Thursday, 3 October 2013

How to start an internet pharmacy UK

A question, we get time and time again is how to set up your own internet pharmacy within the UK. Well, first you need a premises, second, you need to apply to the GPhC for "distance pharmacy" license. During this process, you need online pharmacy clinical governance documentation which is somewhat different to a regular bricks and mortar pharmacy. Have a look at the following links for more information about "online pharmacy SOPs" or "SOPs for internet pharmacies" Once this is in place and the GPhC have inspected your business, you can get started...

The real question, is how to start up an internet pharmacy and make a success of it, here are our top tips:
  • Target care homes - you will need to increase your Rx count pretty quickly to get within the PPA threshold. A quick way to get bulk prescriptions is from care homes. The majority of care homes are controlled by large pharmacy chains, these chains often offer impersonal service and do limited out of hours service, this may be a way to differentiate your service.
  • Set up an online doctor service - use a service like PharmaDoctor to embed an online doctor. PharmaDoctor employs a GMC registered doctor who works online and can create private prescriptions for patients visiting your website, for you to dispense. One great thing about this service is if the patient orders between 9-5 on a weekday the Rx will be ready within 10-15 minutes, meaning you could courier medicines to people straight away and charge a premium for the service via low cost couriers such as Shutl.
  • Get your clinical governance in order - there is a fantastic, free service called PharmacySOP.com it offers Standard Operating Procedures (Sops) for pharmacies, online pharmacy standard opertating procedures (needed for GPhC inspection) and a course on how to create an internet pharmacy.
  • Differentiate - if you offer something on your website, make sure it is different from the plethora of other online pharmacies. You will not make money from "traditional" ecommerce, 90% of people on the web buy their usual sundries from Amazon or eBay, not a small, untrusted website which they have never heard of before. Why not specialise? Go into areas such as travel medicine (have a look at Douglas Pharmacy), African hair care, brewing equipment, homeopathic remedies or veterinary medicines... This may not have the mass appeal of offering everything, but will give you the edge in specific niches, which Google loves.
  • Personal face to face relationships are the core of community pharmacy - this is one of the main excuses traditional community pharmacists have; saying that internet pharmacy will never succeed. Prove them wrong. The power of the internet can bring the traditional pharmacy model straight to the patients home. When setting up an internet pharmacy, ensure that you provide adequate support, why not include Skype pharmacist consultations with the ability to video chat? Why not embed Google Hangouts so that the patient can readily interact face to face with a suitably qualified pharmacist?
  • NHS Commissioned Services - community pharmacy provided services, are becoming ever more important due to their low cost and accessibility. It is often said, that internet pharmacies cannot provide these services due to the service contract limitations. However, many of these services can be provided off site, meaning internet pharmacists can provide home visits for services such as influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation, providing they have local NHS approval. For more information about how to take advantage of these opportunities join our online pharmacy course.
  • Get you Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in order - read our article about "how to improve online pharmacy SEO UK". It is not as easy as it seems, do not fall into the trap of going on ODesk or Freelancer and hire a "SEO Agent" who can promise you a listing on the front page within a week. The key to SEO, is slow and steady, write blogs, get backlinks, but take your time, aim for the front page of Google by targeting long string keywords (e.g. homeopathic pharmacy stamford rd) opposed to short string keywords such as (chemist stamford rd). Find less competitive keywords with high search volume is the key. Use Google Keyword Planner for more info.
Lastly, have faith. Look at your local high street... Record stores, electronic stores are closing left right and centre, as they are selling products which can be easily found online at a cheaper price due to lower overheads. Take advantage of this, whilst offering excellent customer service and you will not go wrong.

3 comments:

  1. It seems as if there is nothing to lose in setting up an online pharmacy in addition to brick and mortars pharmacy.

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  2. Thank you for sharing valuable information. I actually enjoyed reading through this posting. Many thanks. You can also find the details on SEO Bournemouth, SEO Southampton, search engine optimisation company, search engine optimisation services, search engine optimization consultants

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  3. At Rushport Advisory we have advised many pharmacies in England on how get Distance Selling applications approved for internet pharmacies. The idea that you can buy a set of SOPs for under £100 and hope that they will cover the regulatory requirements sounds impossible. See http://www.rushport.co.uk/services/internet-pharmacy.aspx for more information.

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