Jeremy Macdonald: ‘The data we collect are critical to understanding how people are using our services’

Jeremy MacDonald, director of technology at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, talks to Corrinne Burns about his role and what his team does to help members of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

Jeremy Macdonald in the RPS museum

In July 2018, Jeremy Macdonald joined the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS’s) executive team as director of technology. Before taking up this newly created role, he was director of technology for Pharmaceutical Press — a position he had held since 2015 — and before this he held management positions at Macmillan Science and Education and the Nature Publishing Group.

Macdonald spoke to The Pharmaceutical Journal about his newly expanded role and how his team uses technology to understand and respond to the needs of RPS members.

What is your role within the RPS?

I’m responsible for both the technology and production of our digital products and services for customers and members. That includes the creation of the new RPS website and the products and services that go with those, including the RPS Faculty and Foundation programmes and our revalidation services.

I lead the technology on the publishing side: the
British National Formulary
(BNF) and MedicinesComplete. I’m also responsible for the internal content management systems used to create our editorial content, such as
Stockley’s Drug Interactions
and the BNF.

We’ve restructured the website to reflect the three pillars of the RPS: recognition, development and publications

My department works very closely with our colleagues in the Society who talk directly to our customers and members. They follow what’s going on out there in community pharmacy, the NHS — wherever it may be. They understand the services and products people need, and feed that knowledge back to us.

Do you use digital tools to find out what members want from the Society?

We get that information from two different sources: first, by engaging with customers — whether that’s through local engagement, focus groups, surveys or just talking to people about how pharmacy is changing. The other way is through data: for example, using Google Analytics to understand how people are using our digital services. We use Google Analytics on The Pharmaceutical Journal, MedicinesComplete and on The data we collect are critical to understanding how people are using our services.

The RPS website has had a big overhaul recently. What was the rationale for that?

We’ve restructured the website to reflect the three pillars of the RPS: recognition, development and publications. With that came our rebranding: there is a new colour palette and tone of voice. It’s made the website a lot cleaner and easier to use. It’s also given us a new shop window into which people can quickly look and understand what the RPS is, what we do and what we can do for them.

People need the ability to find what they’re looking for, quickly. We’re fighting for pharmacists’ time, and they’re already incredibly busy so we want to make sure that the site is lean

At the same time, we upgraded our core web content management system, which we use to deliver the website. As we all know, technology continues to change and we need to constantly upgrade our infrastructure.

Source: Dave Phillips

Jeremy Macdonald agrees that the new RPS website is simpler for the user

Stuart Carter, digital content lead at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, described the new site as a “lean, mean, membership machine” — do you agree with that idea?

[Laughs] Not necessarily my language, but I think he’s right. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do: slim it down to make the user experience simpler and easier. We all spend a huge amount of time looking at digital products and services — both websites and apps. People need the ability to find what they’re looking for, quickly. We’re fighting for pharmacists’ time, and they’re already incredibly busy so we want to make sure that the site is lean. I’m not sure about mean, but it’s certainly a fighting machine.

Is attracting new members a priority for the technology team?

Yes — as is making life simpler for existing members. One of the things we’re going to focus on in 2019 is the member journey through the website: the process people need to go through to become members and to renew membership. The majority of members sign up through the website, so making that process as simple as possible is important.

Revalidation is also a priority — that’s an important service that we offer. Using digital interfaces is how people manage the continuing professional development (CPD) that goes alongside revalidation, whether they’re attending conferences or creating reflective accounts and undertaking peer review. Making sure that we’ve got the products and services that enable people to create CPD entries and then submit them to the General Pharmaceutical Council is of major importance, as is presenting them in a clear way — which includes our language and tone of voice.

Another thing is that we’re looking to replace the current mentoring service. It is not as user-friendly as it could be: you sign up online but the rest of the process is mostly offline. The new mentoring service will be integrated into the website, making it a lot easier for people to either be a mentor or a mentee. We’re hoping to pilot the new service in the spring or summer of 2019.

What new products can members look out for in 2019?

In 2018, we released a new platform for MedicinesComplete, which took a couple of years to develop. The Adverse Drug Reaction Checker came out on the new platform in December 2018, and that was the first new product on MedicinesComplete for quite a long time.

We added the
Palliative Care Formulary
to MedicinesComplete in early January 2019, and it is now available to all new and existing subscribers. The RPS purchased, which includes the formulary, in the summer of 2018.

The other product we’re developing is a tool that will allow customers to access parts of the BNF without needing to purchase the whole content set. We license a fair amount of the data in the BNF to insurance companies and clinical decision support systems vendors: data on dosages, preparations and side effects. But a lot of users don’t require the whole formulary for their individual needs — they just want a slice of it. So we’re creating an application programming interface which will allow customers to access the data they need directly — for example, drug prices — without having to download the whole data set. We’ll be releasing that in spring 2019, starting with the BNF and adding Martindale and Stockley’s
Drug Interactions in due course.

Licensing is a big part of how we supply data and one of our growing revenue streams, and this will enable us to grow that even further: we can go out to new markets that we couldn’t support before because they don’t need the whole BNF. It’s all part of how we work with customers directly and respond to their evolving needs to make sure our products give them what they want.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, January 2019, Vol 302, No 7921;302(7921):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20205963

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