Just because pharmacies are open it does not mean pharmacists are accessible, said Richard Ashworth, director of healthcare at Alliance Boots, on 2 September 2014 at the 74th International Pharmaceutical Federation Congress in Bangkok. He believes the profession is not moving fast enough to meet patient demand and desire. More could be done, he said.
Ashworth suggested the need to identify the physical barriers to accessibility and there are changes that can be made to improve the role of pharmacy and pharmacists. On the inside of the pharmacy, Ashworth said that stores should have an open and inviting feel, and have a clean layout. On the outside, there should be more windows with natural light. There should be health guides or technicians available to increase accessibility and there should be a dedicated space to provide services and consultations.
Ashworth provided examples of how technology and digital innovation can enhance accessibility:
- Mobile text reminders give patients status on their prescriptions, saves time for pharmacy staff and allows for timely communication;
- Electronic stock management allows for efficient, automated stock management and real-time availability data. This will enhance in-stock availability and reduce administrative inventory time;
- In the US, patients can get their medicines refilled by mobile scan (ie, scanning the empty bottle with a mobile phone to reorder medicines). This allows greater anticipation of workload for pharmacy staff, engages the patient in the prescription journey, and reduces out-of-stock situations.
Ashworth summarised that the above examples all lead to more time for pharmacists and pharmacy staff to engage with patients and provide services.
Additionally, he said that support for pharmacists with administrative tasks will enhance accessibility.
Community pharmacy can be one of the most clinically capable channels to deliver care in the future because of its accessibility compared with, say, hospitals, Ashworth suggested.
He emphasised that the capability of the pharmacy staff is directly linked to the accessibility of the pharmacist. Therefore, training and development of pharmacy support staff to provide a better operating unit is pivotal, he said.
Although technologies (e.g. automated repeat prescription reordering) may reduce footfall in pharmacies, Ashworth believed that making pharmacists more accessible and available to deliver services and provide advice in store will ensure the public still visit the pharmacy for services, rather than just to pick up medicines.
- Pharmacy is the most widely distributed healthcare facility.
- Pharmacists are the only health professionals accessible without an appointment.
- There are 2.6 million pharmacists globally.
- Most pharmacies open 6/7 days a week.
- Community pharmacy is the second largest provider of immunisations in the US.
- The Community Pharmacy Futures Project in the UK demonstrated that commissioning pharmacy services could save the NHS over £470m per year delivering pharmacy services in England.
- The majority of the 2.6 million pharmacists around the world are owner-operators.