Setting up an Online Pharmacy, (technically a "Distance Selling" Pharmacy) can be an attractive prospect. Reduced overheads, lower up-front costs, and no NHS requirement to justify the need of setting up a pharmacy. If you're considering the move for yourself, understanding the journey ahead of you is as simple as reading this guest blog post from Pharmacy Mentor and Rushport.
Setting up a distance selling pharmacy (DSP), also known as an Online Pharmacy or Internet Pharmacy jumps into the most convenient area of pharmacy for patients. Receiving prescriptions online and operating as efficiently as possible maximises the profitability of this pharmacy model. In this Guest Blog by Pharmacy Mentor, we simplify and breakdown the process of setting up an Online Pharmacy, drawing on Rushport Advisory's expertise.
Everything you need to set up an Online Pharmacy
There are several core steps to set up an Online Pharmacy:
- Somewhere to operate as registered pharmacy premises (yes, you do need premises!)
- GPhC Registratrion & Approval for those premises
- A website, which meets the latest regulatory standards (2021)
- Specialist Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) written exclusively for NHS Distnace Selling Pharmacies
- NHS consent (if you intend to provide NHS services)
How much does it cost to set up an Online Pharmacy?
An application for GPhC registration currently costs £590, plus a first entry fee of £365 as of April 1st, 2021. There's also a £50 application fee (and conditions of use) when applying to use the GPhC’s voluntary internet pharmacy logo.
If you plan on providing NHS service, you need to make an application to the NHS for permission to be on the relevant NHS "pharmaceutical list". The NHS fee for processing the application is £750.
Altogether, that's a total of £1,755 for registering an Online Pharmacy. Not cheap, but nowhere near as much as is required to buy a bricks-and-mortar pharmacy.
And be careful with the NHS online application portal it does not work well for distance selling applications and if you say the wrong thing or use pre-populated fields you can reduce your chance of success down to zero almost immediately!
Naturally, there are further costs. Premises costs, stock and the cost of a website may be some of the larger costs. There are other costs to budget for too. These costs are the same as if you started any business, things like your broadband connection, insurance, marketing, software costs...the list goes on. You could spend £10,000 or over £100,000 depending on what you are trying to build.
Why would I pay the voluntary fee to use the GPhC logo?
With the raft of illegal websites sites selling medicines which are probably fake and / or dangerous, as well as all the guidance available to the public to avoid them, displaying a registration logo gives assurance to your website visitors that you're legitimate. Since Brexit, the requirement to display the MHRA logo approval has fallen away and you cannot even apply to use their logo anymore, so you should want to provide some assurance to patients of your legitimacy.
Displaying the GPhC logo on your site gives your site credibility over illegitimate, unregistered sites.
How to make sure my applications for an Online Pharmacy are successful?
The NHS application requirements are primarily concerned with how you intend to provide NHS services. Your Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's) must demonstrate your capacity to provide NHS services to any person in England who requests them.
A word on SOP's.
Rushport Advisory has developed a full suite of SOP's specifically for distance selling pharmacy applications and tailor them for the individual operating requirements of the pharmacy. Whilst they're a requirement for NHS contracts, it's also a helpful tool for your business, so they're worth getting right.
Beware of using SOPs that are not written for distance selling pharmacies. You can't just edit them as you will miss vital requirements.
Can you operate an Online Pharmacy without a website?
No. Since April 1st, 2021, all Distance Selling Pharmacies (DSP's) must have a website. For extra details, read about the new regulations for distance selling pharmacies here. And really, the question is flawed. Why would you want to operate a Distance Selling Pharmacy without a website? But the reality is, many Distant Selling Pharmacies do.
Though a DSP website has to meet regulatory requirements, the effort is more than worth the reward.
A quality website provides both discoverability and convenience - the two things which underpin the success of a DSP/Internet/Online pharmacy.
- Be found
- Be chosen
A website gives you the best possible chance of success for both. People Google prescription-related queries all the time. If your website isn't showing up in the results, you're missing out on a huge chunk of market share. That market share is probably the difference between success and failure, but it's certainly the difference between success and mediocrity.
Pharmacy Mentor works closely with Rushport Advisory on websites for Distance Selling Pharmacies. We combine the best of our marketing know-how with Rushport's impeccable knowledge of the Regulations, delivering websites that grow your business and meet all the lega requirements. It's never been easier to start your own pharmacy business. But not only do you need to do it right, you should want to. Doing it right means a more successful business.
A Google Search for Ordering Repeat Prescriptions - you should appear here!
Get your Distance Selling Pharmacy found on Google
When people need something and they don't know where to get it, Google is where they go. And so ranking highly on Google is critical to any pharmacy strategy. I won't go into too much detail here, but if you want to understand why ranking on Google is so important to a DSP strategy, read this pharmacy guide to winning Google.
Competition is hot in the Distance Selling Pharmacy game. You don't want to go through the process of setting up your business just to struggle to get business.
Google isn't your only ally
As with brick-and-mortar pharmacies, paid advertising on platforms like Facebook can help generate business from Day 1. Patients are always on the lookout for more convenient ways to get their prescriptions. The beauty of digital marketing for a Distance Selling Pharmacy is that you can target any area you like.
Now you know the essentials for setting up an Online Pharmacy, where do you go from here? You could attempt to go it alone, as some do, but the chances are not great as over 90% of these applications are refused by the NHS. But your best bet without a doubt is talking to Rushport Advisory. Their help is invaluable in a smooth process and they have a 100% track record. What you don't want is months of back and forth with the various governing bodies, all the while paying for premises and resubmitted applications with no income.
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