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How to increase the accessibility of pharmacists when the pharmacy is open

There are ways to make community pharmacists more accessible to meet patient demand.

Pharmacy aisle with over the counter medicines

Source: Mandritoiu /

Pharmacies need to become more accessible to meet patient demand

Just because pharmacies are open it does not mean pharmacists are accessible, said Richard Ashworth, director of healthcare at Alliance Boots, on 2 September 2014 at the 74th International Pharmaceutical Federation Congress in Bangkok. He believes the profession is not moving fast enough to meet patient demand and desire. More could be done, he said.

Ashworth suggested the need to identify the physical barriers to accessibility and there are changes that can be made to improve the role of pharmacy and pharmacists. On the inside of the pharmacy, Ashworth said that stores should have an open and inviting feel, and have a clean layout. On the outside, there should be more windows with natural light. There should be health guides or technicians available to increase accessibility and there should be a dedicated space to provide services and consultations.

Ashworth provided examples of how technology and digital innovation can enhance accessibility:

  • Mobile text reminders give patients status on their prescriptions, saves time for pharmacy staff and allows for timely communication;
  • Electronic stock management allows for efficient, automated stock management and real-time availability data. This will enhance in-stock availability and reduce administrative inventory time;
  • In the US, patients can get their medicines refilled by mobile scan (ie, scanning the empty bottle with a mobile phone to reorder medicines). This allows greater anticipation of workload for pharmacy staff, engages the patient in the prescription journey, and reduces out-of-stock situations.

Ashworth summarised that the above examples all lead to more time for pharmacists and pharmacy staff to engage with patients and provide services.

Additionally, he said that support for pharmacists with administrative tasks will enhance accessibility.

Community pharmacy can be one of the most clinically capable channels to deliver care in the future because of its accessibility compared with, say, hospitals, Ashworth suggested.

He emphasised that the capability of the pharmacy staff is directly linked to the accessibility of the pharmacist. Therefore, training and development of pharmacy support staff to provide a better operating unit is pivotal, he said.

Although technologies (e.g. automated repeat prescription reordering) may reduce footfall in pharmacies, Ashworth believed that making pharmacists more accessible and available to deliver services and provide advice in store will ensure the public still visit the pharmacy for services, rather than just to pick up medicines.

Community pharmacies

  • Pharmacy is the most widely distributed healthcare facility.
  • Pharmacists are the only health professionals accessible without an appointment.
  • There are 2.6 million pharmacists globally.
  • Most pharmacies open 6/7 days a week.
  • Community pharmacy is the second largest provider of immunisations in the US.
  • The Community Pharmacy Futures Project in the UK demonstrated that commissioning pharmacy services could save the NHS over £470m per year delivering pharmacy services in England.
  • The majority of the 2.6 million pharmacists around the world are owner-operators.

Supplementary images

  • Pharmacy shelves

Readers' comments (2)

  • Robin Conibere

    Funnily enough Walgreens have already started developing "pharmacist out front" in the US, although I have heard that this is affecting accuracy as pharmacists are still required to check (photos!) of prescriptions while on the counter, and concerns around lack of staffing to adequately perform this dual role

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  • As Robin points out, increasing accessibility to the pharmacist must not be at the cost of patient safety and accuracy. Technology can help but not all pharmacies will be able to afford it. Alliance Boots and the other corporate sized chains are in a great position to capitalise on automated hub & spoke and will be able to commission and develop the underpinning IT infrastructure to make smartphone app reordering and patient engagement tools a reality. The Government has a part to play in levelling the playing field by allowing independents and smaller chain players legal access to dispensing and assembly services offered by third party pharmacies (3Phub&spoke).

    Click&Collect has been a game changer for e-commerce. There’s no reason at all why the same offering can’t drive footfall to local pharmacists, freed up by hub & spoke dispensing, to provide an enhanced level of pharmaceutical care, patient engagement and medicines optimisation (funded by the NHS) which will achieve the end goal of better patient outcomes and ultimately reduced cost for the NHS.

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