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New opportunities for local pharmacies

The e-prescription is upon us, bringing innovations that will simplify everyday pharmacy work. Changes have also been made to dispensing medications via pickup dispensing robots working together with a web store – so pharmacies will benefit even more from (online) pre-ordering and local pickup.

Pickup and the paper prescription

The German Parliament’s Act to Strengthen Local Pharmacies introduced several legislative adjustments in favor of established pharmacies at the end of 2020, e.g., for courier services and machine dispensing. The law now states that dispensing machines or terminals may only be permitted within the pharmacy’s premises. However, if the dispensing of drugs is also planned outside opening hours, access by the recipient from outside the pharmacy must be enabled. This is always linked to an advance order and a consultation. What is new here is that the consultation may also take place via telecommunication channels (telephone, video conference, chat).

Pharmacy staff must always stock the dispensing machine, and in the case of prescription drugs, the original prescription must always be available on the day the drugs are dispensed. This means that the pharmacy customer must hand in the original prescription during pharmacy opening hours – so machine dispensing for an advance order outside opening hours, e.g., via a web store, will only apply to non-prescription and over-the-counter products. On the other hand, with today’s paper prescription, prescription products can only be dispensed by machine in the event of defects, i.e., in the case of collection.

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The e-prescription will enable this process to be adapted.

The regulation regarding the original prescription will be significantly simplified when the e-prescription is introduced. Although each dispensing procedure for prescription drugs must still be separately packaged and labeled and the patient contacted, this can then be done without the patient visiting the pharmacy beforehand, as with over-the-counter drugs. The prerequisite here is prior electronic transmission of the e-prescription. Here the online token will replace the current paper prescription.

The e-prescription enables almost identical processes for prescription and over-the-counter products via a pickup terminal, offering pharmacies and patients a significant plus in terms of convenience. Patients can now pre-order their entire prescription (online) and consult with the pharmacist by phone, video conference, or chat. They can then pick up the drug(s) at their local pharmacy’s dispensing terminal 24/7.

Click & Collect as a business model?

The Act to Strengthen Local Pharmacies combined with the e-prescription provides a good foundation for a “Click & Delivery” or “Click & Collect” offer for patients. Mandatory consultation via telecommunications channels is timely and fulfills the duty of due diligence in drug dispensing. The e-prescription transforms the required original prescription from a piece of paper to an online token, thereby facilitating the process flow for the machine dispensing of prescription drugs for pharmacists and patients.


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