SMS Marketing for Pharmacies and Dispensing Chemists
Most of us have required help with our health at some point in our lives (if you haven’t then count yourself incredibly lucky), and after visiting the GP, our next port of call is often the pharmacy to collect the medication the GP has prescribed. NHS Digital data provides figures suggesting that 1,083.6 million prescription items were dispensed in 2015 alone.
Although those figures include items dispensed by hospitals, care centres and surgeries, a huge amount of those items would have been dispensed by community pharmacies or dispensing chemists. These are largely privately owned and operated businesses located in local high streets, villages and supermarkets. Whether they are well-known national chains or small independent shops, the essential service that they provide to their communities still remains the same and they all rely on funding from the government to operate these services, due to NHS prescription charges to patients being set at a flat rate per item, or free in certain circumstances, regardless of the cost of the medication or medical item.
With this funding being ever more squeezed and the amount of prescriptions being dispensed steadily increasing each year, these businesses are always looking to reduce costs without compromising the invaluable services they deliver. In an industry that is constantly under pressure, finding time and cost effective ways to streamline service delivery is essential, which is where SMS Marketing could help to do just that.
According to Ofcom, 93% of UK adults own a mobile phone which provides a direct means of contacting the majority of pharmacy customers with relevant information regarding their prescriptions. Some of the popular pharmacy software programs are actually supplied with SMS text message capability built into their systems, so even the initial setup should be relatively straightforward.
Pharmacies and dispensing chemists understandably are cautious about any approach that may be seen as direct marketing due to the sensitive nature of the information and customers that they work with but handled correctly and with appropriate customer consent, SMS text messaging services are useful portals to enhance and add value to enhance customer services.
So how could SMS Marketing actually work to benefit community pharmacies and dispensing chemists?
SMS for Repeat Prescriptions:
A huge amount of prescriptions are repeats – where the same patient regularly takes the same medication on a long term basis – but many patients do not collect them as soon as they are ready. For dispensers, this means valuable shelf space is taken up with items waiting to be collected and these items could be waiting for weeks. The more items waiting, the longer it takes for staff to locate them when the customer does arrive to collect.
SMS text messaging could be useful to alert customers as soon as their prescription is ready and prompt them to collect it. Even just a few customers signing up to the service could help to move repeat prescriptions on faster.
In theory, letting patients know when their prescription is ready could also help to promote more careful adherence to medication programmes by patients if they are prompted by text, benefitting their health.
SMS Marketing for Pharmacist Led Services:
Many pharmacies and dispensing chemists offer a multitude of health related services and advice to the public, for example; stopping smoking assistance, flu vaccinations and blood pressure checks. But patients not showing up when agreed or dropping out of assistance services unannounced can waste staff time in preparation or planning when they could be more productive elsewhere.
SMS Marketing could form a simple and integral part of these programmes to keep customers informed, engaged and supported as well as help staff to improve planning and management of these services.
- Provide customers with a reminder of when booked appointments for ongoing support are imminent (within 24-48 hours) to reduce customer no-shows causing wasted time.
- Send customers relevant tips or timely information designed to support their progress and keep them engaged.
- Remind customers when health checks or flu vaccinations are becoming due again and invite them to call in or book an appointment.
- Possibility to allow customers to text in to request or book a health consultation.
There is also scope to consider offering patients a text service to remind them when to take medication. This has apparently been used in parts of the US for a while, with good results. A 2012 US study published in Clinical Therapeutics ** found that chronic diabetic patients who participated in an SMS text message prescription reminder programme had a significantly higher medication adherence rate of 91% compared to 82% in the control group who did not receive text reminders. There is no reason that a similar result could not be achieved in the UK.
Customers are also embracing technological changes and becoming more demanding about how they wish to be serviced by businesses in all sectors. Some industries already routinely use SMS Marketing to contact their customers and as customers get used to this, they start expecting it from other businesses and services they deal with.
There are already plenty of pharmacies and dispensing chemists who have already embraced the use of SMS text messaging services in varying levels to benefit their business and customers, but for those that haven’t yet started or only use text messaging in specific and small amounts, there is real potential to further improve the customer service experience to benefit both business and customer in a cost effective and simple way.
Here at Fastsms, we are passionate about helping small businesses get ahead of their competition with SMS messaging. We offer some of the most cost-effective text bundles on the market, and can also help with services like short codes and virtual mobile numbers. Get in touch with us today on 0800 954 5305 to find out how we can help you!
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