Dr Zubair Ahmed brings GP experience into local pharmacies

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Green cross crusade:

Dr Zubair Ahmed had always pledged to help as many people as possible while also bringing GPs and pharmacists closer together.


My guest today has taken his dream of fusing the best aspects of general practice with the exciting digital healthcare ecosystem, and planted it straight into our neighbourhoods. It’s a pharmacy experience, but not as we know it.


Hi Zubair, what’s your story?

I’m from Glasgow, went to medical school in Aberdeen and did my GP training near Newcastle. Once qualified, I returned to Glasgow and settled into life as a GP. During those five years, I decided that, instead of helping 30-40 people every day, I wanted to help thousands.


What inspired the change of direction?

I realised that online appointments were potentially very convenient, but didn’t think that a purely online service was safe for everyone, as there are many important conditions that wouldn’t be possible to diagnose without direct clinical assistance. Therefore, I had the idea of combining the best aspects of online and offline medicine – a hybrid model.


How did you go about realising your ambition?

While I was a doctor, I also did an MBA at London Business School, and that’s when the concept grew. With lots of help from professors, fellow students and mentors, I founded MedicSpot. The company operates out of the school on Baker Street, and we work with independent pharmacies, across 10 cities in the UK, using our technology to convert them into online GP surgeries.


Why pharmacists in particular?
One of my friends had his own independent group of pharmacies in Scotland and he complained that he was fitting out consultancy rooms, and they would never get used. With the MedicSpot facility, pharmacists, who have historically been underused healthcare professionals, can use their clinical expertise to identify a problem, before potentially referring patients to a virtual GP.


How does the conversion to a virtual GP surgery take place?

MedicSpot installs a computer, attached to which is a variety of diagnostic equipment, in the consultation room. This ‘station’ then allows the pharmacy to offer private GP consultations directly from the premises. We’re now seeing patients on a daily basis and the feedback from patients, pharmacists and doctors has been very positive.


What will the patient experience involve?

Once connected to one of our doctors, the GPs then ‘examines’ the patient using the stethoscope, blood pressure machine, otoscope, pulse oximeter or thermometer. If needed, the doctor will send an electronic prescription which, of course, can be dispensed on site at the same pharmacy. From opening the door, to picking up medicine, everything can happen in 25 minutes, eliminating all that faffing around when you’re trying to find a chemist after work. After all, you’re already there!


What impact could this have on public health?

It’s going to help the NHS by relieving some of the burden. Tourists, for example, would typically access healthcare through a GP and much of the time the NHS doesn’t have the facility to extract payment from them. Instead of turning up at accident and emergency, where it costs up to £150 for every patient, they are using our service.


How have doctors become involved?
We have doctors on our panel throughout the UK. They’re generally NHS GPs and they work for us one to two days a week. The average GP only works for the NHS 3.7 days a week, so they’ve got 1.3 days when they’re not working. With MedicSpot they’ve got an opportunity to work from home, instead of a clinic, enabling us to deliver more appointments in the process.
One of our doctors started working for us when she was on maternity leave – if she hadn’t done that all her expertise would have been wasted for six months.


Is this the future of high street healthcare?

Customers, patients and the public are crying out for convenience, but healthcare is generally inconvenient; it’s too fragmented. Providers need to think seriously about how to engage with patients more. Clearly this is an area where pharmacies can really help. We already have these bricks and mortar high street locations, we have well-trained clinical staff on site and we have fast, accurate technology. In five years’ time it’s possible that people who would once have gone to hospital for routine tests and appointments, will go to the pharmacy instead.


Are you one of the network of MedicSpot docs?

Yes, I do MedicSpot shifts quite regularly. It’s good to set an example and keep your ear to the ground, while learning about why patients are using the service. We’ve had patients who are 70 years old, who don’t even have an email address, but because of the interaction with a pharmacist, they’ve been able to have remote appointments.


What happens in terms of documentation?

If patients want it they will receive an electronic copy of the consultation records, while their regular GP will also be provided with the relevant documents. It’s important to maintain continuity of care. For instance, if we prescribe salbutamol for a patient with asthma, it’s good practice to inform their regular GP.


What one record would you choose for the soundtrack of your life?
The Forrest Gump soundtrack.


The entire album? Sure! It’s your last supper, what are you having?
Pizza and chips.


Just what the doctor ordered. Goodbye Zubair.

Bye John.

Go to medicspot.co.uk