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Calgary’s Next Economy: Medi-scribe streamlines a pharmacist’s documentation

When pharmacist Lawrence Woo graduated from the University of Alberta in 2020, one of the first things he noticed was the volume of documentation he needed to tackle as a prescriber.

He got his prescribing authority within four months of graduating and worked with a lot of different prescribers.

“I had to spend about an hour extra every day, about two to three hours every week just to catch up on documentation, and oftentimes it wouldn’t catch up,” he said.  

“It would just sit in my drawer, and it would build up and this was just something that, you know, was anxiety provoking from an audit perspective, but also, it caused me to burnout, quite honestly.”

Woo had tried other tools and methods to help stay on top of the work and maintain speed and efficiency.

“Nothing really stuck,” he said.

“There just wasn’t a standardized way of documenting.”

Woo moved to British Columbia to become a pharmacy manager and it was there he realized this was a problem that other pharmacists faced. Plus, it was something that impacted the perception of his work and his ability to deliver high-quality patient care.

He partnered with Nathan Nguyen, studied product management further, and then put together a solution.

It’s called Medi-scribe. They founded the company in 2021. As of April 2023, they were working with 30 pharmacists.

Now they’re ready to roll with the launch of their platform.

The Medi-scribe platform

Woo said the system is geared towards prescribing pharmacists – those who are prescribing or making changes to a patient’s medication.

He said that pharmacists are actually the most accessible healthcare provider in most provinces – particularly in Alberta, where they have a broader range of authority. People can speak directly with them and in many cases, pharmacists can assess the required medication based on straightforward care – like a cold sore or a sprain, Woo said.

“So, as you can imagine, not only is the pharmacist helping walk-in patients, maybe they’re booking appointments, but they’re also verifying prescriptions as well,” he said.

Documentation is a key part of this; not only for medical records and to adhere to professional colleges, but to receive compensation as a fee for service for medical coverage.

Woo said the typical pharmacist must interview, look up drug information, and then document their interaction with each patient. The Medi-Scribe system allows the pharmacist to input the required information instantly.

One of the areas they’ve streamlined is drug information. They’ve condensed the drug information into an easy-to-access readable format that helps take a five-to-10-minute process and turns it into 15 seconds, Woo said.

The information is curated right into their platform.

The unknowns of entrepreneurship

Woo was in Vancouver at the time when they first looked at applying for the Alberta Catalyzer – Velocity program. His business partner Nguyen lived in the city and though they didn’t initially complete the application, they were informed applications were still being accepted.

Other family circumstances brought him back to Calgary and he felt it was a bit serendipitous that it all worked out.

There are a lot of unknowns in being a first-time founder, Woo said. That’s where the program has really helped.

“It’s a lonely path. It’s one with a lot of unknowns, and quite frankly, my network, just through pharmacy school, just didn’t have the right mentorship to really help ask the tough questions to even understand the framework of starting a business,” he said.

Every session they’ve attended has been relevant, Woo said – from understanding how to pitch to defining their customer and then doing marketing.

“So, all these things that really help support founders in early stage like us. It’s been so incredible, really thankful,” he said.

Right now, the goal is to sign up more pharmacists locally onto the Medi-Scribe platform. Beyond that Woo said expansion beyond Canada is possible. After all, pharmacists all over the world face similar documentation issues.

“Pharmacists’ scope is constantly expanding to address primary care shortage like family physicians, so we really think this is this is something that’s only going to continue to grow,” he said.