A prescription for the future

By Catherine Sturman
Since the first pharmacy opened in the 1700s, advances in medicine have transformed how we live and manage our health. We are living longer and conditio...

Since the first pharmacy opened in the 1700s, advances in medicine have transformed how we live and manage our health. We are living longer and conditions that were once terminal are now manageable through innovation in medication and the development of drugs.

One area that hasn’t changed so dramatically however is in the area of repeat prescriptions, and how we collect and manage our medication. Almost half of the population are on repeat prescriptions, but for the majority the process to get their medicines is time-consuming and inconvenient. Booking an appointment with your GP, getting a paper slip, finding the time to go to a pharmacy, and queuing up and waiting to receive the same medication month-after-month? The customer deserves more.

Technology has already transformed industries from retail and entertainment to travel and leisure, but it is now starting to make a significant mark on healthcare. From AI doctors and at-home blood tests to online pharmacies and digital therapeutics, the health industry is finally undergoing a profound positive disruption – and its impact is giving power to individuals to access care more easily and conveniently, and helping to ease the strain on an overburdened NHS.

While major breakthroughs in medicine like new drugs tackling problem conditions or artificial intelligence being used to predict the onset of disease will rightly attract headlines, one major area of transformation is in pharmacy.

As patients use personal healthcare devices to gain greater control of their health in the coming decades, online pharmacies will be ideally placed to handle their needs, while community pharmacies will remain crucial for acute healthcare management.

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With the adoption of the NHS Electronic Prescription Service (EPS), managing long-term prescriptions and tracking patient adherence can now be done online. And according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, it already “saves GPs time, helps to give patients a better, more seamless experience and ensures every pound of taxpayer money is being spent effectively”.

At Pharmacy2U, which was a founding partner to the NHS Electronic Prescription Service, the company seeks to remove the hassle associated with repeat prescriptions by centrally dispensing millions of medicines directly to the doors of NHS patients for free. At its dispensing facility in Leeds, it works to dispense more than 500,000 medicines to patients each month, reducing the time being spent by GPs on filling out paperwork and making it easier for patients – especially those with reduced mobility or with hectic lifestyles – to get their medicines.  

A healthcare centred around the patient is the future of the NHS and the acceleration in the rate of personalisation is paving the way for truly preventative healthcare, but we have barely scratched the surface. Like everything else in the future, the healthcare service will have to adapt to thrive.

Mark Livingstone is the CEO of Pharmacy2U, and on a mission to improve patient access to healthcare and relieve the strain on the NHS. Previously he helped to transform how we watch movies as a co-founder and CEO of LOVEFiLM, and food delivery as a founding investor of Graze.

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