Disrupting pharmacy with world-first PharmHack

Pharmacy as an industry needs to acknowledge change and respond – or pre-empt – it with innovation, says Sabrine Elkhodr, pharmacist and founder of PharmHack, the world’s first pharmacy hackathon.

“We tend to hold onto tradition, as a profession,” Elkhodr told the AJP. “We like to hold onto what we know. We’re a bit risk averse.

“It’s a highly regulated industry and the idea of tech disruption is relatively new in pharmacy. And in 10 to 15 years’ time, when potentially the industry may be partly deregulated, pharmacists will need more than a role as just dispensers – and we really need to look at how that business model is going to operate.

“We want to acknowledge that the coming generation of pharmacists have a different way of looking at the profession and themselves as pharmacists; we need to own that and make the most of that energy, passion and activity.”

Hackathons – a time-pressured, intense, business technology competition – have been taking place for some time in a variety of industries, with teams going on in some cases to create successful and high-earning businesses as a result.

But pharmacy is yet to benefit from this kind of innovation, says Elkhodr.

“Basically you’ve got two days to come up with an idea, you organically form a team, usually with a bunch of different industry experts, from software designers to engineers. Then you build a working prototype within 36 hours.

“By the end, you’ve got a product that’s working and can actually be launched and tested. They’re very popular in the startup world.

“And I think that for pharmacy, it’s time to start bringing in different, innovative ways of doing things that we haven’t done before.”

Elkhodr told the AJP that PharmHack, which will take place from April 15 to 17, has already had a number of signups and that the initiative is now looking for cross-sector collaboration: “This isn’t just about saying, ‘hey pharmacists, here’s a software engineer and a developer, lets’ go,’ but also we want Government, Guild, PSA and pharma represented at this event,” she says.

Ultimately, Elkhodr says she hopes to bring game-changing technology to pharmacy to improve consumer health.

“How can we bring technology into a profession that hasn’t been disrupted as much as many others over the last couple of years?” she says. “How do we collect data, bring it to the consumer, make professional services really work in a business sense and improve health outcomes?

“It’s all about integrating technology into a profession that has so much to give, but hasn’t been given the opportunity to do so.”

Pharmhack will take place at Fishburners (Australia’s largest startup coworking space) and at its conclusion will give participants the opportunity to pitch for investment as well as prizes.

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