Enhancing patient experience with a revamp of the Outpatient Repeat Medication Service

We find out how Malaysia’s Sunway Medical Centre won GOLD for ‘Patient Experience Improvement’ in the 2021 HMA Awards by revamping their Outpatient Repeat Medication Service.

Following the rapid growth of Malaysia’s Sunway Medical Centre outpatient specialist centre in the last few years – which led to a corresponding increase in the volume of prescriptions dispensed by their pharmacy – the hospital decided to set up the Outpatient Repeat Medication Service (ORMS) in 2016 to better serve patients who needed repeat supply of their medications.

The goal of ORMS was simple: to make it more convenient for their patients to collect repeat medications, by providing a self-pickup option at the hospital’s pharmacy. Providing patients with better access to their long term medication was also envisioned to improve compliance to their treatment in the long run.

In order to utilise this service, patients were required to pre-order their medications via email three working days before their preferred collection date. Patients were then required to proceed to the designated cashier to sign the required documents and make payment, before collecting their repeat medications at the retail pharmacy.

The problem: an underutilised service

However, despite its convenience, the service remained under-utilised, with only 3% of all repeat prescriptions being dispensed using ORMS in 2019.

A survey to find out why this was so identified the main reasons as 1) inconvenience as patients were still required to travel to the hospital for collection of medication (54%); 2) complicated workflow (35%); and 3) problems with insurance claims (11%).

With this insight, Sunway Medical Centre initiated a project to remodel the ORMS to increase its utilisation rate, and achieve its vision to improve patients’ access to their repeat medication and boost compliance.

Once the factors for low usage of the ORMS were identified, the Pharmacy team mapped out improvement plans focusing on three areas:

1) Remodelling of service delivery concept to provide greater patient convenience;

2) Simplification of administrative processes to improve the patient experience;

3) Enhancement of marketing strategy to boost visibility of the service among patients and staff.

The solution: Remodelling the ORMS

With a patient-centric approach in mind, Sunway Medical Centre remodelled their ORMS to better address the unmet needs of patients revealed from the survey. This led to the development of a complimentary doorstep medication delivery service to patients, with the hospital collaborating with an on-demand courier service provider.

To ensure the quality of the service was maintained, benchmarking was done with the local medication delivery guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health Malaysia.

And while conventional delivery methods usually require at least three working days, Sunway Medical Centre made arrangements to ensure same-day delivery of medications to addresses within the Klang Valley area, with patients being able to track the journey of their parcel in real time from the comfort of their homes.

In addition, with the new ORMS model, the hospital’s pharmacy would – with the patient’s consent – initiate the process of refilling the medications. This involved the pharmaceutical team tracking each patient by the date of their last prescription refill, and arranging for the delivery of a fresh supply of medication to the patient one week before the previous prescription runs out. This simplification of the ORMS administrative processes offered patients a seamless experience, and ensured that they received a continuous supply of their intended medications.

Finally, a series of marketing activities – including direct promotion of the service to patients over the dispensary counters, broadcasting of the ORMS service on social media and on traditional media platforms in high traffic areas – were utilised to boost visibility of the service among patients and staff.

The remodelled ORMS was also marketed to major insurance companies as a value-added service for their clients, which allowed Sunway Medical Centre to reach out to their vast network. All new patient sign-ups to the service were also sent an introductory e-mail as way to engage and remind patients to use the service for their repeat medication needs.

The result: Close to 8-fold increase in ORMS usage

The remodelled ORMS proved to be a hit with Sunway Medical Centre’s patients, with a total of 1,193 patients signing up for the service in 2020. In contrast, only 134 patients used the service in 2019. The number of prescriptions dispensed via ORMS in 2020 also saw an increase of close to eight-fold as compared to the previous year.

This increase in the usage of ORMS was driven in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a Movement Control Order (MCO) being imposed in Malaysia.

The subsequent relaxation of the MCO, however, resulted in a corresponding decrease in the delivery demand between June to August 2020. Nonetheless, with the hospital’s continual promotion of the ORMS, an increase in the prescriptions being dispensed via ORMS was observed again from the months of September to December that same year.

The results from a customer satisfaction survey conducted in November 2020 also showed a favourable response to the service, scoring an overall satisfaction rating of 4.88 on a scale of 5. All 343 respondents, bar one, rated their satisfaction level as either ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’. An equal proportion of respondents also indicated that they would recommend the service to their family and friends.

In their awards submission to HMA, Sunway Medical Centre highlighted the importance of their staff in ensuring the success of the remodelled ORMS, and outlined their plans to improve the service even further in future.

The hospital said: “Staff involvement in directly promoting the service to patients played a major role in driving the success of this project. As such, involvement of the team in providing feedback and brainstorming improvement ideas were done to continuously innovate the service. Positive comments were shared with the team to recognise their efforts and further fuel their passion to grow the service further.

“The remodelled ORMS has also complemented the rapid rise in adoption of digital healthcare services by the hospital, such as teleconsultation services that require medication delivery. Future improvement plans have been mapped out to scale up the service in the next phase of the project, by exploring the integration of the service into a mobile application, enabling automated reminder messages to be sent to patients before their medication supply is due, and embedded with a digital payment gateway to ease payments upon confirmation of medication supply.”

Nominations for HMA Awards 2022 are now open! This year, awards will be handed out in seven categories, including Financial Improvement, Patient Experience Improvement, Infection Control Excellence, Clinical Effectiveness Improvement, Most Advanced Healthcare Technology, and more. For more details, click here.