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Keeping community pharmacies on our high streets

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 pressures seen by doctor’s 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 into the public domain. In effect giving every high street pharmacy a publicly available rating. A positive move, yet one which may be perceived by some pharmacists as an added pressure. Yet 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. Giving the Chief Pharmacist 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 real-time. Using digital checks means the Chief Pharmacist can ensure compliance critical tasks are happening even when they are not physically in store.

Managing pharmaceutical stock

Digital checks can also apply 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 Work Management application. Using a hand-held memo staff can use it as a prompt to review and provide evidence, through photos or barcodes, confirming that stock is in date, stored appropriately, with no damage to packaging, for example. With all checks being 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. Meaning you can have sight of all control checks and temperature monitoring on one reporting dashboard.

Monitoring temperature sensitive medicines

With manual monitoring it’s not possible to determine how long the stock was exposed to the out of spec temperature. So, the only safe option is to bin the stock. Preventing loss of stock should be a high priority for pharmacy managers. It’s been estimated that £300m of stock is written off each year throughout the pharmacy healthcare provision.

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. (or reconnecting to the mains supply after the cleaner has been)

In conclusion

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 Work Management you can guide and prompt teams to complete control checks.

Tutela Monitoring Systems, part of Checkit UK Limited have a strong portfolio of products to support pharmacists with the correct storage of medicines and vaccines. Either through our temperature monitoring or via our work management application, that digitises checklists for work processes.

Contact us to learn more

Further reading:

How technology can provide practical solutions for the busy pharmacist

 

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