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Reviving the Human Touch in Automation

How the return to "high-tech, high-touch" philosophy promises a win-win-win future for the pharmacy industry.
j swanson
Jeffrey Swanson
j swanson
Jeffrey Swanson

Whatever happened to “High-tech, high-touch?” Among pharmacy automation suppliers, this business philosophy appears to be yet one more casualty of the lingering effects of the COVID pandemic and industry mergers and acquisitions. The pandemic not only disrupted the normal flow of business, but it also exacerbated an already tight staffing situation at pharmacies and long-term care facilities, just one of the issues that automation could help alleviate. 

However, the industry has witnessed a wave of mergers and acquisitions that left many stakeholders grappling with supply chain disruptions, service deficiencies and a visible erosion of the foundations of vendor/pharmacy relationships.

The traditional paradigm of high-touch partnership engagement between vendors and pharmacies has given way to a transactional ethos. A transactional business mindset does not focus on building relationships or working in collaboration with the customer.  

The goals for pharmacy automation remain the same: to allocate a central filling location, simplify inventory management, improve accuracy while dispensing medication, spare labor and to free up technicians for value-added customer services. However, automation suppliers have abandoned customer service and the customer once their purchase is complete. None of this helps relieve the pressures felt by pharmacy staff. 

The answer lies in a return to the practice of “high-tech, high touch,” which creates a winning scenario for all the stakeholders. The only winner in the current game is the company that sells the automated equipment. The most desirable outcome is when the vendor, pharmacies and the pharmacy’s patients all win. This is the philosophy that helps participants not only survive but thrive.  

Fortunately for the pharmacy customer, champions within the industry are advocating for a revival of the high-touch approach, advocating for pricing that aligns with a more sustainable model. 

Central to this vision is the recognition of the indispensable role played by trusted partners who understand your business, partners that take the necessary steps that move beyond transactional into relationships grounded in trust, reliability and a genuine concern for the welfare of pharmacies and care facilities. This value proposition extends beyond the simple provision of equipment to encompass a holistic commitment to support innovation and continuous improvement.

As part of the value proposition, the customers care about three main things:  functionality, lowering the cost to fill and ease the burden on pharmacy technicians

But high-tech, high-touch takes it several steps further. A key differentiator in today’s competitive landscape could be provided by the strength of a partner’s industry network. Such a partner can leverage extensive resources to guide clients through the maze of current or specific market dynamics in their given niche to help the customer capture new business opportunities. 

This approach encompasses a comprehensive suite of services, support mechanisms and a commitment to continual improvement. This helps ensure that operational efficiencies are not just maintained but evolve into new opportunities with each passing year the customer operates the automated equipment. This is achieved using a consultative approach that places a premium on deep understanding and tailored solutions. 

Essential strategies include supplying comprehensive lifecycle support, pproviding dedicated project management and conducting regular status checks.

From collaborative problem-solving to proactive monitoring and personalized support, the hallmark of these partnerships lies in their unwavering dedication to the long-term success and resilience of their clients. By embracing the principles of partnership, innovation and mutual benefit, stakeholders can chart a course toward a future characterized not by chaos and disruption but by stability, sustainability and collective growth.

Jeffrey Swanson is SVP of Sales & Marketing for JFCRx, a pharmacy automation company.

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