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New app idea helps pharmacists quickly connect with patients for prescription needs

Waterloo School of Pharmacy students win $5,000 Pharmasave Business prize


The Pharmasave Business Competition awards a third-year Waterloo School of Pharmacy student team a $5,000 prize for an innovative business model in the field of pharmacy.

“Every year, the Pharmasave Business Competition proves pharmacists can be entrepreneurs. Our course and the competition are unique to the School and provide students with the opportunity to practice the skills of entrepreneurship while interacting with the robust start-up ecosystem in our community,” says Dean Pacey, professor at the School of Pharmacy

Students work in teams to develop a startup that solves a current health care issue aligned with Ontario health care regulations. Students pitch their ideas to a panel of pharmacists, entrepreneurs and financial advisors.

The winning team ­— Iryna Zhyrnova, Amanda Nicole Helka and Alli Meyer — took the title with their business, URinCharge. The team focused on connecting patients and pharmacists to solve urgent women’s health issues.

However, minor ailment prescribing is voluntary for pharmacists and only those certified and participating can prescribe medications. Finding participating pharmacists to solve immediate needs remains an issue.

The teams’ app, using GPS location, allows a person experiencing UTI symptoms to connect with a pharmacy of their choice to book an appointment within two hours. The app lists all pharmacies that report they have available appointments to give the patient the option to choose which location and time works best for them.

“Technology is growing exponentially and there seems to be an app for everything on the market. Digital connection is becoming a normal part of everyday life — why not apply an app to something that can help people take charge of their health,” Zhyrnova says.

Once the app matches the user with a pharmacy the patient will receive either a referral to a physician or their prescribed medication, depending on their situation. If the consultation results in a prescription, the patient can then choose their preferred pharmacy to fulfill the prescription.

“Our goal is to help people experiencing UTIs, typically women, get access to care in a way that won’t force them to take time off work and impact their life,” Helka says.

Winning the competition reassured the team that their idea has strong potential for real-world application. With the health care landscape changing, innovative ideas will play a significant role in ensuring a sustainable health-care system"If the last two to three years has taught us anything, it is that the Canadian health care landscape will continue to face disruptive change in the coming decades. This will create tremendous opportunities for innovation and solutions-oriented ideas, both within traditional pharmacy settings and in non-traditional role,” Pacey says.

The team surveyed a group of pharmacists in Ontario to demo the project and provide feedback. “It was amazing to see pharmacists excited about the potential of our idea,” Meyer says.

The team hopes to use the prize money to develop the app with the software engineer and app developer they have been consulting with, once minor ailment prescribing has an uptake in Ontario.

“This project was close to our hearts,” Zhyrnova says. “Historically, women’s health has been understudied and excluded from clinical trials. Side effects and drug metabolism may differ among women and so there is still much left to investigate in that area. It’s so important to advocate for the profession of pharmacy and women.”

The competition funded by Pharmasave is held annually and has led to at least three real-world businesses.

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