One evening whilst watching TV, my phone pinged with the all-to-familiar Whatsapp alert with a message preview saying “Can you help”. I recognised the name as one of our Titan pharmacy customers who was clearly in a state of panic. I replied offering my assistance and asked him what was up. What followed over the next 24 hours was an interesting case study of how innovative technology can genuinely solve real challenges in pharmacies.
Mr P (let’s call him that) had booked a locum to cover in his dispensary on the next day so he could focus on his vaccination service. The problem - his locum had just called to cancel his booking (no reason given) and now he had no cover. Meanwhile, he was fully booked with back to back appointments and could not cancel them. He had phoned round his usual network of pharmacists and no one was available at short notice.
He was asking if there was anything that Titan could do to reduce his workload and said he had heard about Titan’s artificial intelligence module. Unfortunately, Titan.X had not been installed at this site and was not an option at this late stage. Equally, Titan’s digital workflow cannot be circumvented so there was no way steps could be taken out of the process.
I told him his only option was to either continue looking for another pharmacist to turn up to site to do the clinical checks OR take the clinical checks to a pharmacist instead. Mr P sent me the confused emoji - “What do you mean - take the clinical checks to the pharmacist?”.
I elaborated further and told him that we could set up Titan on any pharmacist's PC from home. They could form a secure connection to his environment and perform the clinical checks in exactly the same way as if they were sitting in the pharmacy. I said all he needed to do was to identify a registered pharmacist, anywhere in the UK, who was willing to work from home.
He promptly went away and messaged an hour later with the details of a friend who lived in another part of the country. She was a qualified pharmacist, experienced on Titan, who happened to be available to work from home the next day. Before the evening had ended, Mr P had secured his friend’s professional services, installed Titan onto their home PC, set up their profile and the scene was set for a new way of working.
Saving the Day
On the day, the operation ran exactly like clockwork. The remote pharmacist logged into the Titan branch and clinically checked every prescription as it was presented. Titan issued checks in order of priority taking into account waiting patients and those due out for delivery. She was able to view information on each patient's record and was able to make phone calls to patients and doctors to support her decisions. She was even able to record instructions to dispensers on specific dispensing tasks and what messages to give to patients on handout. Where patients were waiting or matters required further investigation, she was able to refer back to Mr P. Once prescriptions were clinically checked, they were picked, labelled and packaged by dispensers using the Titan barcode workflow.
Meanwhile, back at the pharmacy, Mr P remained the Responsible Pharmacist throughout the day. He carried out his vaccination clinic and served all his patients. Periodically, he would get an alert to look at a prescription where his intervention was needed and he managed this in between his appointments.
By the end of the day, every appointment was met and every prescription was checked. Nothing was compromised, regulations were adhered to and patient safety was upheld. In fact, the operation was arguably more efficient than it had ever been. The audit trail had recorded who did what on every prescription that arrived including even how long the locum pharmacist spent looking at prescriptions.
Mr P called me in the evening and told me how the day went. He was in awe of how Titan had saved the day and helped him out of a sticky situation. Needless to say, he was very happy and the experience changed the way he would approach his business going forward.
A New Way Of Working
For decades, pharmacies have been operating manual processes supported by outdated PMR systems that insist on physical involvement of pharmacists. However, the greatest driver for change in any industry is usually when a problem occurs and a solution exists. The greater the problem and the better the solution, the more rapid the change.
Today, community pharmacy has a lot of problems. Dispensing remuneration is decreasing, there is greater competition with online businesses and there is a workforce shortage. Thankfully, solutions are being developed and innovation within the sector is at an all time high.
The case of Mr P, with his cancelled locum and pressure to deliver his services, is a prime example of what is happening in many pharmacies across the country every day. In this case however, we were able to demonstrate how a business problem could be solved using a novel approach without any compromise to service or standards. We were also able to demonstrate how resources could be optimised by using pharmacists working from home. This model could open the doors to solving pharmacy’s workforce challenges.
Innovative technology gives us the ability to think differently about how to tackle the real challenges in our sector. And if ever there was a need to do this, now is the time.