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Why Community Pharmacy Must Embrace Innovation? Insights from Pharmacists

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Future of community pharmacy: Pharmacists highlight the significance of embracing innovation and collaboration to improve efficiency and patient care

“If we stand still, we will die. We have to keep moving, and we have to keep changing” said Patrick Gompels, co-owner of Gompels Limited, while emphasising the need for innovation in community pharmacy services, during the recent Pharmacy Business Conference 2024.

Centered on the theme ‘Pharmacy of Tomorrow,’ the conference, held at the Hilton Wembley on April 28, focused on adopting and adapting innovative technology as well as new ways of working and thinking to enhance patient services.

Patrick was joined by Mayank Patel of Pearl Chemist Group and Michael Lennox, CEO of Community Pharmacy Somerset (LPC), during the panel discussion on innovation in community pharmacy services, moderated by Reena Barai, pharmacist and owner of S G Barai Pharmacy.

On the changes he made at Gompels, Patrick said: “The first thing we did was a complete overhaul of all of our systems. Pretty much everything was stripped down.”

He shared that Gompels has embraced innovation by partnering with forward-thinking companies like Titan PMR, Drug Comparison, and Real World Analytics to enhance their processes and data analysis capabilities.

They optimized their dispensary flow, eliminated paper usage, and introduced large dashboards for real-time monitoring of pharmacy operations.

Developing their own booking system and website, Gompels Core, proved to be a significant game changer for them, optimizing pharmacist time and empowering patients to manage their own appointments.

Patrick stated that the adoption of these services has enabled Gompels to decrease flu vaccine appointments from 10 minutes to two within the last three years.

Additionally, they have expanded their team to facilitate 35 Pharmacy First consultations and a full private clinic daily.

“We share all of this data with ICB, LPC and our local GP practices so that we can help bring those numbers up and really push the service,” Patrick added.

Patrick Gompels, co-owner of Gompels Limited, at Pharmacy Business Conference 2024
Patrick Gompels, co-owner of Gompels Limited, at PB Conference 2024

Prioritize safety when adopting new technologies

Mayank Patel shared that the growth of Pearl Chemist Group, currently comprising 26 pharmacies in Southwest London, has been a slow and steady journey because they wanted it to grow effectively.

The group has also embraced technology to enhance work efficiency and patient care. They have implemented two dispensing hubs for compliance packs and pack automation, aiming to free up time for their teams to focus on customer interaction and self-development.

Further, Mayank revealed that they are currently in the process of rolling out a new PMR software, anticipated to be implemented within the coming weeks, and they have established a partnership with an app company to enhance their operational workflows.

However, Mayank underscored the importance of prioritizing safety when adopting new technologies, suggesting that one should find the right partners and evaluate the process thoroughly.

Sharing his approach, he said: “I actually sat back in some of my pharmacies and looked at what the guys were doing and what they were finding hard. And then look into technologies that are right to fix that problem.”

Rather than opting for generic solutions like purchasing a dispensing robot or software, he chose to optimise team capacity and effectiveness through targeted technology integration and training platforms.

Mayank also highlighted the importance of integrating various services to create a seamless patient experience across their online platforms and physical stores.

Mayank Patel of Pearl Chemist Group at recent Pharmacy Business Conference 2024.
Mayank Patel of Pearl Chemist Group at PB Conference 2024

The role of LPC networks in leading this change

Michael Lennox highlighted the importance of embracing change and integration within the pharmacy landscape, and the role of LPCs in supporting pharmacists to embrace innovation.

According to him, LPCs are also adapting, adopting and achieving on behalf of contractors, focusing on effective local deployment and delivery of services.

Lennox shared the success story of Somerset, where signup rates and service uptake have gone up drastically, thanks to effective collaboration and innovative approaches, such as introducing new roles like clinical assistants.

He highlighted the importance of having the right platform in place to make processes easier and more efficient for contractors.

Michael Lennox, CEO of Community Pharmacy Somerset (LPC)

The importance of building trust with surgeries

Patrick said that he ensures to visit all local surgeries at least once a week to build trust and strengthen collaboration, and this approach has led to a notable increase in service uptake.

At Gompels, they analyze service usage and trends by extracting data from PharmOutcomes into Excel. They have also partnered with Real World Analytics to automate data publication on a regular basis, enhancing their tracking capabilities.

Patrick added that they share this data with local surgeries, including reasons for referring consultations back and insights gained, fostering mutual learning and trust.

Return on investment is difficult to predict

“It’s really hard to work out how much how much you’re going to make from each consultation, or every single service that you provide,” Mayank said, advocating for taking calculated risks, such as investing in automation, to understand ROI better.

Nevertheless, he emphasised the importance of effectively communicating the range of services offered, ensuring customer awareness, collaborating with healthcare professionals to enhance service provision, and investing in staff training to achieve long-term benefits.

Mayank also discussed about creating capacity within businesses to accommodate service demands effectively and maintain credibility.

How to encourage more local commission services

Michael suggested that a primary focus for encouraging more local commission services is to execute national services exceptionally well at the local level.

He advises prioritizing the enhancement of national services and existing local services before considering new initiatives.

Expanding on Michael’s point, Patrick said that pharmacists should learn to say no to inadequate service offers to drive negotiation for better terms. He shared a successful example from southwest London where rejecting a low-paying smoking cessation service led to increased funding.

In conclusion, the speakers emphasized the importance of knowledge sharing, teamwork and software integration for pharmacy automation to enhance both efficiency and patient care.

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