07:55)
  • About how – and why – Australian pharmacists might deploy some of the outreach technologies that have met with success in the U.S. (11:22-12:02)
  • Michael explains why he’s a passionate believer that technology can be leveraged by community pharmacists to keep them competitive with even the biggest chains. (15:35-16:55)
  • Scott explains the power of relationships between independent pharmacists and their customers and the loyalty generated by long-standing personal ties – a differentiator on its own but more powerful when leveraged through technology. (18:49-20:30)
  • Michael details some community pharmacy use cases for his communications coaching program, Audirie. (34:22-35:44)

Links for Michael Alexander:

Home | Audirie

Michael Alexander | LinkedIn

Reference within podcast Fred IT Group – Australia’s largest pharmacy IT solutions provider

Fred IT Group: Overview | LinkedIn

Pharmacy View/Sponsor Contacts:

Host Scott Carpenter, EVBC | LinkedIn
Sponsor: Shopfront Solutions
Shopfront Solutions: Overview | LinkedIn

Pharmacy View Podcast: Overview | LinkedIn

Aerion Technologies | Helping Non Techs Build Better Tech

Aerion Technologies: Overview | LinkedIn

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