The Pharmacy Of The Future Is Here (And It Promises To Be Frustration-Free)
A trip down to the local pharmacy to pick up a prescription rarely leaves you with a smile on your face.
You head to the counter where you’ll likely join the back of a queue of customers anxiously awaiting their turn.
After a short while, the pharmacist asks you to hold on just another 20 minutes or so while they prepare your meds.
If you’re lucky, you’ll leave with the goods. But if not and the pharmacy doesn’t have them in stock, you’ll have to go elsewhere and repeat the process all over again.
The pharmacy experience is a bit of a nuisance at best, and at worst a highly inefficient and incredibly frustrating process.
Long in need of a good update, the pharmacy experience is finally being brought into the 21st century thanks to a spawn of new and exciting start-ups.
These innovative companies are part of the widespread effort to streamline basic services such as healthcare, transport, energy and sanitation. Just look at how Uber and car sharing services are changing how we get around, how mobile technology is changing the way we monitor and manage our home energy usage, and how regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy is revolutionising medical care.
In the attempt to completely redefine how we pick up and manage our prescriptions, start-ups are testing all sorts of new ideas from mobile apps to pill dispenser sensors to automated deliveries.
Two of the most noteworthy initiatives currently making waves in the US – Capsule and Round Health from Circadian Design – are driving their vision of a pharmacy you’ll never have to set foot in.
A 100 Percent Virtual Pharmacy
“Capsule has taken note of what is really annoying about the current pharmacy experience, and taken a little bit of frustration out,” –Seth Heldenbrand, researcher at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Arkansa
It’s believed that the pharmacy of the future will most likely only exist in our smart devices. There’ll be no shop front on the high street or handy clinic round the corner from your house, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be any less convenient. In fact, Capsule has designed and built an app that promises to eliminate much of the pain points and inefficiencies of pharmacies and make the experience a lot more agreeable.
After signing up for their service, you can use Capsule’s mobile app to manage and pre-order current prescriptions, fill in new ones, and arrange home delivery for the exact time you need them, at no extra cost.
Some people may worry that replacing your friendly local pharmacist with a faceless mobile app will make the whole experience cold, and not to mention unreliable due to inevitable technical issues. But having a direct connection to your pharmacy from your pocket makes the experience a lot more personal, even affording users additional benefits such as being able to learn the cost of a medication before filling in a prescription.
Customers can use the app to chat with pharmacists and receive any technical support they need. And I haven’t yet mentioned Capsule’s greatest feature: their smart inventory management system.
Using customer demographics, doctor input, seasonal factors, and information about commonly combined medications, Capsule ensures their fulfilment centres always have your medications in stock.
A Smarter Way To Remember Your Medicine
Whereas services like Capsule aim to address one of the main downfalls of the current pharmacy process, intentional non-adherence i.e. skipping medication due to logistical or financial reasons, another major issue is unintentionally non-compliance – or in other words, forgetting to take your medication.
Missing a dose here and there may seem trivial at the time, but it’s a significant contributor to the development of health problems further on down the line. One missed blood pressure pill could contribute to a patient developing a heart condition in the future. One study led by Seth Heldenbrand at the University of Arkansa reported that as much as half of all adults in the US fail to take medication when they’re supposed to and it’s a similar situation in the UK.
It’s believed that non-adherence on a whole drains our healthcare systems of billions of pounds every year.
In a bid to tackle the problem of unintentionally skipping doses, design house Circadian Design have developed Round Health, a mobile app and ¨smart bottle¨ pill dispenser to help keep track of your medication usage.
Through a few simple settings you first teach the app your medication routine, and when the time comes around a ring of LEDs on the smart bottle shine blue to provide a subtle but persistent reminder.
On opening the bottle, a sensor pings the app and communicates with it to track your prescription, maintaining a log of how many doses you’ve taken and notifying you when it’s time to refill.
A nice feature of Round Healths reminder system is how it works on the premise of reminder windows, rather than single points in time. This means your much less likely to forget a pill due to losing track of time or snoozing an alarm, as the app pushes two or three notifications to your device’s home screen until the dose is complete through activation of the smart bottle sensor. Clever stuff!
“The most effective tool known to improve medication adherence is education by a healthcare professional—more than one, usually.” —Seth Heldenbrand
Smart technology is all well and good but nothing replaces contact with a real life human. And just as Capsule recognises this by incorporating communication with pharmacists into their app, Round Health enable users to keep in touch with their doctors and keeps them up to date with their patient’s prescriptions.
Say Goodbye To The Pharmacy As You Know It
Small services like Capsule and Round Health are currently only available in a few areas in the US, but already they’re making a huge impact.
And alongside the likes of PillPack, a company that delivers individual packets of daily medications, and PillDrill, which monitors prescription levels and patient adherence using RFID technology, these innovative start-ups are shaping the way for a future of more efficient, cost-effective, and user-friendly pharmacies. And it won’t be long before we see similar offers in the UK.
There are some doubts however to whether disrupting the pharmacy experience, with technology is the best way to go. One of the largest, if not the largest cohort of pharmacy users, is the elderly, who aren’t known for being particularly tech-savvy and often prefer a face-to-face encounter. What’s more, much of the success of these initiatives will depend on these services being inclusive, seamless, and as error-free as possible. This presents a huge challenge considering the diverse makeup of prescription drug users.
Maybe you’ll use an app, use pill bottles with sensors, take delivery of your medication from a drone or robotic transporter, or send instant messages to your pharmacist; whatever direction the pharmacy experience goes down, you can be sure it’ll be better than wasting time standing in line or trekking across town.
The traditional approach to medicine is changing. Are you prepared for the future of better, more personalised healthcare?
Contact us today to find out how you can help safeguard the health of your children by storing stem cells from their baby teeth.