Dive Brief:

  • As disruptors like Amazon threaten to upend the business, the pharmacy industry still yields high levels of customer satisfaction in both brick-and-mortar and mail order segments, according to a J.D. Power survey.
  • Almost nine out of ten consumers prefer face-to-face interaction with their pharmacists, but customers who talk with their pharmacists via email or online chat are equally or more satisfied with the interaction. The poll also found that, though adoption of digital tools like mobile apps has leveled off, the 20% of consumers who use a pharmacy’s app report satisfaction scores as much as 23 percentage points higher than those that don’t.
  • Among brick-and-mortar chain pharmacies, Good Neighbor Pharmacy ranked highest in terms of customer satisfaction, followed by Health Mart and Rite Aid. For mail order pharmacies, Humana was most highly rated, followed by Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealth’s OptumRx. CVS pharmacy, whether in-store or mail order, was below average in terms of customer satisfaction.

Dive Insight:

Traditional pharmacies have been wary of disruption as market giants like CVS and Walgreens pivot to prioritizing at-home delivery and outside players like Amazon dip their toes in the prescription drug space. 

Yet this new data underscores a preference for human interaction, as consumer adoption of new digital tools is flattening and traditional pharmacy players like Good Neighbor and Health Mart have higher consumer satisfaction.

Notably, CVS Health — the largest chain drugstore in 2018 by total prescription revenues, according to the Drug Channels Institute — trailed Good Neighbor, Health Mart, Rite Aid, Walgreens and the drugstore average in satisfaction.

CVS operates the second largest mail-order/specialty pharmacy, after Cigna-Express Scripts, with an estimated $38.6 billion in prescription revenues last year. The mail order was just below average in consumer satisfaction, behind Humana, Kaiser Permanente, OptumRx and the category average.

The data from over the 12,000 consumers surveyed also showed they still enjoy visiting physical pharmacies.

“As technology companies promise to change the way Americans address their pharmacy needs, our data suggests that changing such entrenched behavior will be an uphill battle,” Greg Truex, managing director of health intelligence at J.D. Power said in a statement.

However, in this age of Amazon, some of the market’s biggest players are shifting more resources into at-home delivery.

Amazon itself is making a play with its Rx delivery subsidiary PillPack acquired in June last year for $1 billion. Stock of traditional pharmacy retailers like Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS plummeted following the news and the e-commerce giant has spent the past year or so steadily expanding PillPack’s reach by applying for more state licenses.

Currently, CVS offers prescription drug delivery nationwide as fast as same-day through a variety of payment methods and membership programs. It’s free if you’re a CarePass member, and a flat fee of $7.99 if you’re not.

Expanding upon a successful November trial run, CVS also plans to open 1,500 more HealthHUB retail stores, locations devoting at least one-fifth of floor space to preventive care and wellness offerings.

According to J.D. Power, HealthHUBs business model could be a smart play. Roughly two-fifths of surveyed customers who know about their pharmacy’s health and wellness offerings use them. People who use the services also spend almost 13% more on their order, indicating investments in preventive care could be smart long term decisions for pharmacies.

CVS Health reports already seeing increased traffic and higher margins in its HealthHUB locations across its MinuteClinic, pharmacy and main retail stores.

Good Neighbor Pharmacy and Health Mart are franchisees … they are INDEPENDENT PHARMACIES where pts typically are dealing with the Pharmacist/Owner.   Here is a link to find a independent pharmacy by zip code