Digitalization Makes Its Way to the Pharmacy SectorMon, 05/13/2019 - 13:29
Pharmacies and pharmaceutical suppliers in Mexico are facing rapid changes. On the one hand, larger pharmacy chains are pushing out smaller independent branches. On the other, the digital marketplace is making consumers pickier in their product choices and how they want them to be delivered. “The industry is constantly evolving, which means we must either innovate or die,” says Raúl Caballero, Director General of Farmacias Especializadas ProbeMedic (ProbeMedic).
Aside from product diversity, customer demands have had a wider impact on companies like ProbeMedic. The company’s mission is to provide highly specialized medical products that sometimes cannot be found at regular sales points, including drugs, patented medicines, medical equipment and supplies.
ProbeMedic works with distributors, pharmacies, hospitals and banks and has its own points of sale to sell directly to patients. The company started in 2011 with a strategy specifically focused on insurance agencies and banks, which still represent most of its operations. Eventually, ProbeMedic broadened its services to hospitals and its own points of sale. Today, it has nine locations, five in Monterrey and the rest in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Puebla and Tijuana.
Due to its specialized profile, ProbeMedic’s portfolio could seem high-end but according to Caballero, the company maintains strong relationships with the country’s most important laboratories to provide products at a competitive price.
Customer service is another essential factor in staying competitive in an increasingly crowded market. Caballero highlights ProbeMedic’s unique approach to patients as an advantage of being a family-owned business. The company offers loyalty programs and other special offers and has developed technological solutions, including an app that allows homebound patients to order their treatments online. This service is provided at a national level without additional cost, regardless of the product.
To deliver its products, the company works with all major parcel delivery services. When dealing with hard-to-reach areas, Caballero says “ProbeMedic always tries to have one of its collaborators deliver the product directly.” Infrastructure and climate conditions are two major challenges for home deliveries, but the company’s relationships with larger parcel services proves an advantage.
Due to greater consumer consciousness of environmental issues, ProbeMedic has also adopted a more environmentally friendly stance, which has resulted in adopting biodegradable packaging for a range of its medications.
In the area of social responsibility, the company founded a group called Socio Enfermerías to provide services to patients that go beyond medications. One group of employees helps patients to prepare the paperwork needed for insurance companies, banks and hospitals. Another area offers nutritional and psychological support. “One activity here is free yoga classes for people who suffer from cancer and multiples sclerosis,” says Caballero.
From a commercial standpoint, ProbeMedic’s goal is to always continue growing, according to Caballero. However, doing this by adopting technologies can increase access to health services. ProbeMedic’s strategy is also in line with the President López Obrador's administration’s plan to make healthcare more accessible to the vast majority of the population. The challenge in the adoption of these technologies will be to maintain the quality of service that traditionally comes through personal contact between the healthcare professional and the patient.
Some companies are already trying to bridge this gap by offering video calls and chat services to connect healthcare professionals with patients over large distances. However, it is precisely Mexico’s challenge of having a large remote population that is pushing technology forward. There is no doubt that private sector innovation will continue to play a role in transforming healthcare, says Caballero. “The idea is to always benefit the patient.”