Pharmacy Technology and Community
By Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD
Who has not heard the expression that pharmacy is a small world? I have said that phrase numerous times. Heck, I even bet a new venture on it. But now I beg to differ. Many examples of colleagues bumping into each other years after parting ways have been overshadowed by a vast, hyper-changing world of pharmacy I have tried to get to know more intimately. And as I dive deeper into learning more about the industry, the realization of my knowledge gap feels significant.
Does pharmacy need a connecting platform of its own?
It may not be a necessity. The ever-changing job market, coupled with the speed at which pharmacy industry information is delivered, and the opioid epidemic in the United States compounded by COVID-19, supported by a significant shift in how people consume information and connect online, creates the perfect environment for the RPhAlly Platform.
How is the opioid epidemic relevant to a platform that connects pharmacy professionals? RPhAlly started with an idea to aid in the opioid epidemic. The pharmacist who is not familiar with the patients and prescribers in the area has a more challenging time dispensing scheduled (controlled) drugs, like opioid medications, because they do not know the prescribing patterns of the prescribers. Checking the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (“PDMP”) is the primary tool a pharmacist should use to check the patient’s history for controlled substance prescriptions. A clean PDMP report with no doctor shopping and no early fills states just that. A clean PDMP report does not always equate to a legitimate prescription. A deceitful drug seeker may be intelligent and able to fly under the radar by only using one doctor and knowing to fill the prescription when due to be filled. This scenario proves that as technology has improved, the criminals seeking these drugs have become more sophisticated.
RPhAlly Prescriber Review
The RPhAlly Prescriber Review is a platform where pharmacists can share their professional opinions on prescribers related to the legitimacy of controlled substance prescriptions. Pharmacists have dispensed too many controlled substance prescriptions with zero knowledge of the prescribing provider. I have been in that situation too many times to count when I worked in the community pharmacy setting and picked up floating shifts on the other side of the city. This idea of creating an app where pharmacists share knowledge about prescribers made perfect sense. But getting the tech into the pharmacists’ hands proved to be a challenge, so the vision of RPhAlly quickly pivoted to be something much bigger.
The Prescriber Review needed infrastructure to support its very existence. After searching high and low on other social media platforms, I concluded that pharmacy could support its own platform. There are countless pharmacy groups, businesses, pages, and pharmacy professionals scattered everywhere on social media. Many of these bring tremendous value to the profession. And remember, I still thought pharmacy was a small world. So, we threw all our capsules into one bottle and got to work. At this point, an MBA might have helped us get to launch more strategically and efficiently. Terms like value proposition, MVP (minimal viable product), SWOT analysis, and user habits were not a part of my vocabulary but quickly became my world. How I learned these terms are a great lesson and possibly evidence for the justification of the existence of RPhAlly.
Connecting with colleagues, subject matter experts, and innovators
Connecting with colleagues, subject matter experts, and innovators taught me the real-life lessons I needed to keep building and moving forward. By connecting, I don’t mean clicking a connection request and sending a couple of direct messages back and forth. Introduction emails with a proposal and then jumping on a call or video meeting almost always led to additional follow-ups. The collaboration created new ideas, and new friendships formed. And making new friendships with colleagues moving in the same direction has been the most rewarding part of this new venture. These new friendships have also helped shape the vision and value proposition of RPhAlly as well.
RPhAlly started with a naïve, grand vision. If we could capture the pharmacy nation, the recruiting market that Indeed.com and LinkedIn own would follow. That revenue could be pumped back into the profession to create real, positive change. But anything great takes time. And if you think about how long LinkedIn has been around, the original vision may come to fruition in a decade or two, if ever. Then during a whiteboard session one evening, the value proposition came sharply into focus. We have many innovative members with their niches and products, providing great value and creating opportunities and solutions. That’s it! So, we quickly built a solutions page to house all the positively impacting businesses, products, and services so colleagues can easily search for the solutions they require.
RPhAlly Solutions directory
The RPhAlly Solutions directory is great for pharmacy owners. There are pages for monetizing market-level data, diversifying revenue, streamlining the logistics of purchasing cheaper products, marketing, communications platforms for patients and providers, inventory management tools, and other pharmacy consultants. Pharmacist coaches are also starting to fill up the solutions page, which is excellent as pharmacy school lacks the training to go off on our own AND many pharmacists currently feel stuck in their roles with no room for growth. Whether you are trying to build your pharmacy brand or branch off into oncology, PGx consulting, or functional medicine, some fellow pharmacists have done this themselves and are now teaching other pharmacists to do it with great programs.
RPhAlly is full of features to help streamline connecting, sharing, and learning. A live feed is the home page upon logging in that works like any other social media feed. Members post about news, stories, articles, podcasts, and whatever is post-worthy in the profession. The group feature provides pharmacist-specific groups, professional organizations, pharmacy technicians, and others that allow a professional to engage with like-minded colleagues. Catching up on pharmacy news is easy with the news aggregator. The events feature provides an additional platform to promote live and virtual events to your targeted audience. The Jobs and Opportunities board is a great place to post if you’re looking for the next employee, job, or mentor. And if pharmacy podcasts are your primary source of content, the Pharmacy Podcast Network is hooked up through the website and app.
“RPhAlly is a wonderful resource for anyone in the pharmacy profession. It is a resource I use almost daily. I like having a space dedicated just to pharmacy and uncluttered by other industries. I also like all the capabilities that RPhAlly has. I can not only network and share posts, but the media center is probably my favorite part. Now within my group, I can share my favorite articles, studies, downloads in one simply, easy to use space that is well organized. This platform has it all and is nearly always open in my browser!” – Dr. Jamie Wilkey, PharmD.
Dr. Jamie Wilkey, PharmD
Designing, building, launching, and connecting with colleagues are the achievements of RPhAlly. Marketing and acceptance are the biggest hurdles. On average, it takes a person viewing an ad [X] times before clicking to learn more. Then the CTR (click-through rate) factors in with people hitting the join button. Don’t forget, pharmacy is a small world. So, all this marketing should be easy. Oh, please note that pharmacists possess a scientific mind and make decisions based on data, which RPhAlly doesn’t have. Social media advertising is not an easy playing field and can be costly. User habits are a complicated equation to crack (I’m not a fan of the term USER HABITS).
A brilliant startup consultant advised on the research required to go forward. I am glad that I did not put in the effort needed to analyze all the data. If I had, the most likely conclusion would have been that the new venture is too costly and has a significant likelihood of failure. Without throwing all our capsules into one bottle, I wouldn’t have made the new connections and friendships on which one can’t put a price tag.
If you are a pro-pharmacy professional, a pharmacy innovator, or a pharmacy professional seeking hope in a changing landscape, join RPhAlly. Be part of a growing community that will help usher in positive change for the profession. We built RPhAlly for the professionals who care about our profession. Navigating a career in a rapidly changing environment can be difficult. And when it is who you know rather than what you know, it pays to connect and network with like-minded colleagues. Please remember, connecting is putting forth the effort to get to know your colleagues. Build trust. Build confidence in yourself and others. When it comes time for adding a position, partner, or collaborator, people are more likely to choose a person they know and trust. – Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD
Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD
This is a great app that Pharmacists can use to connect. It’s way better than sifting through the normal apps like LinkedIn because everyone works in pharmacy.
Some super cool features that they are always working to update and provide that just make this so enjoyable and great space on the internet for us!!!!
Love it!” – Eric Geyer, PharmD, The Political Pharmacist podcast host.
Eric Geyer, PharmD
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