Healthtech startup ScalaMed wants to help patients manage their own prescriptions

- November 29, 2017 4 MIN READ

Though one may think it makes sense for medical professionals to share information about patients, the reality is bureaucracy and the use of old-school tech tools and methods mean that, more often than not, a specialist is sending a snail-mail letter to a patient’s GP outlining the outcome of a visit.

As many would know, these methods are not only inefficient, but can lead to issues if various healthcare professionals treating a particular patient do not have access to up-to-date information around their various treatments.

Looking to address this issue and help patients own their healthcare data is ScalaMed, founded by Dr Tal Rapke.

For Rapke, the journey to helping patients manage their health simply and conveniently, on the go, starts with medication management. As Rapke explained it, ScalaMed is in effect a “digital prescription inbox”, secured by blockchain technology, which patients can access from their smartphone and share with their treating doctors and pharmacists.

The platform aims to solve the myriad problems around medication management, or mismanagement, as the case may be: a 2010 study from PwC found that approximately 50 percent of patients don’t take their medications as prescribed by their healthcare professional. The impacts of medication non-adherence can be significant, resulting in hospital admissions; avoidable hospital admissions, PwC found, are estimated to cost the Australian healthcare system $660 million per year.

“We identified a gap where a next-generation technology could improve the experience of medication management and increase adherence. By allowing patients to securely store their prescriptions digitally, doing away with paper, we can reduce medication errors, allergy mix ups and unnecessary hospitalisations, while giving patients their prescription history and information and improving the convenience and ease of managing and purchasing one’s prescriptions,” Rapke explained.

Having worked in hospital wards as a doctor and in business and innovation roles across the health sector, including seven years at pharmaceutical company Sanofi, Rapke said he was able to experience healthcare from a variety of perspectives, which led him to realise how “obscured” the patient and their needs have become.

“As an industry, healthcare in general, is organ and enterprise-focused, largely non-holistic, and lacking in consumer-centered design thinking. My passion has been to try to reorient healthcare towards the patient and empower patients with their data seamlessly while addressing the quadruple aim of health – improved health outcomes, reduced cost, improved patient experience, and reduced paperwork for providers,” Rapke said.

The idea for ScalaMed came after Rapke was introduced to blockchain technology on a sabbatical year; he decided to explore it further and develop the concept in Israel, spurred on by personal and family health issues that helped hit home the need for a better solution around medication management.

For patients, ScalaMed works by downloading the app, and then adding their prescribing doctors to the app. In consulting with their doctor, in person or remotely, they can receive a prescription direct to their app, where they can then read about the prescription and information around the medication and how to use it.

The patient can then go to the pharmacy – with the app also showing them the one closest to them – or send their prescription script to their pharmacy via the app to have their medication ready for pick up, or request a home delivery if offered by the pharmacy.

For a doctor or other healthcare professional, ScalaMed can plug into existing prescribing and clinical software, allowing them to prescribe medication as usual, with the script then just sent to the patient’s phone. The healthcare professional is able to see the patient’s medication history through the app, send notes and messages directly to the patient, and recall prescriptions.

“ScalaMed can improve the accuracy and reduce the time required in history gathering from patients. The average patient has more than one GP, they may also see specialists, or require hospital admission at various times,” Rapke said.

“At all those points of care, patients receive prescriptions. Ensuring a patient’s record is up to date is a time consuming and error prone process for clinicians; however, through ScalaMed’s app, patients can effortlessly share their verified prescription history with their treating physician.”

Meanwhile, a pharmacy too can integrate ScalaMed into their dispensing software, receiving scripts via their digital inbox. As scripts arrive the pharmacy simply pulls them into their dispensing software and then goes about their work as usual.

“Pharmacists can easily perform medicine reviews, and can have trust in the verity of the prescriptions, as ScalaMed’s blockchain technology system reduces the opportunity for fraudulent prescriptions,” Rapke explained.

With an MVP grant from the NSW Government and funding from angel investors, Rapke said clinicians and pharmacists have been “true partners” in the development of ScalaMed.

“Pharmacists and clinicians are incredibly busy professionals. Anything that can be done to lighten their work, help them offer improved care to their patients or customers, improve health outcomes and help patients self manage their care has been enthusiastically supported,” he said.

When it comes to the blockchain tech underpinning the system, Rapke said the startup considers it “the equivalent of a next generation Intel chip – it’s under the hood”.

“Clearly, blockchain is a complex technology, but the questions we have from doctors and pharmacists are usually around security, ease of use, administration burden and how difficult the system is to use, rather than questions around how the technology works,” Rapke explained.

To get patients on board, ScalaMed is having clinics advertise the fact they offer digital prescriptions in their offices.

There is a local competitor working in this space, with the ASX-listed MedAdvisor also allowing patients to receive and re-order scripts from doctors and connect to a pharmacy to have them filled. The company reports it has 150,000 users on board.

As it looks to grow, ScalaMed will be rolling the product out to a handful of clinics in the first quarter of 2018 and running a clinical study, while also exploring partnership agreements globally.

Had enough of all the startup buzzwords? So have we. That’s why we’re asking the startups we chat to to send us a video where they pitch their business in a way that’s easy enough for even the most technophobic of grandparents to understand:


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Image: Dr Tal Rapke. Source: Supplied.

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