Turning the tables?
While all the talk may be of pharmacists working in GP practices, one GP decided to do it the other way around and take the GP into the pharmacy.Â Liz Jones reports.
The idea for MedicSpot came to Edinburgh GP, Dr Zubair Ahmed, after a pharmacist friend complained to him about the under use of his consultation room.Â
With ongoing pressures in GPsâ€™ practices, the idea of a virtual GP in-pharmacy seemed like a viable solution. â€œAs a GP myself, anything that takes excess capacity is a good thing and I believe the service can relieve pressure on the NHS,â€ Ahmed explains.
But MedicSpot is much more than an online GP service. It is a service specific to community pharmacists and is the onlyone to incorporate diagnostics so doctors can remotely examine patients using a stethoscope, blood pressure machine, otoscope, pulse oximeter and thermometer.
Ahmed is a firm believer in using technology to improve efficiencies in the healthcare system. The MedicSpot platform is currently specific to independents because, he says, they are more innovative and hungry to do things differently.
And with technology getting smaller and more accurate, Ahmed believes the pharmacist is in an excellent positionÂ to interpret any results. â€œItâ€™s the perfect channel,â€ he says. â€œIt offers a controlled environment for virtual diagnostics.â€
The service also emphasises the fact that â€œpharmacists are clinical, tooâ€ which is very much in line with the Department of Healthâ€™s agenda of a more clinical and digital NHS. â€œFor decades the government has been shifting more and more care into the community: this allows this to take place,â€ he affirms.
So how does MedicSpot work? For a fee, a patient consults with a doctor online viaÂ a terminal in the pharmacyâ€™s consultation room. After diagnosis, a prescription is emailed directly to the pharmacy (with the hard copy following in the post). â€œThereâ€™s no waiting around. Itâ€™s convenient and highly accessible,â€ says Ahmed.
MedicSpot provides all the necessary kit, training and marketing material required. â€œAll the pharmacy has to provide is the space in the consultation room and a good internet connection,â€ Ahmed adds.
The service taps into a bank of GPs around the country to enable its virtual consultations and is currently operational in 42 pharmacies, 30 of which are located in London.
A complementary service
Shahzad Aziz of Newington Pharmacy in Edinburgh, an independent of 10 years,
has been using MedicSpot for just over six months. â€œIt complements what we do, such as our travel clinic,â€ he explains. Aziz feels his location helps its success. â€œWe have a big student population and also lots of tourists [so, potentially lots of people not registered with a local GP practice]. Weâ€™re located very close to both main train stations, too.â€
With local surgeries full to capacity, Aziz feels heâ€™s offering a valuable service. â€œItâ€™s just a different, additional way to access help.â€
So who has used the service so far? â€œItâ€™s often a case of people who are on holiday
and whoâ€™ve forgotten their medication. Then there are the students who arenâ€™t locally registered. A lot of our customers are from abroad, too, where they are used to private healthcare.â€
â€œThere are lots of repeat prescriptions,â€ says Aziz. â€œSo predominantly for diabetes, thyroid, respiratory tract, UTIs, that sort of thing.â€
Aziz believes he is offering â€˜instant healthcareâ€™: â€œItâ€™s a seamless, all in-house service.â€
Offering the service also enhances his pharmacyâ€™s USP, clearly differentiating his business from others, and he believes that his has become the â€˜go toâ€™ pharmacy asÂ a result.Â While he admits that it is too early toÂ calculate MedicSpotâ€™s effect on his business, he does feel that the technology offers another way of accessing help. â€œMost patients say itâ€™s a real eye-opener,â€ he says.
Ahmed believes that MedicSpot is only a small part of the journey in a more digital future and that the current health systemÂ is too fragmented. â€œWe need more joined up care and a greater shared vision of good healthcare in the community,â€ he says.
Further down the line he sees the platform becoming even more diagnostic with the potential for it to move into blood and urine testing as well as vaccinations. That view fits well with his ultimate goal: â€œTo create a health clinic in the cloud.â€