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Pharmacy courier services have been around for many years. Patients have naturally focused more on them during the global COVID-19 pandemic – and the question arises for private-practice pharmacies as to how they should position themselves in the future, both from an organizational and from an economic perspective. At the same time, the introduction of the e-prescription is almost upon us, which will impact pharmacy management.

Current conditions governing courier services

According to the German Pharmacy Operating Regulations, a courier service (last-mile delivery) is also possible without a mail order license. It is always linked to a consultation, which can also be done in advance by phone or video/chat. This is especially important since it avoids using pharmaceutical personnel for the courier service. One sensitive issue here is refrigerated goods. A solution for this is temperature logging, which optimally links and archives the delivery as a procedure, together with the associated temperature data.

Germany’s Act to Strengthen Local Pharmacies (VOASG) stipulates that the remuneration of the courier service be included in the Social Code Part 5 (SGB V) and set at €2.50 net. What is new is that courier services may now only be billed for prescription drugs, no longer for delivery to private patients – thereby presenting pharmacies with the strategic question of whether or not to charge for home delivery.

Influence of the e-prescription on courier services (last-mile delivery services)

The original prescription is now always required for courier service in the case of prescription drugs. The introduction of the e-prescription will simplify many aspects here. For example, the token on the Gematik server will assume the role of the Form 16 document and will be regarded as the “original of the prescription” for the process flow. This standardizes the OTC (over-the-counter) and Rx (prescription) dispensing process and saves the pharmacy from using pharmaceutical staff for the courier service.

Modern ordering platforms for pharmacies

For (pre)orders of drugs, a webstore or an additional link to an ordering platform is ideal for pharmacies – on the one hand, the webstore offers the complete address data required by the Pharmacy Operating Regulations and the possibility of a payment function, and on the other, it offers shipment tracking for customers. Delivery delays can also be communicated in this way.

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The last mile: the last kilometre to the customer in less than 60 minutes

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“Home delivery” as a model for the future?

In summary, the Act to Strengthen Local Pharmacies, combined with the e-prescription, offers a good foundation for a “home delivery” or “Click & Collect” offer for the patient. The mandatory obligation to provide advice via telecommunications channels is contemporary and correct because it fulfills the duty of due diligence in dispensing drugs. The e-prescription transforms the required original prescription from a piece of paper to an online token, facilitating the process flow for prescription drugs in the courier service (last-mile delivery service).

A pharmacy webstore in conjunction with pharmacy management is almost a must if courier service operations are to map process flows in a streamlined manner. Documented temperature logging and the quality of the advice given are also essential if pharmacy courier services are to stand out from the mail-order business. This opens up new opportunities for private-practice pharmacies to position themselves, retain regular customers and attract new ones through the combination of local business and an online presence.


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