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From Hollywood to healthcare: The surprising history of the Pharmaself24

In an age of Blu-ray, Netflix and YouTube, it is easy to forget that watching a film in the comfort of your home was once entirely reliant on the humble VHS cassette.

That was certainly the case back in 1991 when Videosystem, the company behind the Pharmaself24, was first established to provide film-lovers with access to the blockbusters of the day via its innovative video rental machines.

Over time, the firm pivoted from film to pharmacy, having identified the benefits that its technology could bring to the collection of medicines. Here, Enrico Dona, the company’s Head of Export, talks about the firm’s heritage, its flexible engineering philosophy, and how innovation in UK pharmacy compares with the rest of Europe.

Enrico Dona Videosystem Pharmaself24
Enrico Dona, Head of Export at Videosystem

"Videosystem was established in 1991, and it quickly became a success across Europe and the US. In total, we shipped around 13,000 units to 25 countries. Pietro Rotoloni, our chief engineer, was with us from the beginning and was instrumental in developing the concept for a pharmacy collection point ten years ago. Two years after that we installed our first Pharmaself24 machine in Holland, and that was followed soon after by the first in the UK at West Elloe Pharmacy in Spalding.

Every machine is designed, produced, assembled and supported by us here in our purpose-built factory Italy. We build the hardware and we develop the software. Typically, you might have co-operation between multiple providers, but we have those capabilities in-house and that gives us, and our customers, full control.

We are always ready to innovate. Having our own team means we can customise solutions for the specific needs of a pharmacy, and we’ve got experience in developing bespoke machines. We’ve produced an L-shaped Pharmaself24 where there was limited space behind the shop window and another where we were able to accommodate the difference in height between the shopfloor and the street level.

All machines are unique in some way. Whether that’s the colour, the configuration of the boxes or just the company logo on the front. Some customers may also request new software features or options, such as reports or interfaces to other systems, and we are absolutely flexible on that. We write the code, and that means we can change it!

Videosystem Schio
Located in Schio, northern Italy, Videosystem's site houses 3,000sqm of production and logistics facilities.

To us, design and engineering should work together. For 15 years, we have worked with Giorgio Gaino, a teacher at Venice University, on the design of our products. He has experience working for major automotive manufacturers and we think that input is important. The product should enhance the pharmacy; it should look and feel like something that patients are confident about using – like something they want to use.

We’re very thankful for having met Ryszard. He understood the technology and has really made it work at West Elloe Pharmacy. He brings all that knowledge to Hub and Spoke Innovations and it’s been such an important part of growing the Pharmaself24 in the UK market. With Ryszard and Gary, the two co-founders of Hub and Spoke Innovations, we have a really strong relationship, and it’s great to be able to take advantage of all their experience.

Pharmaself24 Stepps Pharmacy
Testing being carried out on a Pharmaself24 in the Videosystem factory in Italy.

Our newest Pharmaself24 machine, the Compact, is a good example of our partnership with Hub and Spoke Innovations. We learned there are a number of smaller locations in the UK where space inside the pharmacy is a key issue, so we developed a solution to meet these specific needs. The robotic mechanism is different from the standard Pharmaself24 as it works on a cylinder to save space, and the software has been adapted slightly, but it’s all made by us and is backed up with absolutely the same level of service. For us, that’s the most important thing. As a strong company, we’re in a good position to invest in new developments and new products. We’re here as a long-term partner.

We installed our first Pharmaself24 machine eight years ago in Holland. We have around 400 machines installed today out of a potential market of around 2,000. For any Dutch pharmacy looking to optimise their service to patients, they are likely to be looking at a Pharmaself24. In that market they are very clear on the benefits. The UK is maybe a couple of years behind I would say, but working with Hub and Spoke Innovations, we have seen independents, regional chains and multiples all turning their attention to automated collection. There’s definitely more and more traction, and particularly in these times, it’s proving a real benefit for our customers.

For more information on Videosystem and the Pharmaself24 options that are available to you, get in touch by emailing us or using the form below.

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