Like millions in the UK I rely on repeat prescriptions to keep me healthy. The NHS is marvellous but the repeat prescription service has always felt a little archaic. Little slips of green paper popped in a box or handed to your pharmacist and then a 24-48 hour waiting period before you can actually get ahold of the medication you need.
The NHS Electronic Prescription Service launched in 2014 did seek to solve much of this. If both your GP and pharmacy supported it you could use their online service to order repeat prescriptions and collect them at your leisure. The problem is few people seem to know about the service and even if you do, you have to still have to physically go to the pharmacy. My village pharmacy is only open week days from 9am - 5pm and closes between 1pm and 2pm for lunch making it almost impossible for anyone who works full-time to collect their medication.
Echo seeks to solve many of these pain-points with their fantastic mobile app and is quite possibly the first time I've ever found something useful in a Facebook ad.
What is Echo?
Echo is our simple, free service that delivers your medicine to your door. We’ll even remind you when and how to take it.
At least that's what their website says. It's pretty spot on to be honest and it's by far the best experience I've had in ordering NHS prescription medication.
Until Echo there were really 2 ways you could order prescriptions:
- Manually submit and collection your prescription in paper and then go to a pharmacy.
- Use a pharmacy repeat prescription service that would order it on your behalf and require you to collect it in person.
I used the latter but as I said above I had issues collecting my meds. Echo has completely alleviated all of these problems for me.
Setup & Ordering
Signing up is super simple. Download the app, tell them who your are and who your GP is and they'll do the rest. My GP called me to confirm I wanted Echo to take over from my previous pharmacy and that was it.
If you're entitled to free prescriptions you can enter your exemption in the settings and take a photo of any proof. This may be a pre-paid card or medical exemption certificate and it was nice I was able to take make use of this with no issue.
From there it was simply a case of searching for the medication I needed and ordering it. Echo submit the order via the EPS and once my GP approves it I can select where I want it dispatched. Delivery via Royal Mail 48-hour is completely free or you can pay for next day if you're desperate. The ability to choose where I want it delivered was surprising to me. I'd assumed that due to the nature of the package it would need to go to a home address but thankfully that isn't the case and getting it delivered to my office was absolutely fine.
Delivery & Beyond
The "premium" experience continues once you've received your order too. The packaging is awesome (probably total overkill for pills but it's very welcome) and the personalised handwritten message is a very nice touch.
Their reminder service — while basic — is also a great addition and was initially what I was looking for when Echo popped up on Facebook for me. These seem to be setup manually at the moment as I received an in-app message asking what times I'd like to be reminded to take my medication. It would be nice to be able to tweak these myself as I currently receive the same reminder twice (I take 2 of the same tablet at different dosages) but I'm sure that's coming in an update.
Echo also keeps track of how many tablets I should have left at any given time and will remind me when I need to reorder. Reordering is as simple as pressing a button in the app to send the same request to my GP and await approval. If I need to order them sooner I'm free to do so but I may need to contact my GP to explain why.
Echo has quickly embedded itself in my life and is a service I can see myself using for the foreseeable future. I do have some concerns as to the scalability of the business. At the moment they're working out of one pharmacy in Shepherd's Bush but I'm sure that will need to change as more users clock on to the service. The personal touches may also be lost as Echo scale but if that means the business can survive then so be it.
To date Echo has raised £2.2m. I'd definitely be interested to see their monetisation plans though they could be identical to a traditional pharmacy with the NHS paying them for each prescription/patient served. Their exit strategy also intrigues me. Will this remain a private business or more likely get acquired by someone like Lloyds Pharmacy?
Echo is available on the App Store and is coming soon to Android.