Cadham Pharmacy continues to put their faith in technology and have invested in another pharmacy robot. The robot model is a Pharmaself24. Its key feature is that it allows patients to collect prescriptions without entering the pharmacy. Prescriptions can be collected from the vending machine style robot outside the pharmacy at any time of day.
Gary Paragpuri, CEO Hub and Spoke Innovations who supplied the robot talked to PIP and told us more about the new robot;
“The Pharmaself24 is a smart way to set up a secure automated 24-hour collection point that lets patients collect their dispensed medicines whenever it’s convenient for them. You dispense a prescription as usual and bag it up, adding a bag label with the patient’s name and address. For the Pharmaself24, you print an additional label containing a barcode that identifies that particular bag and the patient’s name and phone number. (If your PMR system can’t print barcodes, then you can use the Pharmaself24’s built-in software instead.)
“At the Pharmaself24, you scan this additional barcode and place the bag in the robot. The Pharmaself24 automates the rest of the process. It sends a text message letting the patient know their medicines are ready for collection and includes a unique six-digit PIN. On collection, the patient enters the PIN into the touchscreen, pays any prescription charges, and collects their medicines which the Pharmaself24 picks automatically from its internal storage. Each transaction is recorded, giving you an audit trail of every collection.
“The Pharmaself24 is a fulfilment-tool that delivers on two key objectives. First, it increases the efficiency of the dispensing process by automating the manual ‘handing over’ phase. Consider a pharmacy dispensing 7,000 items each month; of these 5,000 will probably be repeats, and of these repeats, 4,500 will probably see no material change in either the patient or the medicines from one month to the next. So if the pharmacy can automate the collection of these 4,500 items, that equates to a 64 percent saving in workload. Just think of how much time that could be saved every day if your team didn’t have to search for bags misplaced on shelves, or have their daily workflow interrupted when patients come in earlier than expected for the medicines. Secondly, the Pharmaself24 makes life so much more convenient for patients. They get a text when their medicines are ready to collect (they get a reminder text if they forget to collect after the first prompt), they can come at a time that suits them, they no longer have to queue, and this added convenience should drive loyalty to the pharmacy. We often hear that people lead increasingly busy lifestyles and so if they can collect their medicines when it’s convenient for them without having to queue, it should engender loyalty to your business.
“As a profession, we rightly champion the ease with which the public can access our services. Unlike our GP colleagues, patients can walk in and see a member of the pharmacy team without an appointment – and community pharmacy needs to ensure this unique availability is protected at all costs. But with ever-increasing volumes of prescriptions to be dispensed, pharmacists have to consider how best they can both continue to deliver a high-quality dispensing service while still remaining available to provide clinical input to those patients who need it. Employing more staff to cope with rising workloads is not always an option, but if automation in the assembly process or the collection phase can free up valuable staff resources, then it is worth a serious consideration.
“We’ve installed in pharmacies that have differing needs whether it be to automate their daily workload or whether it’s to create a convenience-led service to attract new customers, and we’ve had positive feedback from them all. They’ve found the robots easy to use and say that customers have loved the convenience it brings. This positive feedback reflects what’s happening in other countries that use the Pharmaself24 – in Holland, for example, Pharmaself24s are currently being installed at the rate of two a week such is their popularity!
“I’ve had conversations with pharmacists who say that having a collection robot will mean they will have less contact time with their patients. This is absolutely a valid concern, but having a Pharmaself24 should not prevent pharmacists from talking to their patients – it simply automates a manual process which in turn frees valuable staff resources. And it is this precious extra capacity that gives staff the time to focus on those patients that need their input the most. It lets your team deliver more convenient and valued services while retaining control of supply, and creating space for the important personal interactions robots will never be able to provide.
“The technology has been extensively developed and refined by the manufacturer, Videosystem, over a number of years now and it’s quite robust. Some of the long-standing installations in Holland, for example, regularly process up to 10,000 items each month with hardly any issues. Videosystem has designed the Pharmaself24 to have minimum downtime; the robot is modular in construction and parts can be easily replaced. If there is a fault, the robot alerts us immediately and we can access it remotely to check it. The first time a customer knows there is a problem is usually when they receive a call from us telling them we’ve either already sorted it or we’re on our way to replace a part.
“The price depends on the specification ordered by the customer. But a typical Pharmaself24 with a modem, credit card reader, contactless pay and receipt printer, can be bought via a lease or HP for around £690 per month over a five-year term or £530 per month over a seven-year term. And when you take into consideration the tax relief available on lease/HP purchases, it becomes even more affordable. In the context of an average pharmacy turning over £750,000 per annum, spending around 1 percent or less of that per year on a product that can help you deliver dispensing efficiency, greater customer convenience and give you a competitive edge, is definitely worth consideration.
“There are both tangible and intangible returns on investment that need to be considered. From a financial perspective, one way of calculating the return is looking at the value of each prescription item. For example, if an item is worth, let’s say on average £2.50 (ie your average dispensing fee per item + your average purchase profit per item), then for a monthly lease payment of £500, you would need to generate roughly 200 new items per month to cover the cost of the monthly payment. On top of this, you have the benefits of reduced workload associated with handing out dispensed medicines, fewer queues at the counter, fewer interruptions to the daily workflow and much-increased customer convenience. It’s hard to put a figure on what all this is worth to a business, but that doesn’t mean these benefits should be discounted from any return on investment calculations.”
Bernadette Brown superintendent commented on the installation of her new robot;
“Cadham is so proud to be achieving Excellence in Pharmaceutical Care and providing services and care to enable the public to choose Pharmacy First for all the National Scottish services and more. We are thankful to NES, Scottish Government, RPS and CPS. We achieved a GPhC Excellent and we are very proud of every single member of our team for caring so much every day. I am delighted to say that with the addition of our 3rd robot, the Pharmaself 24, our dream to become a centre of excellence devoted to our communities health and wellbeing has been realised at every level within the team.
“The time saved is being used to actively engage with the public and find even more people to support our clinics and services. Our staff have found the biggest difference with this machine in terms of their quality of life at work and in turn, we are improving the quality of life of the public. We have saved over 600 GP and out of hours appointments with our enhanced common clinical conditions triage clinics since 2016 and a huge uplift in the last 6 months.”
“These cover acute illness and long-term conditions and our whole team are more skilled after our reception staff have all up skilled to be dispensers and our young Pharmacists have undergone clinical diplomas and achieved distinction as well as Maree who will be completing her IP by August 2018. Over 350 people every month get a fee NHS consultation resulting in advice, over the counter medicines, minor ailments treatment or IP treatment.
“The most rewarding role is helping people to understand their conditions more and regain control of their long-term condition so that they can focus on living and becoming fitter and more active. We are fast becoming the First Port of call in minor illness in Glenrothes with people from every practice realising the ease at which they can access high-quality NHS care was a walk in centre of Excellence or our easy online booking system. This is the result of every team member at the Cadham family having the same dream and making this dream and the future for all of us all a reality today so that tomorrow is a brighter and better NHS for all our families.”