What started out as a class assignment has netted a team of six pharmacy students two prestigious wins and $1,750 in prize money. Now there’s another competition ahead—at the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) in October —and the potential for a viable business down the road.
The team took first place and $750 at the Ohio Pharmacists Association (OPA) business plan competition in April and first place and $1,000 in the University of Cincinnati’s (UC) 2014 Innovation Quest Elevator Pitch Competition (IQ E-Pitch Competition). Over 100 teams pitched their ideas to the IQ E-Pitch, which was hosted by UC’s Lindner College of Business.
"We all put in a lot of extra hours and it was interesting how all of our brains came together on this,” says third-year PharmD student Alison Watson, team leader of "My Home Pharmacist”: a business plan the team developed while taking the required business marketing class at UC’s James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy.
On paper, "My Home Pharmacist” is the mockup of a private company that sends pharmacists to a patient’s place of residence whether it be their own home or an independent living community. During the visit, the pharmacist performs many of the same duties that pharmacists now do in retail or clinic settings such as conducting medication reviews, point of care testing and disease state management, says Watson.
"A lot of senior citizens never see a pharmacist face to face … family may pick things up for them or the person gets their medicines by mail or has another delivery service,” she says, adding that there are many other scenarios where a visiting pharmacist would be beneficial. For example, some medicines such as blood thinners now require people to leave home for testing when that could be done on site, she says. In the "My Home Pharmacy” model, the pharmacist would not fill prescriptions, however.
"My Home Pharmacist” is a concept that makes perfect sense and cents, says UC pharmacy alumna Mimi Hart, RPh, (’78) who owns Hart Pharmacy in Price Hill and mentored the team on the financial aspects of the plan.
"I had a great time working with them. They’re poised, they’re brilliant and it’s a great business plan,” Hart says, pointing also to the need for pharmacy students to have a solid grasp not only of science but of how the business of pharmacy operates.
The plan, Watson says, is geared toward helping pharmacies with limited manpower such as independent pharmacies. She points out that changes with the Affordable Care Act regulate rates of reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid based on patient outcomes and adherence, which can place small pharmacies, with fewer staff, at a disadvantage. These independent pharmacies could contract out a company like "My Home Pharmacist” to fill the manpower gaps, says Watson.
It’s too early to tell whether the business plan will become a reality, since the team is currently gearing up for fourth-year clinical rotations and applying for postgraduate residencies … and there’s also the big competition at the NCPA in October.
"We’ve been dominating the competition at OPA for the past four years,” placing in the top three categories each year, says assistant professor Alex Lin, PharmD, who teaches the business management class.
The concept behind "My Home Pharmacist”, Lin says is "practical and feasible and enhanced greatly by the maturity and quality of the team members.”
"Everyone thinks that team projects always fall to a few people, but that was not the case here,” Watson adds.
The Winkle College of Pharmacy team also consists of third-year pharmacy students Caroline Barone, Jessica Hatton, Emily Kolb, Fiona Robertson and Danielle Soriano.