CommBank Health CEO Albert Naffah said pharmacists are innovating to improve competitiveness and customer experiences in response by ramping up their digital capabilities, expanding professional services and their scope of practice.
“Digitisation is providing opportunities for pharmacies to create greater efficiencies in managing their day-to-day operations and implementing solutions to improve workflow and cost management,” Mr Naffah said. “Deep insights are also helping pharmacies to set and manage targets and make better customer-focused decisions.”
“Pharmacies are also strengthening their customer proposition with more professional services (50.5 per cent), such as vaccinations and prescribing, as well as product ranges (24.5 per cent) including vitamins, compounding medications, and practitioner-only products, skincare and beauty, and gifts.”
Now in its 10th year, the CommBank Pharmacy Insights 2023 report is the most comprehensive research available, tracking the confidence, perceptions and attitudes of pharmacy owners and employees in the Australian community pharmacy industry.
The annual UTS Community Pharmacy Barometer Index showed that confidence among community pharmacies was at its highest points in more than 10 years, reaching 146.8 out of 200 in November 2022, with optimism driven by their businesses’ future value and the sector’s viability.
But confidence fell sharply in May 2023, to a decade low of 60.8 out of 200, as community pharmacies weighed uncertainty and the prospect of lower earnings, when dispensing rules come into effect from September 2023. Around 61 per cent, expressed neutral confidence about the future viability of community pharmacy.
Around 72 per cent of community pharmacies, surveyed in May 2023, expected the value of their business to decrease compared just 10 per cent six months earlier.
Digital opportunities ahead
Community pharmacies are looking to improve profitability and customer experiences by adding to their digital channels (one in three), with 35 per cent considering offering click and collect and 32 per cent seeking to add options to purchase online. Meanwhile, ePrescriptions have flourished, in line with expectations, with almost all pharmacies able to receive prescriptions by email while around 71 per cent can receive via text message and 66 per cent via a mobile app.
“With little year-on-year change in digital sales channels and plans to expand among many, it’s clear that the prominence of digital sales channels, and product and service delivery, is here to stay,” Mr Naffah said. “As the convenience of digital sales and ePrescriptions gain popularity, pharmacies must be increasingly vigilant about cyber security to safeguard customer and business data.”
Cyber security preparedness is a concern for pharmacies with just 37 per cent indicating in November 2022 some level of preparedness to respond to a cyber threat, down from 44 per cent in 2021.
Community pharmacies hunt for talent
Mr Naffah said the hunt for talented staff was a high priority with 74 per cent of community pharmacies saying they had difficulties recruiting pharmacists because of persistent shortages.
Community pharmacies are doing everything they can to attract talent including by increasing remuneration and offering flexible work arrangements (both 72 per cent), followed by providing incentive-based payments or remuneration structures.
Of those surveyed in November 2022, 70 per cent of employee pharmacists reported an increase in remuneration, up from 43 per cent surveyed in November 2021.
“Demand for top staff pharmacists who have the skills and experience to provide the high-quality professional services will increase as pharmacies expand their scope of practice and seek to provide more services to their customers.”
Outlook and confidence*
- 60.8/200 UTS Community Pharmacy Barometer™ at decade-lows
- 65.7% expect the value of pharmacy to decline over the next three years
- 61% have neutral confidence about the future viability of community pharmacy
- 90% expect profits to decrease due to impact of 60-day dispensing
- 33.1% the average predicted fall in pharmacy value among those expecting lower profits
- 79.2% will begin charging for previously free services to offset impact of 60-day dispensing
Talent recruitment **
- 74% acknowledge challenges to recruiting pharmacists
- 47% say it takes more than three months to fill a role
- 72% are increasing remuneration and flexible working to secure talent
Roles and remuneration**
- 69% experienced an increase in remuneration in 2022
- 80% now earn more than $40 per hour
- 60-75% completely support expanding scope of practice to five scenarios covering prescription or supply of medications
- 77% offer home delivery options
- 94% can receive prescriptions via email
- 39% are very or quite prepared for a cyber security incident
*Findings from survey undertaken in May 2023
**Findings from survey undertaken in November 2022