Tech start-up Charac has embarked on a mission to digitise the UK’s £12 billion community pharmacy sector.
The company believes that a holistic approach and rapid digitisation will help independent pharmacies compete with larger competitors, safeguard their businesses and create new revenue sources in the face of NHS cuts.
Charac’s SaaS platform, which is being trialled this week, enables pharmacies to digitise their current processes, provide omnichannel interaction with patients via phone, video, mobile app and desktop and open up access to a range of new services.
A participant in one of its trials, Mahi Fallah of Jasins Pharmacy in Isleworth, said: “The huge changes in consumer behaviour wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic underline the need for independent pharmacies to evolve.
“There are a few start-ups offering to help us digitise repeat prescriptions, but only Charac is thinking as holistically as we must. Community pharmacies need to digitise fully and quickly: consultations, prescriptions, automating processes – everything we can to both save time and, above all, increase revenues, whilst retaining the human touch that differentiates us from the big chains”.
The company says due to lack of digitisation, several independent pharmacies across the UK are slowly losing their patients to pharmacy chains and online pharmacies which provide better digital experiences.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend, which means independent pharmacies will need to act quickly.
Santosh Sahu, founder and chief executive officer of Charac, said: “Airbnb, Uber, Square and Slack all have two things in common: they were all incepted during the 2008-2009 recession and they all became Unicorns.
“We’ve identified a critically underserved market that has everything to win from digitising their vital community services. If they can remain relevant in the face of changing consumer behaviour they cannot just survive, but they can thrive.
“Despite our extensive experience in building products and teams for high street stores and pharmacies, we’ve still been amazed by the reaction of the pharmacy community and the interest of the investment community.
“If anything, the fact we’re launching during this pandemic and heading into a more challenging economic environment has bolstered engagement. We expect to on-board hundreds of local pharmacies within the first year of operations. We are already talking to owners of pharmacy multiples with 50-300 branches.”
Local pharmacies where 90 per cent of prescriptions are currently collected have changed little in the last 100 years, claims Charac, adding that at present, online penetration in the sector is just 1.4 per cent.
Community pharmacies are heavily reliant on the NHS for revenues and the current manual processes simply reduce their ability to increase their revenue potential.
The Charac team, which boasts deep experience of the pharmacy sector, hopes to add a raft of new capabilities by the end of 2020 including on-demand prescribing and NHS Spine integration.