The Pharmasave Business Competition is held annually and has led to three real-world businesses
A third-year University of Waterloo student team from the School of Pharmacy has won a $5,000 prize for their ‘innovative business model in the field of pharmacy.’
Held annually, the Pharmasave Business Competition allows students to work in teams to develop a startup that solves a current healthcare issue aligned with Ontario healthcare regulations by pitching their ideas to a panel of pharmacists, entrepreneurs, and, financial advisors.
“Every year, the Pharmasave Business Competition proves pharmacists can be entrepreneurs,” said Dean Pacey, adjunct lecturer at the School of Pharmacy. “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.”
This year’s 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, surveying a group of pharmacists in Ontario to demo the project and provide feedback.
While Ontario pharmacists can prescribe for minor ailments, it’s voluntary and only those certified and participating can prescribe medications, which can make finding participating pharmacists to solve immediate ailments an issue.
“Technology is growing exponentially and there seems to be an app for everything on the market,” Zhyrnova said “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?”
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 work best for them.
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 said. “If the last two to three years has taught us anything, it is that the Canadian healthcare landscape will continue to face disruptive change in the coming decades.”
Winning the competition reassured the team that their idea has strong potential for real-world application; the competition has led to at least three real-world businesses in the past.
“It was amazing to see pharmacists excited about the potential of our idea,” Meyer said.
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 said. “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.”