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An innovative Canterbury start-up believes its new software product will significantly reduce inefficiencies, manual procedures and errors in pharmacies, freeing up pharmacists to work more closely with customers. 


Co-founder and CEO, Puneet Saini

Script Sense was developed by two Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury Master of Business Administration students – Puneet Saini and Kieran Erasmuson – along with co-founder Rijul Gupta, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney. That innovation has just won them the prestigious Start-up of the Year Award 2024 from the global Association of MBAs (AMBA) and Business Graduates Association (BGA). 


Co-founder and COO, Kieran Erasmuson

Script​ ​Sense uses cloud computing, process automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve productivity, safety and efficiency for both pharmacy staff and patients. 


The global pharmacy market spends over US$14 billion annually on management systems and Saini says processing manual and administrative tasks with software will free up pharmacists. “Pharmacists tell me that’s what they want to do – talk to patients, increase their understanding of medication, and improve healthcare outcomes. 


“Automating manual data entry and non-clinical tasks has the potential to save more than 50 per cent of administrative pharmacy labour hours, releasing much-needed capacity in the primary healthcare system,” says Saini. 


“You might think that barcode on the prescription means all your health information sits in some central repository – but it doesn’t. New Zealand has several different systems holding prescription​ and other clinical​ data. The pharmacist might have to check in multiple places to ensure patient safety and accurate dispensing – and that means slower dispensing and a potential increase in errors,” says Erasmuson. 


“The pharmacist needs all a patient’s data in front of them so they can make a good decision, but the current system has many limitations given it was designed decades ago,” says Saini.  


“The existing system works if you go to your local pharmacy every single time, but what if you’re in the emergency department or an after-hours pharmacy? The pharmacist mightn’t have access to your local pharmacy’s data, mightn’t have your latest test results or may not even have the time to check. That’s where critical errors can be introduced,” says Erasmuson. 


He uses their observation of a customer in a pharmacy as an example. “An elderly man came in to get meds for his wife who had cancer. There was a change in meds and because it was their regular pharmacy, the pharmacist recognised the change and advised the patient​ accordingly​, likely saving her life. ScriptSense will ensure that pharmacists have real-time data to help them with life-saving interventions .” 


Erasmuson says in the US prescribing errors are a US$80 billion a year problem with an associated US$1 billion in malpractice suits. In the UK, there are 237 million medication errors each year. They believe Script Sense will also help reduce many deaths that are caused by medicine-related errors in Aotearoa New Zealand. 


“This is not about criticizing pharmacists. Rather,​ it is about giving them the correct tools so they can fulfill their clinical role in a patient’s health journey. ​ I've seen all the distractions and obstacles that impede efficient and safe dispensing and think there’s a better way,” says Saini. Pharmacists deserve better technology and tools and we think we have that with ScriptSense. 


“This is a market with just a few competitors and little incentive to change. We’re showing pharmacists there is a better way with technology that will lower the barriers for other new technologies also, given we’re an open connector,” says Erasmuson. “We like to think of ScriptSense as having the potential for a ‘Cambrian explosion’ of interoperable technologies in primary care. 


“WHO estimates by 2030 that the world will be short 10 million healthcare professionals. In New Zealand alone, we’re looking at shortages of eight to nine thousand workers. Tools such as ScriptSense will go a long way to reducing that gap.” 


ScriptSense is both scalable and transferrable. “There are no expensive hardware changes, it will even work on mobile, it converts speech to notes, and it will integrate with existing systems or allow other developers to hook into it. Imagine if that technology had been available during New Zealand’s recent natural disasters?” says Erasmuson. 


By 2030, ScriptSense wants to be in six major international markets, servicing over 13,000 pharmacies, and generating over US$100 million in annual export revenues for New Zealand. 


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