Pills in a locker
Chronic patients have easy access to their medication without having to join a queue.
The Prescription in a Locker Box (PILBOX) was first rolled out at Marine Parade Polyclinic in February 2016, allowing its chronic patients to collect their medication after polyclinic operating hours at their convenience, including on weekends and public holidays. In the past, when patients needed to refill their regular medication, they would need to take a number and join the queue at the pharmacy. This not only wasted patients’ time, it also added to the congestion at the polyclinic pharmacy.
Dissatisfied with the process, Christina Lim, head of pharmacy operations, SingHealth Polyclinics (SHP), decided to do something about it. The Pharmacy Department brainstormed ideas and looked beyond the healthcare industry. “It was the e-commerce sector’s self-service model for parcel collection that surfaced as an appealing solution,” she revealed. “We started to explore how that concept could be adapted to our needs.”
The result was Prescription in a Locker Box (PILBOX), the first of its kind in Singapore. Lim explained, “Patients would make an appointment to collect the medication. They pay at the payment kiosk next to the lockers and the locker door would then automatically open for them to collect their medication.” Since PILBOX operates round-the-clock, patients can arrange to pick up their medication at their convenience, saving them about half an hour of waiting time at the polyclinic.
However, special care had to be taken to ensure patient safety. “Unlike parcels, there can be no mistakes with medication,” said Lim. “The right package has to go to the right patient.” As a safeguard, two rounds of authentication are required when depositing and collecting the medication.
A chronic patient, 60-year-old Kandasamy Indramohan, was all thumbs-up for the service. “PILBOX is a great service. Staff at the polyclinic told me there is a new service that allows me to collect my medication later from a locker box. So, I came down on a Saturday and collected my medication within a few minutes, without any hassle. This service is indeed handy and helpful for people in a rush, and do not wish to wait at the pharmacy.” Volunteers are also at hand to assist patients to use PILLBOX.
An enhanced version
In August this year, SHP launched an enhanced version of PILBOX at Bedok Polyclinic, expanding the service to acute patients on repeat medications who do not require medication counselling by the pharmacists.
The enhanced PILBOX features the first self-cooling medication collection locker system in Singapore, which is able to maintain proper storage conditions for medications without the need for the lockers to be in an air-conditioned area. The temperature-adjustable locker station also allows patients or their caregivers to self-collect prescription medication which requires refrigeration such as insulin or certain types of eye drops. Lim said, “This feature enables the pharmacy to expand the range of medications to be self-collected through a locker system. The locker system can store up to 400 to 500 types of medications.”
Bedok Polyclinic has piloted a Pick & Go service since the launch of PILBOX for patients on repeat medications who do not require medication counselling to pick up their medications at the PILBOX on the same day of their visit. Instead of waiting in the clinic for their medications after their doctor consultation, patients or their caregivers can run their errands and return to collect their medications at PILBOX upon receiving a phone text message informing them that the medications are ready. They can collect the medications at PILBOX even after the polyclinic has closed for the day. The Pick & Go service can save about 30 minutes of waiting time at the pharmacy.
Two months since its launch, the Pick & Go Service has already served more than 1,380 patients, an average of 32 patients each day, and the service has received positive feedback from patients who were aged 18 to 68 years old with either acute or chronic conditions. The common chronic conditions these patients had were diabetes, hypertension and high blood cholesterol, while the most common acute conditions were fever, cough and cold.
According to SHP, there are plans to progressively roll out PILBOX in other SingHealth Polyclinics.
(** PHOTO CREDITS: SingHealth Polyclinics)