It’s Wednesday morning and I realise that I only have three Venlafaxine tablets left. I write myself a memo to contact the GP surgery but once I get into work it goes to the bottom of my to-do list. By the time I resurface its 7pm. I try my luck and call the surgery, which of course is closed.
Thursday morning– I get up early and call the surgery. “I’m sorry, but we can’t take prescription requests over the phone. You can come in-person or send us a fax”. Where do I find a fax machine in 2016? Running late, I decide to sort it out later. I make my way into the office and my manager tells me that I have to meet an important client in Manchester at 9am on Friday morning. Bugger.
Friday morning – last tablet. Get the 6.16am train and spend the day firefighting. Make it back to London at 7.30pm, exhausted.
Saturday morning – panic. Disorganisation has lead to self-sabotage and by 4pm the withdrawal symptoms will be horrible. I am a responsible adult – this isn’t supposed to happen! Visit my local chemist but the locum pharmacist won’t provide an emergency supply because I filled my last prescription at another pharmacy near work. Stress levels rising, I head over to my work pharmacy. I beg for mercy and the pharmacist gives me four tablets. Crisis averted, at least until Wednesday.
If any of this story sounds familiar, then you will understand why we built Echo.
An app designed for and by people who take repeat medication (just don’t call us patients)
My co-founder (an asthmatic) and I both find the repeat ordering process a hassle. Yes, there are lots of services out there that claim to fix one part of the problem but no one service manages the end-to-end, from ordering to delivery. We also don’t identify as ‘patients’ – our treatment simply helps us get on with living our lives and we want an elegant, well-designed solution to manage our medication.
So, leaving behind the security of our corporate jobs we recruited a doctor, pharmacist and tech team and resolved to build something better.
How Echo works is simple.
1. You download the app, tell us who you are, who your NHS GP is and what repeat medication you take.
2. We then request a repeat prescription on your behalf. If your GP is happy to write the prescription they send it to our pharmacy. If the GP wants to see your first, we let you know immediately.
3. Our pharmacy team then dispatches your medicine via Royal Mail. We also set up reminders on your phone that tell you when to take your medicine and when you are are about to run out (the clever bit).
The app is free to use and download, and we also offer free postage. All you pay for is prescription charges, and if you’re exempt these are free too.
Who is Echo for?
We originally designed Echo for people like us – busy, 30-something professionals. However, once we started seeding it to friends and family we quickly discovered that there is no ‘typical’ Echo user.
One elderly Echo user has bad arthritis and finds it difficult to get out and about – for her, home delivery is key. Another user is prescribed statins but keeps forgetting to take them, thus finds the apps automatic reminders most useful. A third user with complex health needs likes having all his information in one place, neatly organised.
If we have learnt anything over the past few months is that stereotyping is stupid – why shouldn’t an 85-year-old diabetic use her iPhone to manage her medication?
Never stop learning
This is why I reached out to experienced healthcare bloggers like Barbara (who has very kindly agreed to let us to post this). We want Echo to be a service that people love to use. In order to do that we need user variety and lots of feedback.
If you currently take an NHS repeat prescription and have an iPhone we would love to hear what you think.
Thank you again to Barbara and the Back Pain Blog UK community.