Where Are Your Prescriptions Being Dispensed?

Where are your prescriptions going?

Dispensing Matters by Greg Bull

I have been curious about the impact that Covid-19 has had on dispensing doctors for some time, my assumption being that as with community pharmacy, more and more patients would be having their prescriptions dispensed via an internet pharmacy.

Having found some time today, whilst working on a project based around exactly this kind of thing, I was able to map dispensing data for the months of August 2020 against August 2021. I have anonymised the prescribers and dispensing contractor, but all this dispensing is being carried out by a very large distance pharmacy.

Have a look [note this wont work well on a phone, so a tablet or PC is preferable] at the data below:

Prescriber PracticeDispenser AddressNumberofItems August 2020NumberofItems August 2021Distance Pharmacy Item Change

Firstly, the sample size is very small; only 14 dispensing practices and this is only a comparison of one month against one other month, so there is no trend analysis of the months in between. The choice of dispensing practice wasn’t completely random, but there is no reason why this should skew the results, which are transparently obvious.

In all but two dispensing practices there has been a rise of their prescriptions being dispensed by a single distance pharmacy. And only one more where the rise in internet prescription dispensing is below 50 for that month-on-month analysis.

Which begs the question are there three practices doing something better than the rest, going above and beyond to avoid a rise in patients generally moving to a distance pharmacy?

Of course, it may be the patient is moving from a local pharmacy to a distance based one for convenience, and indeed, all these “lost” prescriptions could be to prescribing only patients. But my guess is that a proportion will be dispensing patients.

If this is the case, for each item lost from dispensary to distance pharmacy means a drop in income of about £2.50, so for the practice who has seen a rise of 539, that could equate to as much as c£1350 potential lost dispensing income.

The only real way of telling is for the dispensary team to match prescriptions month v month using the dispensing system or via tracking item numbers.

I will be carrying out further work on this project, looking for a simple way to extract what is copious volumes of data, sometimes over 700,000 lines of data at a time.

Luckily, I enjoy the challenge.

And when I get asked how a dispensing practice should retain dispensing patients by a frantic GP partner, I tell them the same thing every time “customer service, customer service and customer service”.

“Should we get a prescription collection point or start a delivery service Greg?”

“Do both, give your customers the choice, its like a takeaway restaurant, the patient can eat in, collect and eat at home or get the food delivered.”

Seems simple – but how many dispensaries are moving with the times?

It’s the internet age.

And finally try telling anyone under 20 that you used to queue in a bank to take out your OWN money and that you couldn’t get hold of cash on a Sunday, Bank Holiday or after banking hours!