Clinical Champion Meir Katton, superintendent pharmacist at Kalmak Chemists, talks to Kathy Oxtoby about running a virtual GP service
The Pharmacist’s Clinical Champions scheme celebrates the extraordinary work of ordinary pharmacists.
In Kalmak Chemists, patients can now see doctors for a consultation online in minutes thanks to a revolutionary pharmacy service.
In December 2016, this south London pharmacy was one of the first in the UK to offer MedicSpot, a virtual GP surgery in one of its consulting rooms. MedicSpot is an online doctor consultation carried out via a Skype-like interface.
The pharmacy also has a MedicSpot ‘clinical station’, which allows doctors to perform a full clinical examination and deal with and treat almost any medical condition that patients would normally visit their GP for, says Meir Katton, superintendent pharmacist.
He explains that the doctor guides patients on what they need to do with the equipment in the ‘clinical station’, and that pharmacy staff are available to assist.
Patients can then collect any prescribed medicine from the pharmacy straight away. In addition to providing diagnosis, treatment and prescriptions, MedicSpot can also issue sick notes, referral letters and general health advice.
‘No reason not to go for it’
A year ago, Mr Katton was approached by MedicSpot requesting the use of a consultation room. The organisation had recognised that people, particularly those with work commitments, were finding it difficult to get a GP appointment.
‘There was no real reason not to go for it. MedicSpot supplied the diagnostic equipment and all we had to provide was the space and the internet connection,’ says Mr Katton.
MedicSpot supplied the pharmacy with a laptop and a ‘clinical station’, which includes various attachments that enables doctors to carry out investigations online, such as a thermometer, stethoscope, blood pressure cuff and pulse oximeter.
Using fliers and posters, the pharmacy promoted the virtual clinic to hotels and offices in the London Blackfriars area and, during the past year, the service has proved to be ‘very popular’, says Mr Katton.
He explains that there are a large number of hotels, offices and private scripts in this area, and although the pharmacy can supply prescriptions to patients in the EU, it cannot supply to patients from other countries without a UK prescription.
‘Our virtual GP surgery is very popular with tourists who need urgent help from doctors because they’ve lost or run out of their essential medicine, and as there’s no need to register, no long queues that are associated with getting NHS care, and appointment prices are significantly cheaper than private doctors traditionally used by tourists,’ he says.
The pharmacy receives many private prescriptions, as patients who are at work cannot access a doctor easily, and this has also been the case for some local patients who have been unable to get an appointment in time. So the virtual surgery ‘enables our pharmacy to increase our portfolio of services and offer our patients many more services by having in-store access to a GP,’ he says.
There is a ‘close working relationship’ between the pharmacy and the MedicSpot doctors, Mr Katton says.
‘So, for instance, if we are out of stock of a particular medication, the doctor can prescribe an alternative,’ he adds.
Mr Katton says the service is economically sustainable, costing nothing except space in the consulting room. Having a virtual GP surgery in the pharmacy ‘also provides an opportunity to increase revenue by increasing our services portfolio and improving footfall,’ he adds.
As tourists are a major target for the pharmacy, Mr Katton says that when setting up the virtual surgery service, a lot of time was spent in detailing all the hotels and offices around the pharmacy, and that this approach needs revisiting because personnel change frequently, although some of this work is done by MedicSpot. ‘Otherwise, it is such a simple, easy-to-use solution, and there are no challenges at all,’ he says.
Patient feedback has been ‘fantastic’ — especially from overseas tourists. ‘People are happy with outcomes and access. And
I’m happy that the pharmacy is providing services to patients,’ he says.
For other pharmacists thinking of setting up a similar service, he believes that while the value of the virtual surgery is hard to measure in monetary terms, ‘it can give satisfaction to patients’, and is ‘speedy and convenient.’