My name is Oliver; I’m a pharmacist, and also a director of a small pharmacy IT company called PharmData. Whilst studying pharmacy at Kingston University in 2007, I became interested in programming and so began to learn web development in my spare time. After qualifying, I spent some time as a locum pharmacist and got to experience a range of different community pharmacy environments.
With my amateur programming ability, I was able to make a few useful tools, such as an online fridge temperature log and expiry date calculator. After doing locum work for about a year, I found a full-time position as a pharmacy manager in Warwickshire, although I continued to develop my skills in programming as a hobby, working on small projects. Eventually, I met another pharmacist called Juned who was also an amateur programmer; we decided to work on a project together, and so we developed PharmData - a website for pharmacy owners to explore and compare the performance of different pharmacies in the UK. The website slowly grew through word of mouth, and as we got more feedback from pharmacies using the system, we added more features and a premium subscription price of £2.99 per month.
When we first started to get paying customers, we realised that the project was more than just a hobby, and could become a real business. Over time, more and more pharmacies signed up to PharmData, and so I made a decision to reduce my hours of working in a pharmacy in order to spend more time working on PharmData. It was daunting to consider leaving my job as a pharmacy manager in order to work full-time on my own business, so I tried to gradually reduce my hours at first; after a few months, I felt confident enough in the business to quit my job altogether.
Since then, my partner and I have continued to work on PharmData, whilst also developing software for the new Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) legislation; this software allows pharmacies to scan packs of medication to check that they are not counterfeit against a central European database. However, ultimately I will continue to look at community pharmacy from a pharmacist’s perspective, and consider what I can do as a programmer to make something useful for those pharmacies. Since starting PharmData, I’ve come across plenty of other similar companies where pharmacists have either learned programming or teamed up with programmers in order to create tools or systems that they feel would be really useful to have in pharmacy. I think that as time goes on, and the role of pharmacy changes, there will always be opportunities for new and exciting ways to do things, and that includes IT.