Editor's Note: This story first appeared in the fall 2017 issue of Concordian, the official magazine of Concordia University Wisconsin. View a PDF version of the magazine here.
It didn’t take Brian Trinh, Pharm.D., MBA, (’16) long to figure out there’s room for improvement in the way many pharmacies are administering medication.
A graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin’s School of Pharmacy and Batterman School of Business, Trinh has spent the last two years serving hundreds of individuals, first as an intern and now in Alaska as an outpatient pharmacy manager for the U.S. Army.
In that time, a concerning theme became apparent to Trinh: Patients who are older or who have complex diseases quickly lose track of their medications and can provide pharmacists with little of the vital insight needed to properly care for them. And because Trinh, like most pharmacists, didn’t have access to patients’ health records, he said he often felt at a loss as to how he could more fully help.
“I have dealt with a number of patients that come to our window today, and they’re still picking up upwards of 20 medications,” Trinh said. “It’s hard to help them manage that load if I don’t have access to their health records. It makes no sense why the people who manage your medications don’t have any idea what your last labs were or how you’re doing on your disease management.”
So Trinh decided to come up with a solution. Two years ago, he approached his School of Pharmacy professor, Dr. Christian Albano, with a cost-effective remedy for consumers and pharmacies alike.
The American Medication Management Concern
Data from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores highlights some of the concerns the MedSync-RX team aims to help address with their app:
- 80–85% of prescriptions are not refilled as prescribed
- 70–75% of prescriptions are not taken properly
- 34–52% of prescriptions are not picked up from a pharmacy
- 30–50% of prescriptions are not relayed to a pharmacy
The solution comes in the form of an app, called MedSync-RX, which would synchronize the medication pick-up schedule for patients with multiple prescriptions and integrate with the computerized medical records system already in place in hospitals. The app relies on patients to input their data. An algorithm then configures a fill schedule for pharmacists, allowing patients to collect their prescriptions with one trip every 30, 60, or 90 days.
There’s a clear need for the product, says Albano. Currently, pharmacies have staff who are manually creating schedules or relying upon electronic spreadsheets.
“This technology can help structure pharmacists’ workflow and increase the amount of time they can devote to patient care,” Albano says. “This is not just helping individual patients, but decreasing overall costs and improving quality of care.”
That’s a concept that strikes a chord with Dr. Sharon Chappy, dean of Concordia’s School of Nursing. Two years ago, around the time Albano and Trinh began their collaboration, Chappy was nurturing her own idea on how to allow hospitalized patients to have access to their electronic plan of care as a “safety check” to assure they were getting the right medication and having the correctly ordered tests and procedures. Not long after, Chappy joined the team, offering insights from her 38 years as a registered nurse in the operating room, as well as an academic nurse researcher exploring safety issues affecting patients.
The trio began participating in entrepreneurial programs that promised startup coaching and prize money. Programs included the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s SBIR Advance program, and I-Corps, part of the National Science Foundation’s National Innovation Network—a gold standard for accelerating research ideas into the marketplace.
The MedSync-RX group also participated in two of Concordia’s own accelerators: CU Launch, which is now in its third year, and the Concordia Medication Management Accelerator,* an inaugural effort that is the result of a partnership between Concordia’s School of Pharmacy and Batterman School of Business.
The team has received more than $5,000 through the competitions. The three innovators themselves have offered up the lion’s share of the funding for the project—more than $40,000.
After years of work, the group has reached a pivotal point in its product development process. Beta-testing stages are now underway, and the Minimal Viable Product is nearly complete. The innovators hope to do a soft launch soon.
They also recently signed on CUW Associate Professor of Computer Science Dr. Michael Litman as a partner. Litman brings more than 12 years of experience in software engineering, nearly 11 of those years as president and CEO of his own software development company that specializes in mobile application design and development for businesses.
“We talk a lot at Concordia about leading lives of service to Christ,” said Chappy. “To me, this is one pragmatic way we can serve others, and I hope our students can be inspired to use their gifts and think about the ways they can pursue their own innovative approaches to service.”
Entrepreneurial thinking runs the gamut at Concordia. Undergraduates, faculty, and alumni representing programs in more than half of CUW’s six academic schools are making good on their inspired ideas.
Tones for Life, LLC
Murdy Global, LLC
The fall 2017 Concordian magazines hit mailboxes the first week of October. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, call 734-995-7317.
— Kali Thiel is director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-243-2149.
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