Pharmacists are trained to think critically and creatively. This precise demeanor and skillset also lends itself well to running a business.
Historically, entrepreneurship has been hailed as a highly regarded profession. Innovation and technology is the backbone of the US economy.
I recently spoke with 3 pharmacist entrepreneurs who are harnessing the power of the Internet to build innovative new businesses that better serve their patients. As the saying goes, success leaves clues, and I noted the following 10 key traits that each of these successful “pharmapreneurs” share.
1. Pharmapreneurs draw inspiration from their unique experiences.
PillPack CEO and Co-Founder TJ Parker, PharmD, felt called to the pharmacy profession as he watched his father build and grow their long-term care pharmacy. In pharmacy school, he became interested in technology and entrepreneurship. His dream was to design a pharmacy that married his interests and simplified the patient experience.
Dr. Parker became involved in learning about design and technology at the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There, he had the opportunity to collaborate with students in the technology and business programs.
This led him to meet Elliot Cohen, who helped him realize his dream of combining technology, design, and pharmacy, which culminated in co-founding PillPack in 2013.
3. Pharmapreneurs use technology to reach more patients in new ways.
Dr. Parker and Cohen both focus on removing barriers for patients who take multiple medications. Simplifying regimens, making recommendations, and providing excellent customer service and access to pharmacists are the keys to the service’s success. Patients can even use the PillPack website to set up medication reminders.
PillPack is revolutionizing the patient-pharmacy experience. When asked what advice he would give to aspiring entrepreneurs, Dr. Parker firmly stated that “going after your dream is achievable; the hardest part is getting started.”
4. Pharmapreneurs strive to advance the practice of pharmacy through their unique skillsets.
Michael Case Haub, PharmD, BC-ADM, spent years helping a community pharmacy develop its clinical programs, point-of-care testing models, and pharmacy residency programs. His success at that pharmacy led him to a job at OutcomesMTM as the director of network performance.
By drawing upon his retail experience, Dr. Case Haub was able to bring a pharmacist’s perspective to large payer groups.
5. Pharmapreneurs are adaptive to change.
Dr. Case Haub is the founder of an independent MTM support business called Case Haub Consulting. His network of more than 100 pharmacists offers operational support and helps streamline comprehensive medication review into an efficient and manageable process for the busy community pharmacist.
MTM interventions give pharmacists a chance to stretch their clinical muscles in the retail setting. When speaking about the importance of pharmacist-led MTM, Dr. Case Haub agreed that “resolving drug issues and optimizing medication therapy is the purest form of pharmacy between a patient and pharmacist.”
6. Pharmapreneurs view taking action to achieve their dreams as an exciting challenge.
Izabella Wentz, PharmD, FASCP, is the New York Times bestselling author of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause.
Her journey began when she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and started looking for answers to her own health questions. She built her website in May 2013 in order to share her knowledge.
“Since I couldn’t find the information I needed, I decided to compile it into one place,” Dr. Wentz said. “I was blown away by the response I got from other who were looking for answers, as well. The Thyroid Pharmacist community has really become such a great support system for people that suffer from thyroid disorders.”
7. Pharmapreneurs don’t listen to naysayers.
When she first launched her website, Dr. Wentz was hesitant to reveal her identity because she was worried that it would somehow interfere with her job or personal life. After she released her book and discovered that readers found it helpful, she decided to take a chance and to become the Thyroid Pharmacist in order to help more people.
“I am so glad that I decided to put a bit myself into the brand,” she said. “The thing that initially was my biggest fear has actually turned into one of the greatest opportunities.”
8. Pharmapreneurs are proactive in helping others and building support systems.
Owning up to her role as a pharmacist involved in patient care has helped Dr. Wentz educate more than 200,000 patients and providers about thyroid disorder through her wildly popular online community. She is doing great things for the profession of pharmacy.
9. Pharmapreneurs aren’t afraid to adjust to market demands.
Pharmacists can insert themselves into the health care equation by offering solutions to patients and payers. We have a unique set of skills that allows us to bridge the gap between lifestyle interventions and medications recommendations.
It may seem counterintuitive, but many clinical pharmacists are actually trained to remove unnecessary medications and look for untreated conditions.
10. Pharmapreneurs know that innovation takes courage.
The world of pharmacy needs innovative ideas from pharmacists like Dr. Parker, Dr. Case Haub, and Dr. Wentz, but entrepreneurship can be a difficult road.
These 3 pharmapreneurs were willing to take the path less traveled and create new opportunities. They found new ways to impact their patients and move the profession forward.
Pharmacy needs to continue to grow and innovate in order to secure a seat at tomorrow’s health care table. Pharmacists like Dr. Parker, Dr. Case Haub, and Dr. Wentz are needed to help extend the reach of pharmacists. These pharmapreneurs are making a difference in patient’s lives and changing the face of the profession.
Blair Thielemier, PharmD
Blair Green Thielemier, PharmD is an independent consultant pharmacist living in Arkansas with her husband and daughter. Her latest project is the first-ever virtual pharmacy conference, the Elevate Pharmacy Virtual Summit. She is also the founder of Pharmapreneur Academy, an online e-Course and Community where she guides pharmacist-entrepreneurs through the process and barriers of building a pharmacy consulting business. She is the author of How to Build a Pharmacy Consulting Business, a contributing author for Skidki-na-vse and guest host on the Pharmacy Podcast. More information about Dr. Thielemier can be found on her website.