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IT WAS 9am on a Sunday morning, and you could sense the anticipation on the faces of young (and not-so young), eager and enthusiastic pharmacists gathered at The Oak Hall by iSpace, Petaling Jaya.

After all, the venue was hosting Malaysia’s first Pharmacy Tech and Innovation Summit, Pharmacy Revolution 4.0 Summit 2018, which took place last week.

Pharmacy Revolution 4.0 specifically refers to the digitalisation and automation of the industry, and it is one that encompasses the entire chain of the business, from supply to sales.

Organised by the Malaysian Community Pharmacy Guild (MCPG) in conjunction with its 13th Annual General Meeting, the event was a platform for pharmacists and business owners to learn and network with tech players, entrepreneurs and investors to gain insights into the future of technology, artificial intellegence, big data, internet of things, 3D printing and mobile technologies.

More than 300 delegates were in attendance, and they were treated to indepth insights shared by speakers specially invited to the event: Dr Dzaharudin Mansor, National Technology Officer, Microsoft; Farouk Meralli, CEO and Founder, mClinia; Prof Dr Rofina Yasmin Othman, Faculty of Science, Universiti Malaya; and Mitsuaki Shimada, President, Pfercos Co Ltd and Executive Director of Japan Pharmaceutical.

The speakers touched on a variety of subjects that impact the pharmaceutical industry, from Dr Dzaharudin’s Industrial Revolution 4.0: Challenges and Opportunities in the Pharmaceutical World, Meralli’s Mobile Technology Transformation of Pharmacy Professional’s Conduct to Prof Dr Rofina Yasmin’s 3D Printing in Community Pharmacies – Opportunities & Challenges and Shimada’s Progress of Mechanised Dispensing of Drugs in Japan.

According to Dr Dzaharudin Mansor, National Technology Officer, Microsoft, most of these technologies have existed for quite some time, and it’;s actually the use and application of such technologies that have changed.

Secretary General of the Ministry of Health Malaysia, Datuk Seri Dr Chen Chaw Min officiated the event.

As Organising Chairman of the event, and President of MCPG, Lovy Beh, noted: “Information technology has completely changed our lifestyles and the way we work. We cannot afford to be disconnected from the digital world. In today’s digitalised era, known globally as the 4th industrial revolution, technology can boost businesses by enhancing productivity.”

Beh aptly questioned how we can use such technology to enhance our daily lives as well as businesses, to make use of such advancements for our betterment.

She noted that many small and medium-sized businesses need to explore the opportunities and challenges thrown up by this 4th revolution.

“That’s why we are organising this event, because we see a need and demand for our members. Pharmacies and businesses need to embrace this revolution to remain competitive in the market.”

Beh noted that although the initial cost of automating and digitalising a business could be a challenge for small businesses, there are ways to overcome this.

Her observations were echoed and reinforced by the Health Minstry’s Secretary General.

According to Dr Chen, the Government and the private sector have already started embracing the challenges of the 4th industrial revolution, citing examples that included the ministry’s pharmacy information system. “We have to embrace it. We have to change and cannot remain static,” he emphasised.

Dr Dzaharudin pointed out the relevance of all four industrial revolutions that have hugely impacted our lives.

The first one, which took place in the 18th to 19th centuries, saw societies becoming more industrial and urban, with the development of the steam engine playing a central role.

The second was a period of consolidation for pre-existing industries as well as expansion into new ones, such as steel, oil and electricity.

The third saw the advancement of technology from analog to digital technology with the creation of the personal computer, the internet, and information and communications technology.

The fourth and current one builds on the third, with new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies.

“Most of these technologies have existed for quite some time,” noted Dr Dzaharudin. “It’s actually the use and application of such technologies that have changed.

“And this has enabled ‘small’ companies to have a big impact, such as Uber and Netflix. They leverage technology to create business models that are now challenging established practices,” he observed.

Garvy Beh, CEO of Doctor2U.

One local example of taking advantage of such technology and using it to create a different business model is Doctor2U. In essence, it’s an app that connects users to doctors.

In a nutshell, Doctor2U offers telemedicine services (consultation or facetime with a doctor), homecare (consultation with a doctor, medication delivery and ambulance service), E-commerce (health products and services) and medical records (manage, upload and view).

According to CEO of Doctor2U, Garvy Beh, “We have over 450,000 users, and it’s currently available in Malaysia, Singapore and the Phillipines.

“Our main feature in Malaysia, for this particular theme of Pharmacy Revolution 4.0, is a pharmacy feature in our app that deals with medication delivery,” he revealed.

“It’s kind of like Uber for medicine,” he said. “You go into the app, select medication delivery and the location it is to be delivered. You need to take a picture of your prescription and key in a few details, and we will deliver the medication to you within the day. The feature is available for the public. Anyone with a valid prescription can use it.”

Garvy added: “These days, consumers want a convenient, fast and cheap service, even in healthcare. That’s the pharmacy portion of the app.

“We also have a very cool feature using AI in the app where the app can remind you when you should take your medicines.”

According to Garvy, the pharmacy portion of the app is just one of the many services that can be accessed. “You can ‘order’ a doctor, physio, nursing, ambulance … anything that can bring healthcare to your doorstep, we can deliver to you.

“We also have EMR (electronic medical records). You can view your lab results, radiology report, etc on the app. After the result is out, you can consult one of our doctors about the result, and what it means.”

It’s clear that the pace of change has certainly picked up with the 4th industrial revolution.

If we don’t adapt, we might well be left far, far behind…

The Pharmacy Revolution 4.0 Summit received support from BP Healthcare and other sponsors.

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