Community pharmacies in Australia should be watching these with interest, says leading compounding pharmacist
UK-based Co-operative Group has announced it will be trialling a ‘click-and-collect’ service that will allow patients to submit their scripts online via a digital app on their mobile phone.
Co-op will dispense medications ordered through the app from its new pharmacy distribution centre in Lea Green, North West England.
People can choose to have their medication dispensed by the Co-op Health’s Pharmacy and delivered directly to their home, work or any other address in the UK.
Alternatively they can choose to have their medication dispensed by and collected from any other pharmacy in England.
The Co-op will also be trialling “click-and-collect” lockers in the coming weeks.
“People will be able to collect repeat prescriptions safely and conveniently from secure lockers within Co-op’s Food Stores, by using a unique code or pin,” says the group.
Matthew Bellgrove from National Custom Compounding in Queensland says community pharmacies in Australia should be watching the trial with interest.
“We have a different regulatory environment in Australia compared to the UK however if this kind of zero-personal-service dispensary is successful it won’t be long before someone tries to get the concept approved here,” says Mr Bellgrove of the Co-op initiative.
“A model like this would be detrimental to the health of Australians. Eliminating the personal one-on-one service that a pharmacist provides, and replacing it with an app, can only lead to negative health outcomes,” he argues.
“An app does not know a patient’s medical history, co-existing health issues, or the other medications they may be taking. It can’t answer questions. And an app does not have the reasoning and detailed understanding of pharmaceuticals that a qualified pharmacist does.”
The trial will initially only be available for repeat prescriptions and will be piloted at five stores in England’s north west.
“For community pharmacy to work it has to be collaborative with other healthcare providers, not run in isolation,” Mr Bellgrove said.
He says National Custom Compounding runs a Pharmacy Partner Network “for this reason, so we can work together to achieve the best health outcome for the patient. It shouldn’t be treated like a supermarket commodity.”
Tim Davies, Managing Director of Co-op Health, said: “The pharmacy sector is at the start of a digital revolution, as consumers increasingly look for more flexibility and convenience in accessing their medication.
“Our offer will give customers a range of ways to get hold of their medication, with the knowledge that the service is being provided by a brand they know and can trust, in a way that best suits them.”
Meanwhile Boots has also reportedly unveiled its free online prescription service alongside “express” collection lanes and lockers this month.
Boots will be introducing “express pick-up lanes” in around 600 branches from the end of the month, with a “promise that customers can pick up their prescriptions in two minutes or less”, reports Chemist and Druggist.
It is also trialling secure prescription lockers in two branches, which will offer “an alternative way to pick up your medicines”.
Mr Bellgrove says it is important to note that the Boots’ lockers will be located within their pharmacies, whereas the Co-operative’s lockers will be in a general area of their big-chain supermarkets, with medications dispensed from one giant warehouse-like dispensary that will service the whole country.
“The way Boots is using technology to streamline the dispensing process is a sign of the times, and no doubt will play a part in shaping the future of community pharmacy if it proves successful,” he told AJP.