The role of the pharmacist has changed significantly in the last 70 years — from being a medicine maker and dispenser to a patient-centered, clinical professional (1).
In that same period of time, we’ve seen the rise of the Internet and social media, which have created a global community that continues to redefine how we connect, communicate, and interact with our social circles and the people in the world around us. It has also significantly improved our ability to source and consume information and to connect with our professional peers across the globe.
Social networks are not new; in fact, LinkedIn and Facebook have existed for over 15 years. But more recently, we have seen the rise of social professional networks for specific professions, particularly for physicians. These networks, or virtual communities, are fundamentally shifting the way physicians communicate, collaborate, and educate themselves.
And yet as we see time and time again, the technology and innovation have focused disproportionately on physicians. None of these social professional networks exist exclusively for pharmacists despite the fact that their needs are very much the same.
Why the Rise of Social Professional Networks in Healthcare?
These communities of peers foster collaboration, education and community strengthening opportunities, all for the benefits of the professionals’ competency and ultimately patient health outcomes. They facilitate not only professional networking but also rapid knowledge sharing, access to industry thought leaders, and evidence-based practice.
By simply using an app on their mobile phone, physicians can get expert opinions from their peers on patient care. They can read the latest scientific journals related to their practice, and share relevant news with their peers. They can more easily identify new career opportunities in their community.
Doximity, for example, is a US-based professional network for physicians and advanced-practice clinicians that counts over 600,000 physicians as users, or approximately 7 out of 10 of those in the United States (2). Sermo is the largest global network exclusive for physicians at nearly 800,000 users from 96 specialties. SocialMD and MDLinx are just a few of the other networks that have shown great initial success.
The Need for a Social Professional Network Exclusive for Pharmacists
In Southeast Asia, pharmacists play a critical role in the provision of public health. They are medicine experts and often the first source of medical information for the people. They are true front-line public health workers that wear the hats of primary care practitioners, gatekeepers of quality control, and watchdogs in the reporting of counterfeit drugs.
Social enterprise mClinica recognized this need for a digital community of pharmacists across Southeast Asia and created SwipeRx, a mobile app that connects pharmacy professionals across the region onto a common platform.
SwipeRx: An exclusive Pharmacy professional network
Since its launch in January 2017, SwipeRx has become the largest network exclusively for pharmacy professionals in Asia, counting more than 59,000 users across Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia.
Its success has been overwhelmingly positive; in fact, 1 in every 4 pharmacy professionals in Indonesia is on the platform, 1 in every 4 in Cambodia, 1 in every 3 in the Philippines. mClinica expects similar numbers in Malaysia and Thailand in 2018.
What exactly is SwipeRx?
SwipeRx is a free mobile app that allows pharmacy professionals from across the practice to connect and collaborate with their peers in an environment that is safe and secure. The app gives users access to the most updated local, regional, and global pharmacy news as well as access to updates from private and public health organizations, such as the WHO. Pharmacy professionals can read the latest journals and post and answer fellow pharmacists’ questions. They can also access country-specific job boards and a drug directory tool. In some countries, our users can report adverse effects to the government directly from the link on the application.
Focus on Continuing Education
Importantly, SwipeRx provides users with access to free education directly on their mobile phone. Through accredited CPD (continual professional development) modules on the platform, pharmacists can complete training that is most often mandatory for keeping their pharmacy licensure. These are tailored to the specific needs and regulations of each country.
In the geographically-spread island nations of Indonesia and the Philippines, for example, access to CPD module at the ease of the mobile phones saves pharmacists significant time and money that can now be spent serving patients in their communities.
At mClinica, we truly believe that strengthening the pharmacy practice through education will elevate the knowledge of pharmacists across practice areas.
The Power of a Digital Pharmacy Network
The success of mClinica, Doximity, of Sermo highlights an important trend: the healthcare industry is open to a transformation in how we communicate, learn, and leverage the expert minds in our respective fields. With the launch of the SwipeRx platform, pharmacists across Southeast Asia have the opportunity to build and contribute to the first network of its kind. We have the opportunity to lay the foundation for a global community of pharmacists committed to improving the pharmacy practice. The momentum is crucial. Only then can we breed this transformation that will have positive impact for all.
Lindsay Nickel, Partnerships & Alliances at mClinica
Jasveen Bhullar, PharmD at mClinica