Community pharmacies are fast becoming the first contact for patient health and a vital component of both NHS urgent health pathways and the increasing focus on preventative health strategies. This is a fundamental shift for pharmacy and whilst there are opportunities, it has also created a number of challenges. Added to this escalation in demand and remit is the new remote dispensing model now under parliamentary review. In this blog we discuss the implications of hub and spoke dispensing and the importance of the right technology in enabling pharmacies to be successful whatever fulfilment model they decide to adopt.
Dispensing is changing
There is a change on the horizon which has recently been debated in parliament as part of the medicines and medical devices bill review. This is set to herald a new ‘Hub and Spoke’ dispensing model that will fundamentally overhaul the way medicines are dispensed and the role of pharmacists within this process.
This change will allow prescriptions to be fulfilled on behalf of pharmacy contractors using large remote dispensing Hubs operated by third party providers.
When prescriptions are received, the local pharmacy will send them electronically to a Hub for fulfilment, after which the medicines will be transported back to the local pharmacy to be checked by the pharmacist and collected by the patient.
Some large pharmacy chains are expected to create large, automated hubs that also offer services to independent and smaller pharmacies; or independents may band together to create cooperative hubs of their own. Wholesaler fulfilment may also be an option.
While Hub and Spoke should help reduce the overall dispensing time (ultimately, freeing up staff to focus on service provision), under the current proposals, pharmacies have complete choice over their dispensing model - they can carry on as before or embrace 'Hub and Spoke' dispensing services as or when it feels right. As a result, there will be no single prescription fulfilment model across the industry - at least for the time being.
Delivering much needed pharmacy efficiencies
Given the pressures on community pharmacy, there is a very pressing need to provide better ways of supporting patient demands, and therefore Remote Fulfilment could offer the opportunity to improve efficiency, reduce costs and maximise pharmacist expertise by freeing up the pharmacy team in-store, allowing them to focus on delivering critical patient care. Furthermore, Remote Fulfilment allows pharmacies to reduce up-front stock expenditure and reduce overall stock holding by utilising the purchasing power of the Hub. Again, this helps free up valuable in-store space for the potential delivery of revenue generating clinical services.
There are however a number of new challenges. How do you avoid delays to a patient if a Hub is unable to fulfil a prescription? How are pharmacies and the patient informed of prescription progress and potential delays? And how do you maintain compliance across multiple pharmacy stores to ensure only the correct items are fulfilled remotely?
Pharmacists need oversight and transparency of dispensing both to support excellent patient care and ensure patient requests for information - “where is my prescription” and “when can I collect it” – can be immediately answered.
If Hub and Spoke is to work effectively and efficiently, automated processes backed up by real-time, end to end tracking will be essential.
Technology must support all fulfilment models
PMRs will play a vital role in supporting pharmacies as they embrace a Hub and Spoke model. Solutions need to be designed to fully optimise the end to end prescription journey – and that means seamlessly supporting multiple routes to fulfilment, especially as the market transitions.
PMRs need to offer choice and flexibility in dispensing workflows and support multiple options for prescription assembly – from store based dispensing to Hub (group owned or third party) and direct fulfilment by wholesaler.
Pharmacy Manager’s evolution
Cegedim is totally committed to supporting remote fulfilment, and the second generation Pharmacy Manager Hub and Spoke solution is based on extensive product discovery which saw engagement with a variety of pharmacy roles, which included dispensers, pharmacists, superintendents and finance teams across the wider industry. This helped ensure that the new module was focussed on addressing current pharmacy pain points and the challenges in achieving successful, efficient remote fulfilment.
Pharmacy Manager has been designed to automate Hub prescription allocation based on head office rules. It also maintains complete prescription transparency between all stakeholders in the extended supply network, with an intelligent and mobile optimised Clinical Checking module that ensures stores can maintain clinical responsibility for the patient at all times.
In addition, Pharmacy Manager’s modularised dispensing approach is well placed to support pharmacies on their journey and is geared up to offer a flexible approach to local and remote dispensing ensuring that every pharmacy can adopt its preferred dispensing model.
With this major development, the foundations are now in place to support the evolution of remote dispensing should the latest parliamentary legislation be approved. We look forward to sharing more information shortly.