The Medical Centre
The Medical Centre
Dispensing doctors’ practice
Dr Neil Folwell
Situated in rural Yorkshire, The Medical Centre is a dispensing GP practice serving a broadly dispersed patient community.
Dispensing income is an important revenue stream but the GP partners faced competition from online pharmacies and modernised local branches of pharmacy multiples. Installing a Pharmaself24 was part of a revamped patient offering that has enhanced customer convenience by significantly cutting waiting times.
The Medical Centre is a dispensing doctors practice situated in Driffield, in the heart of rural East Yorkshire. Many patients travel a mile or more to get to the practice and roughly half of them – around 5,000 people – access dispensing services, making it an important source of income.
However, with many working irregular hours in the rural community, the practice’s opening hours of 8am to 6pm are not always convenient. When they did come in, patients were faced with a dated environment and waiting times of up to an hour.
In the face of growing competition from doorstep deliveries by online pharmacies and pharmacy multiples in the surrounding area with bright, airy environments more closely aligned with a 21st century patient experience, the partners knew they needed to make dispensing more accessible and the environment more appealing.
The Pharmaself24 Solution
Automating prescription collection was not The Medical Centre’s first option. The business initially looked at providing a delivery service but, having looked at the detail, decided it wouldn’t be cost-effective because of the wide geographical area it needed to serve. The same reason prevented them from opening 24 hours a day.
At the same time, entirely by chance, Practice Manager Liz Dalton discovered information about the Pharmaself24, opening up the possibility of automating the prescription collection process. Upon further research and discussion among the team, they decided it had the potential to offer a ‘best of both worlds’ option where patients – particularly those on repeats - could pick up with minimum hassle and those with questions could still have access to the medical team. It was, says GP partner Dr Neil Folwell, a combination that was hard to beat.
From the outset, the partners knew it might not suit everyone, particularly older patients who value the one-to-one contact with staff. However, for patients seeking greater flexibility in when they can collect their prescription, such as those collecting on behalf of elderly relatives, the convenience of the Pharmaself24 would be welcomed with open arms – particularly in the context of a world where self-service options are becoming increasingly common.
Neil travelled to West Elloe Pharmacy in Spalding to see the Pharmaself24 in action. Discussions followed with Ryszard and Gary of Hub and Spoke Innovations to discuss how it would fit for The Medical Centre – both in terms of their business and also where it should be located in their building.
A decision was then made to install the Pharmaself24 as part of a wider modernisation of The Medical Centre. Importantly, it would be located right next to the front door as a visible sign of an alternative collection method for patients queueing either for prescriptions or for appointments.
With planning permission granted, the front porch was extended around the surgery to accommodate the Pharmaself24, with railings incorporated for added security. While renovations continued around them, the Hub and Spoke Innovations team delivered and installed the Pharmaself24 with minimum fuss over the course of a weekend.
“Sometimes I’ll hear patients collecting when I’m in catching up at weekends. It’s a really nice feeling. You’re providing a service even when you’re not there. There’s no additional effort from our part but it’s really valuable.”
Within three months of installing the machine, the Pharmaself24 has embedded itself within life at The Medical Centre, with the regular whirring of its robotic arm now part of the ambience in the practice. With its touchscreen interface and precise robotic picking arm, Neil says it has a satisfying aesthetic appeal and a pleasing user experience akin to a product from Apple.
While there remain sceptics among more elderly patients, it has been embraced by many more, and particularly the working population for whom collecting medicines in regular weekday working hours has been so difficult.
For the staff, there were initial fears that their already busy day-to-day working lives might be complicated by the Pharmaself24. However, those fears were quickly assuaged as the user-friendly software and straightforward processes meant they were up to speed quickly, with the Hub and Spoke team always available to answer any questions.
In time, Neil says the Pharmaself24 will free up time among the dispensing and reception team, giving them the ability to focus on tasks with fewer interruptions.
It is still relatively early days but Neil says patient numbers are building encouragingly and providing an enhanced level of customer service has put The Medical Centre in a more competitive position.
More than that, he says there’s a real sense of satisfaction from knowing The Medical Centre is still able to support patients out of hours.