Best Practices for Your Independent Pharmacy on Better Patient Care
Has your independent pharmacy ever let a computer recommend a prescription medication for a patient and then delivered that medication to the patient’s home the next day?
That’s how they do it at LloydsPharmacy. LloydsPharmacy is a chain based in Coventry, England. Celesio, McKesson’s European affiliate, owns Lloyds, which has more than 1,500 sites throughout the U.K.
LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor blends digital healthcare with old-fashioned customer service to improve care for patients. Using artificial intelligence, the service can diagnose a patient’s condition and recommend a prescription medication. The patient’s local pharmacy can then deliver the prescription the very next day to drive adherence.
We asked Andy Sloman, managing director of the Online Doctor, to explain how LloydsPharmacy’s approach benefits patients and what your independent pharmacy can learn from your colleagues in the U.K.
Why did Lloyds create the Online Doctor?
Sloman: We originally set up the business to meet the demand for discreet care for patients with socially sensitive medical conditions. Thom Van Every, M.D., our founder, noticed that men with HIV weren’t getting tested or treated because they were embarrassed. Many patients with sexual health needs, hair loss or erectile dysfunction weren’t seeking care. He wanted to break down that barrier.
How has the Online Doctor’s patient care role grown?
Sloman: The National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K. puts a lot of pressure on frontline providers. Patients are frustrated because they wait a long time to see their general practitioner. Patients want a more convenient way to see their doctor for their basic medical needs. We’re using technology to bring patients closer to their healthcare practitioners. That alleviates pressure on the NHS. It expands patient choice. It removes barriers patients face when they need advice or treatment. As a result, we’re seeing growing demand for the service from patients with more common conditions like diabetes and asthma.
How does the Online Doctor work?
Sloman: It’s artificial intelligence meets telemedicine. Patients complete an interactive medical questionnaire. A medical algorithm drives the questionnaire. U.K. doctors wrote the algorithm, and it’s compliant with all U.K. medical licensing regulations and prescribing laws. The questionnaire collects the necessary patient information from existing medical and medication histories, and then the algorithm makes a prescribing recommendation that a doctor reviews. There are three outcomes. One, the doctor approves the prescription recommended by the algorithm. Two, the doctor rejects the prescription recommendation and refers the patient to their general practitioner. Three, the algorithm can’t decide, and the online doctor follows up with the patient to get more information.
How many patients can the system handle, and how do they get their medications?
Sloman: The sophistication of our algorithm means our doctors can treat about 50 patients per hour. It’s scalable without compromising patient safety. Patients can select how they want to get their approved prescriptions by using our online click-and-collect service. The service drives improved medication adherence. We can deliver it to their home, or they can come in and pick it up at the pharmacy. 70% of customers choose to collect their medication in the pharmacy.
What are the technology requirements?
Sloman: Patients need access to a web browser on a smartphone, tablet or desktop device. We use a web portal to download and print prescriptions written by our doctors. We use the portal to input any biometric readings that decide whether we can dispense a drug. A proprietary IT system powers the online doctor system. The main system includes the algorithm and an electronic health record system.
How does online healthcare in general benefit patients?
Sloman: Discretion is at the top of the list. Patients avoid treatment for many conditions because they’re embarrassed. Online healthcare helps them get the care they need without any face-to-face interaction. Access is another benefit. Patients who have mobility or time challenges can get the medication support they need. It also levels the playing field between providers and patients. Online healthcare is objective, not subjective.
How do those benefits translate into higher-quality patient care?
Sloman: When patients have access to discreet and convenient care, they’re more likely to seek treatment earlier. That can lead to earlier diagnoses and improved outcomes. One example is erectile dysfunction. Instead of avoiding help, seeking treatment can uncover an underlying problem like cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Discreet and convenient patient care can improve adherence to treatment. An independent pharmacy can follow compliance and treatment results.
What services can independent pharmacies offer to complement digital healthcare?
Sloman: Health assessments. You can ask patients for personal health information like their body mass index or blood pressure. The results can direct patients back to your pharmacy for online consultations. Another service is health screenings for things like diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. The results can also direct patients back to your pharmacy for online consultations.
How do those services map back to medications and medication adherence for independent pharmacies?
Sloman: A service like a health screening for high blood pressure can lead to an online consultation. The online consultation can lead to a prescription for a blood pressure medication. Independent pharmacies can take it a step further by offering patients an app that lets them track their own health. They can see how the medication is improving their health, like lowering their blood pressure. When they see that, they’re more likely to stay on their medication. The app also creates an opportunity for pharmacies to follow up with their patients and review their progress during a consultation.
How does online healthcare turn independent pharmacists into providers?
Sloman: Online healthcare makes your independent pharmacy relevant to patients in the digital age. It gives patients the ability to interact with your pharmacy in multiple ways that go beyond getting a prescription filled.
Related: Learn more about McKesson’s medication adherence and clinical performance solutions for independent pharmacies
This post originally published as U.K. Best Practices for Your Independent Pharmacy on Better Patient Care on the McKesson blog.