As healthcare faces mounting challenges, the need for innovative solutions has become increasingly apparent. The sector is under immense pressure: NHS waiting lists are now at a record high of 7.3 million and are unlikely to decrease until mid-2024. A lack of funding and resources, staff shortages made worse by the pandemic, growth in the demand for hospital services, and strike activity are all major factors hamstringing the NHS.
The sector is crying out for a solution, and like other industries, digitalisation may just be the answer.
Pharmacies can significantly help the health system, freeing up overworked GPs by offering consultations, prescriptions and vaccinations. The Government’s ‘Pharmacy First’ initiative aims to implement this nationwide. The Government recently announced that Britain’s 11,700 community pharmacies will now be able to play an expanded role in treating minor ailments, encouraging patients to use them as the first port of call over GPs.
However, pharmacies cannot fully take advantage of this due to a lack of funding and resources. Insufficient government funding caused almost 400 pharmacies to close between 2020 and 2022. In addition, the cost of many antibiotics increased by more than ten times at the end of last year. These financial difficulties, alongside capacity issues, have left pharmacists struggling to provide key services.
Software as a Service (SaaS) is key to solving pharmacies’ pressures. The Implementation of technology can bring significant benefits to pharmacies. Technology can help address their current challenges and unlock new opportunities for revenue growth.
For example, the New Medicine Service (NMS) is a potential revenue stream for pharmacies. Yet at present, pharmacists often lack the capacity to fully utilise it. They lack the time, and resources the adequate digital tools to efficiently manage and document the information required for these services.
Technology would allow for the implementation of a quality digital record-keeping platform. One that can provide pharmacists with the necessary technology to track and document their provision of services like the NMS.
Many doctors and medics are now thinking of an alternative career path where they have more flexibility in saving lives and aren’t limited by the resources of their job. Four in ten junior doctors plan to quit the NHS due to burnout and other pressures. Many of them are becoming part of the healthtech boom, recognising the potential of technologies to support the NHS.
We’ve seen this at Charac. Charac’s Head of Brand and Clinical Lead, Katherine Bridges, used to work as an NHS nurse for nearly a decade before joining Charac. Having ex-healthcare professionals is vital for healthtech start-ups. Their insight into the sector is invaluable in identifying areas of inefficiency and gaps in care delivery and assisting in addressing these needs. Their knowledge of health records, internal processes, and expertise with tools can help entrepreneurs develop digital solutions to fill market gaps and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
Charac was initially brainstormed as a solution for my issues as a diabetic, as I could not monitor my prescriptions. With nothing on the market that could have helped me effectively manage my prescriptions, Charac was born as a system allowing chemists and patients complete, 24/7 access to their medication records.
Charac has since expanded to be a more comprehensive offering. It now provides independent community pharmacies with a holistic digital presence, allowing pharmacists to book and conduct consultations online and even deliver medications through its partnership with Royal Mail. Given that one of the main services people use their pharmacy for is repeat prescriptions (47%), by digitalising many of these manual processes, pharmacists now have more time to work on revenue-boosting services and keep community pharmacies as part of the NHS frontline.
The healthtech boom
The healthtech industry in the United Kingdom has seen a sharp increase in investment, soaring from just $420 million in 2016 to $3.8 billion in 2021. The UK is now ranked third internationally in terms of healthtech investment, only behind China’s $4.1 billion in the field. In fact, investment in healthtech in the UK is second only to fintech, and it is expected to be the next big market in the UK.
A combination of being an attractive destination for talent, with leading research and development opportunities – particularly with the ‘golden triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge, and London home to 508 healthtech start-ups – as well as increasing demand for improved healthcare has made the UK well-poised to be the future of healthtech. Between the pandemic, an ageing population, and the NHS’s struggles, digitising healthcare has never been more in vogue, and looks to hold a wealth of opportunities for researchers, innovators, and investors alike.
Charac is on a mission to Uber-ify Britain’s 11,700 high-street pharmacies. Charac’s easy-to-use online portal lets pharmacists seamlessly track prescriptions, digitise records, arrange deliveries, and hold online consultations. Charac hopes to help keep Britain’s high-street pharmacies open, profitable, and at the heart of their communities.