Pharmacy student explores health-tech role with co-op term

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Kevin Choi in a lab coatTechnology plays many roles in health-care delivery. Through the co-op program, Waterloo Pharmacy students explore these roles.

That’s what Kevin Choi (right) did with his winter 2021 work term with Pharmapod. Pharmapod, a Dublin-based company with operations in Canada, is a software company founded by pharmacist and entrepreneur Leonora O’Brien. Their product helps health-care practitioners measure and reduce patient safety incidents in pharmacy settings. In Ontario, Pharmapod is the software selected by the Ontario College of Pharmacists for reporting medication incidents.

“I knew I was interested in a less traditional pharmacy setting for my co-op term,” says Kevin, a second-year pharmacy student. “I’d learned about Pharmapod in one of my first-year courses, and I knew working with them would give me the opportunity to interact with a diverse team and familiarize myself with provincial regulations.”

Kevin worked from home for the term, collaborating with Pharmapod’s team both in Canada and in Dublin. They worked around time zone differences, with Kevin supporting both internal teams like marketing and technology teams and external health-care providers like the staff in long-term care residences and pharmacies.

“Working from home was challenging and felt isolating at times, but it was exciting to be working during this time as well, as I got to contribute to projects dealing with COVID-19,” he says.

Pharmapod introduced new content related to COVID-19, and Kevin worked on features that were designed to help pharmacies, long-term care homes and hospitals document steps in the COVID-19 testing process.  He supported digitizing the COVID-19 vaccination and rapid antigen testing processes, and built paperless tools that would allow pharmacists and other software users to book appointments, conduct vaccination and testing, and document results and follow-ups.

His day-to-day responsibilities also included writing articles to help users more efficiently make use of the incident reporting platform, interacting with health-care professionals across Canada, and providing input on the design of various clinic services supported by Pharmapod, such as minor ailments assessment, antigen testing and more. One project he worked on was building a tool for minor ailment prescribing.

“I had to consider how the tool would benefit patients and make information easy to understand, while also balancing the need to reduce redundancy for the pharmacist using it,” Kevin says. “I had discussions with pharmacists in different provinces and used their input to design an app that suited both the needs of patients and pharmacists.”

Working at a tech company was a unique experience for Kevin, who had only previously worked in community pharmacy settings.

“Working with diverse experts, I found I was able to apply both my clinical and patient-centred care knowledge,” he says. “It was so rewarding to be able to test the apps and features I’d been working on all term and to see them ready for use.”

Kevin’s still early in his pharmacy journey, but he’s not ruling out a health-tech company as a career goal.

“This co-op term was refreshing as it gave me a taste of the non-traditional business aspect of pharmacy,” he says. “I want to experience a variety of roles before narrowing down my career goals, but I can see myself in a role like this in the future, especially given the increasing role of technology in pharmacy.”

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