Prescription Collection Machines are exploding in popularity in the UK. So we thought we’d save you some time shopping around and write a guide. Hopefully it saves some valuable time finding the right one for your pharmacy.
As a digital marketing and development agency, with a goal of increasing patient numbers whilst improving workflow for pharmacies, we regularly discuss the use of Prescription Collection Machines to our clients.
In December 2021, we featured Prescription Collection Machines in our Ultimate Guide to Automating Your Pharmacy.
The industry is now reacting, and you’re probably on the lookout for a machine that impacts your workflow and patient experience in the same way.
If you’re already sure you want a Prescription Collection Machine, skip down a few headings to see providers’ offerings.
Will my pharmacy benefit from a Prescription Collection Machine?
If you are undecided on investing in a machine at all, you need only look at how it’s transformed the pharmacies who’ve introduced them.
During the course of the pandemic, we saw our clients experience a massive impact post-installation of Prescription Collection Machines in:
- Attracting New Patients, especially when advertised online (links to Case Study)
- Managing prescription workload and easing workflow
- Reducing waiting times, queues and “Is my prescription ready yet?” questions
- Maximising the convenience of prescription collection in general
The only way your pharmacy wouldn’t benefit from a Prescription Collection Point, is if you’re in an area so remote and sparsely populated that there aren’t the numbers to warrant it.
Most providers cite a certain number of items per month, which they say makes investing in a Prescription Collection Machine worth it. But the reality is, with the convenience of 24/7 collection for your patients, the machine will increase your EPS sign-ups, especially if you’re the only pharmacy in your area which has one. And as we continue into a more clinical model of pharmacy, any way you can free up the time of your pharmacy team and improve workflow efficiency is a good investment.
How do Prescription Collection Machines work?
Prescription Collection Machines are the ATMs of Pharmacy. Instead of queueing in the bank to withdraw money, ATM’s allowed the secure withdrawal of cash 24/7. Prescription Collection Machines do the same for Prescriptions. Freeing up staff time, allowing more time for value-adding actions, and saving the customers from unnecessary waits.
The core mechanics of how they work:
Of course, people need to sign up for EPS with you in order to use the service, as this service naturally requires their details.
The best part about the automation, in our eyes, is the ability to balance workload. When you know you’ve got a certain amount of prescriptions to load in for collections, you can wait for a quieter time in the day and load them in bulk.
Spreading the work over the course of the day instead of the manic rushes reduces the stress on your pharmacy team, and their stress as a result.
Managing the Cost of Investing in Machinery
It’s also worth noting that when investing in Prescription Collection Machines, you can deduct some or all of the cost of the machinery through your Capital Allowances.
Spreading the cost of more expensive machinery over a number of years can shave a lot of the difference off that expense, and leave you with a higher value asset in your business.
It’s worth discussing both financing plans and tax planning with your accountant and the suppliers, and comparing the options to determine the true cost to your business before investing.
Prescription Collection Machine Suppliers
Without further ado (because that was quite a lot of ado) here is your shortlist for Prescription Collection Machine comparison.
Pharmaself24, recently acquired by Omnicell, are the market leaders in Automated Prescription Collection. This acquisition is important too, because it couples the market leading machines with Omnicell’s vast experience in automating retail pharmacy.
The biggest thing that stood out for me is that the Pharmaself24 doesn’t operate like a converted vending machine. In a vending machine, there’s no way to access anything other than the items at the front. The Pharmaself24 Multi design (more like an ATM), allowing for more flexible layout configurations within your pharmacy space, as well as a massively increased capacity. (Think 10 x 10 x 10 capacity, rather than 10 x 10.)
The Pharmaself24 Compact works its robotic mechanisms on a cylinder, which again differs from the stock vending machine technology, increasing capacity.
When the whole point is automating the prescription process, increasing capacity efficiently is the biggest winner. I mention efficiently specifically, because, real estate is valuable, and some pharmacies won’t have room for multiple machines. The Pharmaself24’s effective use of its space is a standout difference.
It’s important too, that the internal front lighting is so bright. Patients collecting 24/7 need external lighting at night (or in the case of the UK, from 5pm-8am from November to February.) Incorporating this into the design is clever. The whole appearance looks slick, a hallmark of good design.
Not only is it slick, but it’s robust, with a certificated anti-vandal IK10 rating. IK is a measurement of how much impact it can withstand, from 0 to 10.
Omnicell Pharmaself 24 Features
- Unrivalled Capacity
- Works with both Standalone Software and PMR Integrations
- Premium Hardware
- Modular Feature & Colour Customisation Available
- External & Internal Options
- Routine Annual Maintenance Checks
- Fast Loading & Intuitive Traffic Light System
- Secure IK10 Certification (Anti-Vandalism Protection)
MedPoint is a really solid option, offering a wide range of model sizes. The one that struck us most here was the MedPoint SOLO, designed to be separate to the Pharmacy.
A unique opportunity with MedPoint SOLO
The reason that struck us, wasn’t its cold-chain medicine option (though that’s cool…literally), nor the fact that even pharmacies with no physical floor space available can get the technology. It’s the potential of increasing patient convenience even more.
Covering quite a wide catchment area means travelling to your pharmacy might still be cumbersome for many patients. But delivering to every single patient is also costly and not environmentally friendly. The SOLO could give your pharmacy an outpost – a more convenient location for a wider reach of patients to collect their medications. It would work similar to Amazon Lockers, where a delivery driver delivers to the Prescription Collection Machine and loads everything there, instead of at the pharmacy.
The MedPoint also integrates with a growing list of PMR systems which I’m assured will include all the top PMR Providers.
We love that MedPoint, like Pharmaself24, also show lighting consideration for users with their external light.
- Utilises width rather than depth
- Developed MedPoint API works with PMR Integrations & other third-party apps
- MedPoint Solo offers a unique standalone solution
- Secure – fitted with CCTV and alarm as standard
- Completely customisable branding
- Routine maintenance checks every 6 months
- Manufactured in Britain
The “affordable” option, the Pharmabox 24 is very much the no-frills solution.
It does the automation part, it’s simple to use, and it works. Whilst not as all-singing, all-dancing, it might well be the entry point for pharmacists on a tight budget.
“Yes our sensors allow each customer 1 minute to collect their package from the flashing collection drawer, and if something is still detected after this time the drawer door will lock. The alloted Pharmabox24 local manager/contact point will receive a service text message to say that there is a package needing to be removed. The “release code” is entered into the front panel and the package can be removed, and can identify obviously who the offender was!
Our internal CCTV records all the activity and the pharmacy’s own CCTV can also be used to show what happened.
Our experience is that this happens very rarely but is a necessary security option.
We recommend the backlit LED lighting for the front panel which provides just the right level of lighting for the customer collecting. Equally in some situations, we recommend a PIR LED downlight to be fitted in the vicinity of the Pharmabox24 in order that the right level of safe lighting is achieved. This is usually included as part of the survey and planning permission work.”
- Utilises width rather than depth
- Available in a range of sizes
Ultimately, your pharmacy will have its own specific needs.
Whilst there are many variables between models, you might be constrained by available space, meaning you benefit from either a model that utilises width over depth or vice versa. It’s worth a chat with Chris at T3 Pharmacy Design if you’re struggling with space or the layout of your pharmacy.