\u2018Doctor Google\u2019, as it is offered referred to by GPs, is often the first thing people turn to when they are not feeling quite right.\nThe ability for people to search for their symptoms online is a positive thing, but the information on the internet is not always accurate, up to date or relevant. In some cases it can leave people feeling worse.\n \n\u201cEveryone is busier today, the internet has become a question and answer for health conditions, and people are more informed on preventative health and diagnosing for self-treatments,\u201d says Ryan Klose, executive general manager, corporate at National Pharmacies.\n\u201cWe are witnessing consumers becoming more aware of choices on health conditions and treatments hellip; often self-diagnosing incorrectly thanks to the unregulated information found on the internet,\u201d Klose adds.\nAround five years ago National Pharmacies \u2013 a mutual membership organisation and retail pharmacy group \u2013 began responding to the disruption with a new vision which put the emphasis on the consumer and trying to \u201cempower them not only inside our stores but outside our stores as well,\u201d Klose says.\n \nThe aim was to navigate the perfect storm of significant changes facing the 350,000-strong membership organisation; including government reforms, economic conditions, retail confidence, emerging technologies, and more informed consumers who are spoilt for choice.\n \nHaving already engineered several IT platforms, transitioned to cloud, and established a library of adaptive APIs in business and data interactions between the consumer, the company\u2019s backend systems, and third-party providers \u2013 work over the last year has been focused on the customer app.\n \nThe app \u2013 available on AppStore and PlayStore \u2013 is packed with features to not only help customers do more themselves \u2013 such as the ability to remotely conduct screenings and assessments in a controlled and clinical-like manner \u2013 wherever is convenient, but also provide real-time advice and assistance. \nIt also features a chatbot programmed to appear like a Pharmacist, dubbed AskBob, which can step patients through a range of self-assessments and screenings in the comfort of their home or hotel.\n \n\u201cMembers and patients taking new medications, or who had a recent operation, or who are undertaking a clinical weight management program, or testing for diabetes for example \u2013 require monitoring and check-ups with the GP or pharmacist,\u201d Klose explains.\n\u201cThe app provides members the ability to subscribe, from a list of self-assessments and screening tests that are designed to be performed consultative-safe (in the home, at work, in travel),\u201d he adds.\nThe app is able to connect with selective health wearables and IoT devices \u2013 including weight scales; blood pressure, blood glucose, pulse, and body temperature readers; and air temperature, pollen and air quality sensors \u2013 which are often provided or recommended by pharmacists.\n\u201cUniquely, to assure our test data is accurately sourced, AskBob will step patients through the connecting or health IoT and wearable device technologies if available. Importantly, the app also alerts if devices need to be re-calibration or are not being operated correctly, to avoid inconsistent or voiding test data,\u201d Klose says.\n\u201cComprehensive reports and alerts are generated and (through secure invitation) can be subscribed by carers, family members or health professionals if needed,\u201d he adds.\nImportantly, AskBob was given a personality, courtesy of National Pharmacies\u2019 in-store teams.\n\u201cA key learning for us was how to detach the human element from the service provided without losing that trusted and care-for-me feeling as part of that relationship experience,\u201d Klose says.\n\u201cIt was through observing our own pharmacists in action, and their emotional human touch when interacting with a patient, that we learned that our delivery of any content, voice or response needed to give AskBob a personality with this same relationship experience,\u201d he adds.\nReal magic\nKlose has established a \u201cmodern-thinking IT management team, committed to advancing latest technologies and innovating to overcome technical barriers\u201d made up of teams who are \u201ccontinuously developed with new skills and techniqueshellip; each becoming more multi-disciplined in IT\u201d.\nThey deliver, as Klose puts it: \u201ctools that work\u201d.\n\u201cIn the quest to meet the demands of business strategy, deliver initiatives for peers quickly, or satisfy the operational service levels of the organisation \u2013 it comes down to \u2018does it work\u2019. Deliver what they pay for. No one ever asked for a broken solution,\u201d Klose says.\nThe transformation of the organisation has been and continues to be driven by its people, he adds.\n\u201cThe real magic in successfully transforming an organisation comes from drawing and fostering energy from a diversity of our people, their views and saying thank you to their ideas,\u201d Klose says.