Head of Essential Pharmacy
Well has a clear vision for how technology can support its goal of providing a patient-centric experience that fits with the expectations of today’s consumers.
It has brought this to life at Northenden, which follows Well’s Essential Pharmacy model, and incorporates automated medicine collection as part of a prescription service based on efficiency and convenience.
There’s no doubting that running a pharmacy is a complex business, but at its heart there is a simple premise: to provide patients with the medicines they want at the time they need them.
And this is exactly the thinking behind Well’s Essential Pharmacy model, which was developed after the multiple took the time to ask customers exactly what they wanted from their pharmacy. Patients responded to say they just want to collect their prescriptions quickly and at a time that is convenient for them, while also having the chance to pick up one-off items, such as cough medicines or vitamins, on demand.
With a promise to focus on these customer needs as part of its strategy, Well then faced the question of how it would deliver that service in practical terms. It had already identified that patients were waiting longer than necessary for collections, so there was a need to increase efficiency if Well was to achieve its aims around enhancing service levels and growing prescription numbers.
The Pharmaself24 Solution
Across the company, technology is a key part of its future direction, alongside a move to more efficient hub-and-spoke dispensing and providing patients with a smarter retail experience. Well’s Northenden store in Manchester was earmarked to be reinvented along these lines as an Essential Pharmacy, and with around 90% of income coming from prescriptions, the Pharmaself24 presented an ideal opportunity to bring greater convenience to the collection process through automation.
The machine itself was put in out-of-hours over a weekend where the store managed to continue serving patients via a temporary dispensary. Gary and Ryszard, CEOs of Hub and Spoke Innovations, were on hand to answer any mechanical or IT-related questions but the installation was a success. Well has subsequently installed a further Pharmaself24 at its branch in Poynton, Stockport.
“The machine works and the beauty of it is that it’s actually very simple. It’s easy to operate, to load and for the customers to use.
More than 1,500 prescriptions have now been collected across the two Well machines, which equates to a timesaving of around 4,500 minutes – without taking into account the additional convenience of being able to pick up medicines out of hours. They are numbers Neil describes as “pretty staggering” given that it is still relatively early days.
“The machine works and the beauty of it is that it’s actually very simple. It’s easy to operate, to load and for the customers to use. Hub and Spoke make no apologies for that and they’re really good guys to be working with.”
For patients that are interested but reticent, the Pharmaself24 presents an ideal opportunity for staff to initiate conversations around care and compliance. The teams remain an integral part of the offering, and there is an understanding that the automation is a complementary addition rooted in serving the customer’s needs.
“You still absolutely rely on people to engage patients in the services,” explains Neil. “We’re not seeing or hearing that it’s a case of machines replacing people. It’s about understanding what the modern customer wants and giving them choices.”
Having successfully incorporated automation within its Essential Pharmacy model, Well is now investigating how it can support commuter patients with a third machine near a major travel hub in Macclesfield.
The multiple’s thinking doesn’t stop there. It is also considering how it can develop the hub and spoke model further, potentially linking to its online patient offering at well.co.uk to provide an entirely automated offering for those patients who demand it.
The introduction of these digital services is evidence of pharmacy playing catch up to many other sectors where consumer expectations have changed dramatically in recent years. Neil points to Amazon Prime’s same-day delivery service or click-and-collect lockers as examples of services that shift consumer expectations around convenience and make the pain of being made to wait feel even more acute.
“For Well, this is part of how we are transforming how you as a customer get your prescription.”