The Pharmacy for People

Some people are just excellent in developing new ideas and turning them into succesful concepts. A pharmacy in Helsinki, Ympyrätalon apteekki, started its services with a totally new concept: The Pharmacy for People. A Finnish service design company, Diagonal, created this concept together with a pharmacy chain of 120 private pharmacies, Yhteistyöapteekit (YTA), and especially with the pharmacy Ympyrätalon apteekki. But all this wouldn’t have happened without the commitment and enthusiasm of one person, the proprietary pharmacist of Ympyrätalon apteekki, Mrs. Tiina Vaitomaa, and the will to be pioneers in new innovative business models by the whole chain. The process has been boundary breaking, and so is Valtomaa. She is willing to try new ideas and test them. The Pharmacy for People has won several rewards in a Finnish design, The Fennia Prize and Kultahuiput.

I got the chance to hear about this excellent concept and its service design process in the Service Design Drinks event on the 2nd of June 2015 in Ympyräntalon apteekki.  The event was hosted by Mrs. Tiina Vaitomaa, the Proprietary pharmacist of Ympyrätalon apteekki.

Service Design Drinks on the 2nd of June 2015

Service Design Drinks on the 2nd of June 2015

Tiina Vaikalma

Mrs. Tiina Vaitomaa, Proprietary Pharmacist

Mr. Mikko Koivisto, the Leading Service Designer in Diagonal started by describing the service design process.

The process consisted of three phases:

1. Understanding the customer and gathering knowledge

2. Concept definition

3. Design and implementation

The first phase was done by interviews, observing, mystery shopping, visiting customers and checking their medicine cabinet, making trend analysis etc. It was done in a very comprehensive way and with a lot of collaboration with the pharmacies. One result from the first phase was that customers desire more services than what is being offered. Another main result was that suppliers had too much power and the pharmacies had become mediators. This resulted in lower contribution margins and revenue. Also more focus on pricing was needed.

Prototype of a prescription encounter

Prototype of a prescription encounter

The second phase was about building the concept. This was done together with customers and staff in various workshops. Prototypes were tested and ideas launched into real environment. Customer journeys and videos were also used.

Concept ideation phase

Concept ideation phase

What amazed me was how dramatically Ympyrätalon apteekki changed its traditional service set to a completely new way of offering services to customers. Some might avoid these kind of ideas for being too risky but with the right attitude and trust in new innovations this concept became successful. This new service concept was also well communicated to the staff of YTA pharmacies. The service concept and business model was summarized in a manual to help the personnel of the YTA pharmacies in their daily duties. The manual is meant to give practical help as well as to motivate the staff in keeping up in the new way of serving customers. According to Vaitomaa the staff has taken this concept as their own and is standing behind these ideas.

So, what changed? The concept is tries to expand from serving sick people to taking care of their well-being. The idea is to motivate people to take care of themselves and their illnesses in a healthier and more sustainable way. Feedback is constantly taken into account and customers are listened. Vaitomaa emphasizes that cost accounting is also in a key role in making the services efficient, customer specific and long-lasting.

One example of the new service offerings is a Well-being bar which serves information, literature, well-being products and smoothies etc.

The welfare bar

The well-being bar

Something totally new is that the Ympyrätalon apteekki offers beauty and health treatments of different kind. This concept of mixing well-being and beauty treatments into a pharmacy environment is new. Also the medical services are offered much more widely compared to regular pharmacies. The idea is to offer tests, medication and control in one place.

Room for treatments

Room for treatments

Customers with prescriptions can choose between quick standing service counters or “unhurried booths”, that offer a more private service experience.

Standing encounters for faster prescription service

Standing counters for faster prescription service

Presciption encounters for more service which require privacy an time

Prescription booths for customers who require privacy and time


A play corner for children

Taina Vaitomaa pointed out how important it is to have multi-skilled staff with the right attitude towards change. Communicating inside and outside the organization is important and responsibilities need to be clear. People make the change and this concept is really revolutionary. Ms. Vaitomaa also emphasized the importance of good partnerships and a large network. I warmly recommend to visit the pharmacy and test their service concept in practice and I am looking forward for more of these innovative business ideas!


From left Juha Kronqvist (Senior Service Designer at Diagonal), Tiina Vaitomaa (Proprietary Pharmacist, Ympyrätalon Apteekki), Mikko Koivisto, (Leading Service Designer at Diagonal)

From left Mr. Juha Kronqvist (Senior Service Designer at Diagonal), Mrs. Tiina Vaitomaa (Proprietary Pharmacist, Ympyrätalon Apteekki), Mr. Mikko Koivisto, (Leading Service Designer at Diagonal)

Written by Eliisa Sarkkinen –  Laurea, Helsinki, Finland

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