Phil Galt shares his experience of video link GP appointments using state-of-the-art diagnostic technology in community pharmacy.
One of the most common issues I hear from patients in relation to accessing healthcare is how difficult it is to make an appointment, and how long they have to wait to see a doctor. Spending a long time on the phone trying to get through to reception, and having to wait days or sometimes weeks to see a local GP, is a frustration that many patients have experienced at some point.
Innovative technologies play an important role in the future of pharmacy to improve efficiencies and provide better patient care; aims that as a pharmacy operator, I place great emphasis on. We use different technologies to make processes quicker and more efficient, and therefore the prospect of providing new services using innovative technologies to customers is of particular interest. Like many pharmacies, we are up against a number of challenges, and exploring different opportunities is absolutely vital to our sustainability. It’s a challenge to keep up-to-date with technological advances, but it also presents enormous opportunities.
Most recently, we’ve partnered with Medicspot to turn our consulting rooms into virtual GP surgeries. Founded by an NHS GP, Medicspot recognises the importance of carrying out clinical examinations to ensure patients receive the best possible care. Doctors perform a full clinical examination of patients with a connected stethoscope, close examination camera, thermometer, pulse oximeter and blood pressure device. The patients communicate with a doctor via a two-way video link, and if needed, the doctor will guide patients through how to use the equipment. My team of staff are also always available for additional support if needed, but the equipment is so easy-to-use that we rarely need to step in.
Once patients have finished their consultation, the doctor sends us a private prescription for the patient to collect immediately on their way out.
With Medicspot, I have been able to offer patients an invaluable, alternative option; they can avoid long waiting times of days, weeks or at worst months for a GP appointment or waiting several hours in A&E. The feedback I’ve received from patients is overwhelmingly positive, often praising how quick, easy and effective the process is. Having a new in-pharmacy service has brought significant advantages, it’s been a huge step forward.
Offering digital consultations in this way has opened up a new revenue stream for us. By creating a one-stop-shop for healthcare I have seen a huge increase in footfall as well as an increase in profit by over £1,000 per month generated by Medicspot private prescriptions, plus further revenue from additional sales.
This all has the look and feel of a traditional surgery consultation; it’s private, it’s professional, it’s safe and doctors can undertake the same checks they would in a GP surgery without actually needing to be in the same room. The patient experience is exceptional, and the biggest advantage of this from my customer’s point of view is they can see a GP at a time that suits them. Many customers book an appointment online, others simply turn up for a walk-in appointment, and this is popular with not only locals but also visitors to the area. We’re a busy community pharmacy in the City which means that tourists, business travellers and students are a key market for us, and this is a service that is particularly attractive to these groups.
I’m providing my customers with an affordable way to see a private GP; the cost is £39 which in comparison with other private GP consultations is highly affordable. Most of my customers use this service for common acute conditions such as colds, coughs, ear infections, urine infections and 96% of conditions are treated successfully. For those who need it, sick notes, referral letters and general health advice can also be provided.
My team have been very much behind the new service, and they recognise the potential it has not only for our pharmacy and its customers but for the healthcare system in general.
As more innovations continue to evolve I will continue to expand the pharmacy group portfolio of services. Digital GP consultations are certainly more commonplace today, and getting on-board with such an innovation in the early stages is exciting. I feel I am strengthening the position of Lindsay & Gilmour pharmacy in the market by offering an in-house doctor; from my customers’ feedback, I am certainly seen as a valuable asset, and from my viewpoint, it is the way forward.