The role of the community pharmacy in the healthcare sector is now more important than ever, but which trends will stick?
Published August 2022
- Significant growth in healthcare services provided by community pharmacists
- 8 million COVID-19 vaccines administered by community pharmacists
- Change in pharmacy spend (July 2019-Feb 2022) +21.4%
- Dispensary spend stable, but retail and other health services swelled by 60%, in line with the growing importance of pharmacists in the delivery of primary health care
- Growth in discount pharmacy spend up by 64.1% as a result of a spike in the number of stores opening
Seven clear trends have emerged from analysis of community pharmacies in Australian society over the last three years, providing both a positive outlook and leading indicators for pharmacy businesses’ future in the healthcare industry
, a new report by Westpac and The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, highlights the growing significance of community pharmacies as the first port of call for many Australians seeking medical assistance or health advice.
During COVID-19, as community expectations grew and the health system came under increasing pressure, sales soared – up more than 20 per cent in aggregate – and community pharmacies adapted to the changing health needs of the nation.
Drawing on transaction data from more than 10 million Westpac Group cardholders and spend across 800 pharmacies from July 2019 to February 2022, the report reveals shifts in consumer spending habits, and substantial growth in healthcare services provided by community pharmacies. This has been coupled with analysis and insights from industry experts calling out the trends most likely to endure.
How pharmacies are responding to community health needs
Community pharmacies stayed open for business as lockdowns swept Australia’s states and territories at the onset of the pandemic, and as new variants of COVID-19 emerged and spread.
Spending was up by a total of 21.4 per cent, but while consumers bought more, many changed where and how they shopped and what they put in their baskets.
Some pharmacies – particularly those in airports, big shopping centres and the Melbourne and Sydney CBDs – were challenged, but many proved quick to adapt by moving to home delivery services and enhancing their online presence, says Kaizaad Mehta, National Head of Healthcare and Professional Services at Westpac .
Before the pandemic, people shopped where they worked, but now we’re seeing a trend for people to shop where they live, says Trent Twomey, National President of The Pharmacy Guild of Australia – and it’s one trend that might stick due to the recent uptake of remote working, he believes.
Shoring up their place in the future of health care services
Other compelling trends emerging from our data include:
- Share of increased spending varied by type of pharmacy: Service-oriented pharmacies saw benefits in moderate growth of 8.7 per cent, while spending at discount chemists grew substantially; however, this was driven by an increase in discount pharmacy store openings rather than basket size.
- Dispensary sales remained stable, but retail and other health services sales grew significantly
- Dispensary mix reflected the mood of the nation, with antidepressant drug Sertraline (sold under the brand name Zoloft among others) joining the ‘top 10’ list of dispensed prescription medicines in 2020. This is the first time an antidepressant has entered the list in 14 years
- Pharmacies bucked national online shopping trends, with instore spending soaring 63.1 per cent as online spending fell 38.4 per cent.
In terms of health services, eight million COVID-19 vaccines had been administered by pharmacists by mid-2022, underscoring one of the key findings of the report i.e., the essential role community pharmacies are playing in maintaining the health of Australians, and providing much needed relief to the broader healthcare system.