Community and retail pharmacies are under pressure, with the decline of the high street and competition from online providers. Pharmacy staff are needing to respond by adapting and evolving their service. How can new approaches to work and patient care help? Ultimately how do pharmacies ensure their place remains on our high streets and in our communities?
Differentiating face-to-face pharmacy from online competition
What differentiates the high street pharmacist from the online supplier is the provision of individual patient services and advice from qualified professionals, a value-add that the online pharmacist cannot match. Pharmacists are evolving to take on services traditionally catered for by GP’s, in a step to relieve pressure on doctors’ surgeries.
Broadening healthcare services beyond dispensing medicines is a positive move. It elevates, through the provision of personal service, the high street pharmacist above the price battle being waged by online drug providers.
Safe storage and dispensing of medication
In addition, the high street pharmacist can verify and confirm the validity of their prescriptions. Whereas there is much debate around the regulation and safety of drugs dispensed online.
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), for the first time, has begun publishing pharmacy inspection reports. In effect this gives every high street pharmacy a publicly available rating. It’s a positive move, yet one which may be perceived by some pharmacists as an added pressure. But it should be embraced as a differentiator, a badge of honour, showing the value of the face-to-face service provided by high street pharmacists.
Managing medicines and devices, managing risk and keeping records
According to the GPhC, in their report Learning From Inspections, standards most commonly not met often relate to managing medicines and devices, managing risks and keeping records. The GPhC goes on to state that pharmacies that were well organised and using efficient processes across a range of activities were found to perform better overall.
Today, businesses usually rely on digital systems for the data they need. But when it comes to guiding the actual work people do, most still rely on pen and paper. Meaning process adherence and compliance is patchy, with the records unreliable.
Using technology to track work processes can bring efficiencies. For example, your pharmacy team could enter checks and actions into digital checklists that are recorded in the Cloud. For the Chief Pharmacist this gives greater real-time visibility.
For example, on a Monday morning following the weekend break, the Chief Pharmacist would have visibility of whether the weekend team or locum carried out checks and actions that needed to be done. In fact, if these had not been completed an alert would have been sent in in real-time. Using digital checks means the Chief Pharmacist can ensure compliance critical tasks are happening even when they are not in store.
Managing pharmaceutical stock
Digital checks can also be applied to the management of vaccines and medicines.
On delivery pharmacy staff are to check the order for possible discrepancies or damage, and once accepted, ensure they are immediately stored correctly. Maintaining accurate records of stock is also important.
Many of the manual processes could be checked and monitored through our Connected Workflow Management application. It prompts staff on their mobile devices to review and provide evidence, through photos or barcodes, confirming that stock is in date, stored appropriately and with no damage to packaging, for example. What’s more, all checks are automatically date and time stamped.
Digital technologies can be used to ensure greater accuracy, efficiency and of course compliance in line with MHRA and GpHC. By capturing data electronically, it is possible to view and monitor in real-time storage and process protocols. This data can be captured from multiple locations, suitable for those managing a group of pharmacies.
Monitoring temperature sensitive medicines
Automated temperature monitoring is another way to encourage best practice. With manual monitoring it’s not possible to determine how long the stock was exposed to an out-of-spec temperature so the only safe option is to dispose the stock.
With an automated notification, you can take action to save the stock, in little to no time by closing an open door, re-packing the fridge with proper circulation and space to allow the fridge to operate properly, or relocating the fridge.
Pharmacies are under increasing pressure to adapt. To provide greater convenience whilst also offering patient advice and guidance. All while meeting strict compliance guidelines. The Chief Pharmacist of multiple locations carries the responsibility of safe drug management and also, via their team, delivering good customer healthcare.
Technology can provide practical solutions for the busy pharmacist. Automated temperature monitoring and record keeping can provide greater accuracy, whilst freeing up staff time. Through Connected Workflow Management you can guide and prompt teams to complete their control checks.
Checkit offers a strong portfolio of products to support pharmacists with the correct storage of medicines and vaccines. Solutions include Automated Monitoring and Connected Workflow Management, which digitises checklists for work processes.
Related blog posts
Vaccines – a digital approach to stock management
Vaccine storage and management can be aided by digital measures that ensure safety, efficacy and compliance without placing a burden on busy staff in pharmacy and primary care