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Community Pharmacy and Big Data
Tracey Robertson

By Tracey Robertson
On Dec 11, 2020

Read time
3 minutes

Community Pharmacy and Big Data

By Tracey Robertson

If we have learnt one thing from the challenges thrown at us during 2020 it is the value of being able to react quickly to fast changing situations – and the problems that can arise when you just don’t know what is going on in your business.

Good, timely response requires an understanding of how your pharmacy is operating at every level – not just month to month or even week to week, but minute to minute. In store, many of you have already explored the value of the data provided by Pharmacy Manager dashboards to tweak workload in response to customer demand – moving more people over to dispensing during a busy afternoon for example.

But this is just the start of unlocking the value of pharmacy data. Deep, immediate and easily understood information – real-time business intelligence – is a game changer. Knowing what is happening in your business means you can prevent problems. You can make smarter decisions – both immediately and for the future. You can really understand how your business operates. With changes coming thick and fast to Community Pharmacy, to thrive you need to act without delay – and you simply cannot do that if you don’t know exactly what is happening with your business today.

Exploring Big Data

The good news is that there is so much data available. The concept of ‘big data’ has become important to businesses of every size – but this is not about collecting any data. In fact, many businesses are drowning in data, and it is not being used properly to really provide any value. In the worst cases, you are having to spend more time looking at data and trying to make sense of it than anything else!

What you need is data that is organised around your specific business problems and issues, is real time and, critically, helps you to make immediate decisions. Pharmacy is currently somewhere at bottom of Gartner’s analytics ascendancy model reflecting on what happened with hindsight and offering only descriptive analytics - but it needs to move towards more prescriptive analytics and answer the ‘how can we make it happen’ questions to truly unravel the benefits of big data.

The next PMR Evolution is unlocking even more value from the data in your business, providing not just lots of data but the ability to rapidly see, understand and use that data. So what does that mean in practice? Essentially you want actionable data – data that is provided to the right person, at the right time, in the right place and can be used to drive business positive outcomes.

This is particularly valuable when you need both a complete overview of the business and the ability to understand how each store is operating so you can prioritise activity. For example, with the latest information on expired claims, as well as those at risk of expiring, you can take immediate action, targeting those stores with the biggest deficit.

You want an ‘at a glance’ overview of the performance of the entire store estate – such as how many pharmacists are online at any time, the throughput of prescriptions versus items and active nominations. You want to understand how the stock and order management processes are working – such as the number of uncollected prescriptions. And you want to see it easily – from graphs and charts to alerts and alarms that help you prioritise response.

Overview and Detail

Plus of course, you need the ability to click through to information on each specific store - and a way to flag any that need immediate support. Knowing which store has the highest value of expired or expiring claims at any time means you can focus your attention on the areas that can make the biggest difference.

Real-time actionable data also supports continuous performance monitoring, helping to identify both operational and possible compliance issues. Is one store losing more trading hours per day than others? How does dispensing performance compare? Is this a training issue, staffing problem or something else? Knowing immediately that something is amiss means you can get in touch straightaway to address the issue – and avoid any nasty end of week or month-end reporting shocks.

And you can celebrate success, learning immediately from the best performing pharmacies in your group. What are they doing and how can their best practice performance be shared throughout the business?


In our digital world, you have access to so much more data than ever before – but you have to make that data work for you. With so much change affecting Community Pharmacies, the way you use data will be key to your success – data driven businesses will thrive.

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