Interview: Zeinab Ardeshir, Co-founder and CEO of PillSorted

For the latest instalment in our interview series, HTN spoke to Zeinab Ardeshir, co-founder and CEO of PillSorted, an NHS pharmacy offering a personalised prescription service delivered to patients’ homes. 

Zeinab discussed the solution PillSorted offers and where it fits in the healthcare landscape, along with sharing her thoughts on the role of technology in community pharmacy and how it ties into the delivery of integrated care. 

Here’s what Zeinab had to say… 

Can you begin by telling us a bit about yourself and your role? 

I’m the CEO, co-founder and the chief pharmacist of PillSorted. I’ve been a pharmacist for the past 17 years. 

For all the years that I’ve been working, the best parts are when I’m listening to my patients and helping them understand the science behind their medicine, supporting them to live healthier, happier lives. Any time that I’ve had to do the manual, repetitive tasks in the pharmacy, I’ve felt at a loss. And there’s a lot of those tasks going on because pharmacy as an industry really needs more modernisation. The infrastructure is on a legacy system that’s literally 200 years old. 

When I was working in community pharmacy, I hated it when people would come in and I couldn’t give them the time they needed to talk about their problems. If they can call in and talk to a pharmacist or a healthcare professional from the privacy and convenience of their own homes, that’s of great value to them. 

That’s why I set up PillSorted. a new model of pharmacy, a model that places care first but is completely enabled by technology, as that’s when we can deliver what people need. People need the delivery of medicine at home and a good solution for their repeat prescriptions, so we take all the hassle and all the planning out of it, making sure that patients always receive their regular medicines on time and that they don’t run out. We deliver acute medications and antibiotics as fast as possible as well.  

What role do you think technology will play in the future of community pharmacy? 

Tech is going to play a huge role because we’re moving from this dated infrastructure we have in place towards personalised, on-demand delivery to people’s homes. Delivering that human-centred, tech-enabled care takes a lot of modernisation. 

Technology enables my clinicians to have a proactive role in the medicine management of patients. We can call patients and prevent them from running out of medication for example and our dispensaries are fully automated so that we can scale and ensure that they’re always accurate. 

The other important thing that tech enables is personalisation. One of the first tools I created was a chart for people to use. It was  a simple chart with a list of all their current medicines, shapes of tablets and capsules and when to take them and even though it sounds simple, it’s been amazingly welcomed by patients, particularly older and more vulnerable patients who are taking multiple medications a day. It helps them to remember and it’s also been a great communication tool for PillSorted and GPs /carers. We keep them  up-to-date according to the dispensing data and doctor’s prescription and we’re constantly building on it. There’s research that more than 50 percent of people do not take their medicine according to the prescribed advice. That’s huge. Considering the £17.4 billion that the NHS spends on medication, there’s a lot of room for work.  

Can you talk a bit about how PillSorted works with the NHS? 

The NHS contracts us for pharmacy services. Our contract is exactly the same as any other pharmacy, so we don’t cost the NHS any extra and we cover the delivery cost ourselves. The important thing for me, having worked in the NHS for many years, is saving the NHS money. We do it by preventing costly hospitalisations, because if we ensure that people keep on top of their medication and don’t miss their doses, we are helping to manage their conditions. There are people who are on up to fifteen units of medication per day and if they miss a dose, it can deteriorate their condition so badly that they end up in A&E. When that happens, it’s very costly for the NHS, not to mention dangerous for the patient, so that’s what we are working hard to prevent. 

The technology that we have developed has created a lot of integration abilities. We’re able to talk to hospitals, to social carers, to carers, and ensure that we’re always on the same page. We also talk to more than 100 GP surgeries.across England 

Can you discuss any real life examples? 

We have a lovely gentleman who is in charge of his parents’ medication. We’ve been helping him for the past two and a half years and was one of my earliest customers. Every time that his mum and dad have a hospital appointment, every time they have carers coming in, we make sure that the medications they need are correct. Their prescriptions are issued on a monthly basis so we get in touch with him every month. We make sure that we have added on any extra notes that he needs, for example, if his mother had a hospital appointment and they said they were going to change her medicine, we make sure that we chase that up with the GP and the pack that goes out is accurate. 

We personalise our deliveries based on circumstances, so in this case we know that it’s best to deliver when the son is in, if possible, and if he’s not in, we know that we need to knock on the windows to make sure that we’re heard! 

They never run out of medication now, it’s always accurate at any given time, the doctor and hospital know what’s going on, and as the carer, this gentleman knows that there is somebody he can call and get the right advice from if needed. 

What have your challenges been so far? 

Whenever you want to prove something, there are challenges. I think there’s a global trend towards the delivery of health at home and COVID has certainly accelerated that. The NHS needs an infrastructure that is reliable and regulated for this, as well as access to patients’ homes. That’s what PillSorted is creating. We are the infrastructure required for delivery of health services to patients’ homes. And in itself, that’s the biggest challenge – it’s new, but it’s fun. 

Are there any other thoughts that you want to share? 

It’s quite exciting, and I think we are doing the right thing for the patient. The needs of the patient are always in my immediate line of sight. 

People can get their chocolates delivered in fifteen minutes. You can jump onto Amazon and have pretty much anything ordered and it will be delivered to your home within a day. People’s need for medication is greater, so it should be more important to ensure medication is delivered as efficiently as something you buy on Amazon. If I can do anything to deliver what a patient needs sooner and more accurately with the right advice, versus making them come into a place when they’re poorly and having them wait in a queue, then it’s a problem worth solving. 

Many thanks to Zeinab for taking the time to share her thoughts – you can find out more about PillSorted here.