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Pharmi's digital pharmacist informs you about your medication use

Written by Innovation Origins

Written by Innovation Origins

The winners of the Gerard and Anton Awards are highlighted. Today: Pharmi.

The jury of the Gerard and Anton Awards 2022 spoke highly of start-up Pharmi. They called the goals ambitious and well-founded. For founder Claudia Rijcken, however, the award win came as a surprise. "We saw so many good initiatives around us, so we are very proud to have won an award. There's nothing like having your work seen as something innovative."

Pharmi's platform came about in 2019 after Rijcken wrote a book about the future of pharmaceutical care. After years of working in the industry, the entrepreneur developed a vision for healthcare. Medication guidance, she believed, needed to go more often through digital platforms, freeing up more time for much-needed human care tasks. And that did not go unnoticed: at a conference, she was approached by the partner of a CEO of a widely used app in the healthcare sector. Whether she might want to borrow his platform to put it into practice? Soon there were two pharmacies as customers. Later, the platform was renamed Pharmi's self-developed platform MedicijnWijs. In this episode of start-up of the day, Rijcken talks more about that.

Why is your platform important?

"The big problem is that there are fewer and fewer pharmacy staff who can provide all the necessary care and explanations when taking medicine. The healthcare sector has been under pressure for a long time, and that can come at the expense of quality. With the advent of Pharmi, care workers will have to spend less time on practical matters such as explaining how medications work. Many patients feel they can't see the forest for the trees, and pharmacists or doctors often don't have time to explain everything properly. With the advent of MedicineWise, healthcare workers will have to spend less time on easy explanations around medications or will be given tools to more easily facilitate complex counseling such as drug discontinuation. When you've just been told you have an illness, all the details of proper use don't always arrive. Then you want to re-read it later in an easy and metered way."

We want to digitize care where we can, leaving more time for real patient attention.

founder Claudia Rijcken

What problem are you trying to solve?

"People are getting older and older. But the older you are, the more often or longer you get sick and the more care you need. The fact that we are getting older is mainly due to the improvement of medications. Better drugs sometimes also mean more severe side effects so it is important that people are well informed about this. This, in turn, prevents the need for more avoidable care. At least 40,000 people a year unnecessarily end up in the hospital because of avoidable errors in medicine use."

So you are also targeting older people. Are they waiting for digital care?

"Our application is currently being used by about 8,000 people, many of whom are between the ages of 60 and 75. They actually seem to like the digital guidance very much. They are people who still have some time to live and are reasonably used to digital devices. Moreover, they often have time to figure out and understand how their medicines work. Patients over 80 do have a little more difficulty with the application."

What's innovative about the app?

"You have access to various forms of information about a medication. You can find it in text form, in video form or even in conversational form with a digital pharmacist."

"The digital pharmacist is a conversational AI (artificial intelligence) and as an empathetic chatbot can be a godsend for people who cannot read and write. The application also provides digital motivational coaching for patients, which means, for example, you get a compliment if you quit smoking for five days with the help of medication. You then also get to see how much money and life time you saved as a result. In the app, you can also answer questions around your well-being, allowing the pharmacist to better guide you remotely in your home situation as a patient. "

"The app is driven on a data analysis. Based on this data, the use of medication can be optimized even more. Right now we mainly see how the app is used but in the future you can also see, for example, whether or not there are side effects and what the effect of the drug is. In this way, fewer mistakes will be made."

To whom do you offer MedicijnWijs?

"Community pharmacists, pharmaceutical home care organizations and hospital outpatient pharmacies are currently working with MedicijnWijs. They pay a fee to use our platform. The service for patients is free and included with the medicine. We are working toward further and further reimbursement for the technology. In the future, we expect to be able to offer some modules also to, for example, the mental health sector, dentists and psychiatry. In addition, we have started a pilot in Belgium and in the future we want to offer the platform to other countries in Europe as well. It is technically scalable at least in that direction."


What are your biggest challenges?

"In terms of technological developments, we still need to tinker with our digital pharmacist the most. In healthcare, you have to be sure they give the right answer and don't accidentally say something about a different drug. That takes time and a lot of attention to safety and precision. Achieving that accuracy with artificial intelligence is still a challenge."

"Furthermore, there are a number of hurdles in the healthcare system. After all, it's not just a platform we're integrating, but a whole new way of delivering care. That transformation goes very low. You notice that priorities are often still elsewhere. It also takes a fair amount of software capacity to connect this platform to existing systems. Finding people who can build it is proving to be a challenge. Getting reimbursement for our solution is also often still difficult. We do get a lot of praise from health insurers, but mere appreciation is not enough to make it a reality. We are very happy with the amount we have raised, but building an entire platform in an innovative way is not a cheap little project."


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