Worried about the side effects of your medicines listed on patient information leaflets? Fret not: visit the University Pharmacy website, where a pharmacist is on call to answer your questions. Unsure how much of a fever-reducing medicine to take in the middle of the night? Advice is just a phone call away.
“No matter where customers are – at home on their sofa or at their summer cottage – they can reach our experts easily,” says Katariina Lehtinen, Manager of Pharmaceutical Information Services at University Pharmacy.
All 17 University Pharmacy branches across Finland are committed to high-quality service. The chain has repeatedly scored highly on the Finnish customer experience index, coming third in 2022.
“A good customer experience is not something that happens by accident – it requires long-term commitment,” notes Pharmaceutical Director Kati Vuorikallas.
A skilled pharmacist asks just the right questions
One of the principles of good medication advice is that each customer’s circumstances are carefully explored: What medicines are they taking? How do the medicines interact? Does the customer know how to take their medicines correctly?
It is not at all uncommon for a person who has come to pick up a non-prescription drug to be told it is not safe for them. In addition, pharmacists can advise customers to see a doctor about their symptoms.
“Customers often thank us afterwards for giving them important advice – occasionally even for saving their lives,” Lehtinen points out.
She leads a team of 90 experts who responded to a total of 530,000 chat and phone queries in 2022. And the number of contacts is increasing. To cope with demand, the pharmacy outlets and online shop employ not just pharmacists, but also beauticians providing skin care advice.
For customers, each discussion with a pharmacy specialist can be unique and important. This must be kept in mind particularly in the chat service, where advisers cannot use facial expressions or gestures.
“Our aim is always to provide a caring and personal service both face to face and online,” says Lehtinen.
Pharmacy services enhance drug safety and quality of life
University Pharmacy offers services to not only individual customers, but also care homes and other healthcare units. For example, automated dose dispensing can be used to supply a patient’s drugs in pre-packed sachets. This saves staff working time and enhances drug safety.
“Machines don’t make the kind of mistakes that may occur when a person dispenses drugs manually,” explains Vuorikallas.
University Pharmacy also supplies elastomeric pumps for the delivery of antibiotics. This method saves time by eliminating the need to administer drugs thousands of times at home or in inpatient wards. Instead of administering an antibiotic by injections, say, four times a day, the pump requires only one exchange a day.
“Elastomeric pumps improve quality of life. In the best case, the patient can be cared for at home instead of being admitted to a ward.”
In addition, University Pharmacy participates in ensuring the availability of medicines by carrying a comprehensive stock. One of the pharmacy’s special duties is to manufacture rarely used drugs: various ointments, tablets and eye drops can be made by hand if a commercial product is unsuitable or the correct medicine is unavailable.
All proceeds go to research and education
University Pharmacy has a wide range of connections to the academic community. Each year, some 100 pharmacy students complete their traineeships at its branches. In addition, University Pharmacy conducts research with higher education institutions and other partners to promote the sensible use of pharmaceuticals and develop pharmacy services. Research data accumulate in day-to-day operations through customer surveys.
“Consumers clearly appreciate the chance to take this type of surveys,” Vuorikallas states.
Another significant link to scholarly work is that all the proceeds of the pharmacy group go to University of Helsinki research and education. This is something customers value, says Vuorikallas:
“Many say it’s one of the reasons why they choose to use University Pharmacy. Their money goes to a good cause.”
The pharmacy of the future will respond to changing daily needs
Although University Pharmacy has a history stretching back over 250 years, it is firmly looking to the future. Artificial intelligence, automation and similar solutions can contribute to the development of operations by giving pharmacists more time to focus on what matters.
“New technical solutions must be introduced cautiously to ensure the safety of medication advice,” Lehtinen emphasises.
Vuorikallas believes that customers will increasingly seek services based on their own needs. Pharmacies must be able to offer options: some customers want to visit a shop, whereas others wish to order drugs home by express delivery.
“I personally believe that the role of pharmacies as providers of health and wellbeing services will expand.”