A digital take on Repeat Medications

3 min read

Repeat prescription dispensing is a core activity for pharmacies in the UK — for many it represents over 70% of their revenue.

It involves a GP prescription and a pharmacy who supplies the medication to the patient, on a regular basis. This is similar to a subscription model where users receive something periodically right? The catch is that repeat medications are not managed… digitally.

The process is managed with a software, however the system is not very flexible. This means staff members create paper notes, send faxes, scan papers and bind important information to access it quickly and when needed.

Our objective in our latest project with Well Pharmacy was to reimagine Repeat Prescriptions. We set off to simplify and improve the process of managing repeat prescriptions in store — for Well Pharmacy staff and customers.

To do this, we visited stores, spoke to staff and interviewed customers with a repeat prescription. Finally in a full day session, we used all of our synthesised findings and the expertise of the Well team dedicated to this project to carefully map out the current state of the service.

We found the typical signs of a paper based process:

  • Fragmented processes
  • Issues mainly caused by human error
  • Low information traceability
  • Multiple sources of information
  • Lack of feedback mechanisms
  • No triggers for action
  • Data security risks
  • Process bottlenecks

Drawing out the end-to-end service map was useful to highlight the interconnected issues and areas for improvement. These opportunities built up the new, reimagined service. A vision of what repeat prescriptions could be.

With the help of the digital team at Well Pharmacy we prioritised ideas and organised ourselves to make some prototypes. At Common Good we pride ourselves in testing assumptions with real users as often as we can — with three weeks to go, there was no time to waste.

In a week, we made clickable examples of the following improvements:

  • Simple sign-up and on-boarding to a ‘digital’ managed repeats service
  • Reminder prompt to order on time
  • Visual task management for staff
  • Automated request to the surgery
  • Salience and traceability of key info
  • Automated stock ordering
  • Triggers to start dispensing
  • Customer notification to collect prescription
  • Easy validation of patient exemption and claiming of fees from the NHS

[A clickable prototype that would allow staff to perform essential repeat medication tasks on the move — we added the capacity to chat with the GP, log issues and view the status of any live order.]

We used Invision, Sketch, good old paper, fresh sharpies, Alexa, getstoryline.com (to create Alexa scripts), Adobe After Effects, Adobe Illustrator, Keynote, Paperform (alternative to Typeform) and our people skills. The latter was especially useful when walking into a busy pharmacy and asking staff for their feedback on something that… well… doesn’t exist yet.

[Asking a wonderful pharmacist what she thought about this ‘new’ task management system]

[Using lego and our imagination to re-think in-store flows]

[Prototyping voice commands for repeat prescription]

Why make prototypes?

  • They are low risk, time efficient tools to gain insight.
  • To help people imagine the future service by trying to to sign up
  • To compare the service to existing experiences users already have (with their GP, with other healthcare providers… with their dentist)
  • To let staff click through and pretend to use a new software that has their priorities and needs in mind (with zero budget invested in build). They gave us feedback on how it felt, what else it could do, what it didn’t do well and so forth.
  • To generate a healthy debate about why automated pharmacy processes (such as communication with GPs, stock ordering, notifications… etc) are not commonplace yet and discuss the way forward.

We created an evidence based recommendation for Well Pharmacy and handed over a toolkit to their amazing team of designers. The toolkit included personas, a current service map, a vision map, design principles and over 10 different experiment cards. Each experiment card laid out a specific recommendation to improve the service, a hypothesis to test, the evidence to date and the benefit to the business and the documented customer and staff member’s experience.

Aside from the gratifying feeling of having done my best, I personally enjoyed the amount and speed of prototyping achieved during this project. Everyone involved built on each other’s ideas, went the extra mile and kept a positive attitude despite the challenges inherent in dealing with the complexity of pharmacy systems. It was a fantastic start to reimagining the end-to-end pharmacy services.

Making repeat prescriptions easier for customers and staff was a high point in our partnership with Well. Nearly a year ago, we commenced our collaboration with a comprehensive Discovery project highlighting key opportunities to improve user experience and increase efficiencies and delivered proof-of-concepts.

Common Good has supported Well’s transformation strategy by introducing human-centred and service design approaches. We’ve also delivered UX support on key digital products — from creating a new pharmacy store finder, launching the brand’s new website and creating a digital consent tool for NMS (new medicine service) in stores. It was a pleasure to innovate with Well Pharmacy and we look forward to more opportunities to reimagine healthcare for the common good.