More than socially distanced

More than socially distanced

“Good morning — my name is Berta. How can I help you today?”

“Hi, I’m here for my clinic appointment, about my medicines. I hardly took anything before starting my treatment, but now I’m on umpteen different tablets!”

“I understand. We can discuss that. Is there anything else you would like to discuss today?”

“Well, ever since my diagnosis I’ve become fearful. I’m not sure why. Everyone I see wears a mask, but sometimes they even cross the street when they see me coming towards them. Do they know? Maybe that’s what scares me. Or maybe it’s because no one comes near me anymore! Am I so susceptible?”

“I understand. We can discuss that. Is there anything else you would like to discuss today?”

“Um. No, that’s all. Thank you.”

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank y–”

There is a knock at the door. A person enters wearing a white hazmat suit and carefully asks: “Ms Price?”

“Yes,” she says, looking alarmed.

“Ms Price, I owe you an apology. My name is Jet, I am a pharmacist.”

“I thought Berta was my pharmacist! Except…”

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” continues in the background, until Jet clicks something at the back of her head. Berta goes quiet. Ms Price looks at Berta, astounded.

“Berta is our e-HCP-V1,” explains Jet.

Ms Price looks amused, if not slightly put out.

Jet continues: “She’s an electronic healthcare professional, one of the first models that came out, designed to protect patients like yourself yet allow for near-face-to-face clinics.”

Ms Price exclaims, “surely I should be pre-warned about this?”

“Yes, absolutely. I am here to offer sincere apologies. You were not meant to have a clinic with Berta at all, but with me, as you have only just had your first treatment cycle. A colleague was looking for Berta for another clinic. We couldn’t find her so we went to the operating room to look through her eyes, and saw your confused face before us. I immediately knew where she was but had to gown up before coming in.”

“Her eyes? You could see me through… her eyes?”

“Yes, and this is something we would explain to any patient who consents to being seen by an e-HCP — before they have their clinic! I am very sorry for the confusion. An e-HCP is a robot.”

“But she looks so real. But then she kept repeating.”

“Yes, her charge is low. In automatic mode she can be a doctor, nurse or pharmacist, mainly for information gathering. To make decisions, she requires the input of a real healthcare professional. We sit in the operating theatre, wearing special goggles that allow us to see what she sees, and we type what she then speaks. The patients know we are there, but it means we are not putting them at risk of infection.”

“Oh… so, how do I know you are real?”

“Well, we can firstly discuss how you’re feeling if you like. If you like. If you like.”

Eleanor Harvey, specialist pharmacist in cancer and nutrition, University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust

Eleanor’s piece is the winner of our 2020 writing competition ‘Post-pandemic pharmacy: a brave new world?’

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, More than socially distanced;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20208395

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