Automation in healthcare is helping patients, pharmacies and care home owners better manage their medication.
Online pharmacy PillTime is at the forefront of this change.
Using robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), the firm has created automatically dispensed medication pouches which provide an easier way for people to take their medication at the right time and on the right day.
PillTime has been supported through the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP), which provides targeted support for ambitious growing firms. The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.
Here, CEO Leighton Humphreys tells the story of the business and gives tips to others leading their own companies through difficult times.
Tell us about PillTime
Our company was founded back in 2016 by award-winning pharmacist, Paul Mayberry. In the intervening years, our business has grown and become a leader in our field. We now employ 65 people and are planning on further growth.
Crucially, we have a fantastic product. We provide a simple and effective way for patients to manage their repeat medication. Patients can easily sign up online or they’re helped over the phone, and we dispense their medication into clearly labelled pouches in the order they need to be taken.
These pouches are packaged into a dispensing box and discreetly delivered to patients’ doors, for free. Why is this important? Well, more than 50% of people in the UK don’t take their medication as prescribed and this number increases with the number of medications a person is prescribed.
The Department of Health in England estimates that in the UK more than 66 million clinically significant errors occur every year, causing the potential for harm and costing the NHS around £1bn. Using the latest in robot and packaging technology, we create multiple medication pouches that are easier for patients to manage and save healthcare professionals valuable time which can be reinvested into nursing and care.
What are your proudest moments in business so far?
We’ve had plenty of proud and exciting moments in the years since we started. The fact that we now employ 65 people is something we’re all really proud of, as we’re having an impact on our community and providing a product which is making a real difference to people’s lives and well-being.
We’ve developed a patient portal and a new website which are about to be launched. And we’re now the nominated pharmacy of around 13,000 patients – just recently we achieved the milestone of 50,000 items processed in a month. This ranks us in the top four pharmacies in the UK.
We’re putting the final building blocks in place to allow us to significantly scale up the business and continue to improve our service to patients.
We’re really proud of all this, and so much more. I think our business has a very bright future ahead.
What challenges have you faced in business?
There have been plenty, and of course the pandemic has created new challenges for us to overcome. Admin staff are working remotely but this has not hindered our service.
The pandemic has also presented opportunities. Awareness of online pharmacies such as PillTime has actually been boosted, with patients not wanting to leave their home to collect their medication.
If you were starting again, what would you do differently?
This is a difficult one, and of course as a business we are learning all the time from the decisions we make.
The important thing, I think, is that you take the workforce with you on your business journey and that means ensuring you are learning and making the correct decisions together.
How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?
Business Wales AGP has supported us since the start of 2018.
We signed up so we could access expert business support aligned with our ambitious growth plans. And we’ve been helped in plenty of ways – business processes, property relocation, organisational development, and recruitment, as well as investment readiness and profile support.
It’s all proved invaluable.
Having experts to call on who’ve “been there, done that” has helped challenge us as a management team. It has also allowed us to focus our strategic decision making on the areas that will have the biggest impact.
We have ambitious targets for the next couple of years, and we are confident that with continued support from the Business Wales AGP team, we will be successful in achieving them.
I’d encourage other businesses with high growth potential who are looking for support to apply for the programme. Since signing up, we have gone from strength to strength, and we are very grateful for all the help we’ve received.
What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?
- Listen to your customers.
- Work with good people.
- Be flexible.
- It’s okay to make mistakes but realise fast and learn
- Believe in your business plan.
To find out more about PillTime, visit here.
Further information on the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme