Private Online Doctor Services and the new GPhC Guidance
Are you aware of the new guidance from GPhC for pharmacy websites?
Many of our member pharmacies have added online consultation services from providers such as PharmaDoctor, FastDoctor and/or are processing scripts generated by these services.
Part of the new guidance explicitly singles out the model employed by these services; choose a condition, choose a treatment, fill in form and have prescription issued (or not).
Here is a quote, "the pharmacy websites do not allow a patient to choose a prescription-only medicine and its quantity before there has been an appropriate consultation with a prescriber"
If you use a third party online prescribing service you should contact them to see if they have a plan to change the way their services operate in a timely manner or ask us to remove that service from your site. You should also think carefully about fulfilling scripts generated by those services even if the consultation is not taking place via your website. The new GPhC guidance also says you shouldn't link to those services.
From what we have heard from people who were involved in the consultation, the direction of travel is very much to ban all these form based services.
"We expect you to make sure that your website and the websites of companies you work with are arranged so that a person cannot choose a POM and its quantity before there has been an appropriate consultation with a prescriber."
There are an increasing number of online video doctor consultation services in the market such as thegpservice.co.uk, medicspot.co.uk, pushdoctor.co.uk although they don't embed into your website beyond booking an appointment or links to their own sites/app store pages. Appointments either take place on the provider's site/app or via video in your consultation room on hardware the providers supply. Services like Pushdoctor let the patient then choose a pharmacy where the script is sent. Services that provide the consultation through their own hardware in your consultation room will generally send the script to your pharmacy to fulfill for the patient.
We get approached from time to time for partnerships and if we feel there is a good case we might agree one. For now, our advice is make sure your pharmacy can be sent scripts by any compliant service if you can. If you are in area with a demographic that will pay or an area with a shortage of GPs, you might want to consider going with one of the services provided from your consultation room as it will bring customers to your pharmacy and you are most likely to receive any private scripts issued.
Like everything else though, there's no magic bullet. If you're not going to heavily promote the service, there's not much point bothering. The services with less money are in part relying on you to generate them business, not the other way round. These services cost millions to set up and run. The services that have raised tens and tens of millions won't be relying on pharmacies to generate business. They are spending large somes on google and other media and building strong brands. So they may send you some scripts for nothing for now but ultimately when they don't need you, they will cut you loose. After all, once they have enough patients they may as well just setup their own private online pharmacies.