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Award-winning system aims to make pharmacies safer

Monday 22 January 2024, 3:15PM

By University of Canterbury

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University of Canterbury MBA students Paneet Saini and Kieran Erasmuson have won an international award for their pharmacy management start-up, Script Sense.
University of Canterbury MBA students Paneet Saini and Kieran Erasmuson have won an international award for their pharmacy management start-up, Script Sense. Credit: University of Canterbury

CHRISTCHURCH

An innovative Canterbury start-up that harnesses AI and other new tech tools to reduce medicine-related errors in pharmacies has won an international business award.

Script Sense is the brainchild of two Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) Master of Business Administration (MBA) students, Puneet Saini and Kieran Erasmuson, along with co-founder Rijul Gupta, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney.

The company has won the prestigious Start-up of the Year Award 2024 from the global Association of MBAs (AMBA) and Business Graduates Association (BGA), announced in London on 19 January.

Saini, Script Sense’s Chief Executive Officer, says the international recognition is a huge boost. “It’s amazing to win this award, particularly since we are eagerly anticipating the release of our system later this month.

“Our goal is that by 2030, we will have expanded into six major international markets, servicing over 13,000 pharmacies, and generating over US$100 million in annual export revenues for New Zealand. This win is a real honour and will also raise our reputation and brand profile in key future overseas markets such as the United Kingdom and the United States.”

The global pharmacy market spends over US$14 billion annually on management systems. Script Sense is a cloud-based pharmacy management platform that aims to reduce the 2000 deaths a year that are caused by medicine-related errors in Aotearoa New Zealand. It harnesses technologies such as cloud computing, process automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) with the goal of improving productivity and creating a safer, more efficient healthcare experience.

“The number of deaths from medicine-related errors in New Zealand is higher than our road toll, Saini says. “We believe we can make a dramatic dent in that number. It won’t happen overnight, but we hope our product will eventually eliminate most preventable human errors once it’s deployed to its full potential.”

He says there are a lot of inefficiencies and manual procedures in pharmacies and having a machine doing some of those administrative tasks will free up pharmacists to spend more time with their patients. “That’s what pharmacists tell me they want to do; talk to patients, increase their understanding of medication and improve healthcare outcomes. That’s why we believe Script Sense will have an impact from day one.”

Script Sense automates manual data entry and non-clinical tasks, potentially saving more than 50 per cent of administrative pharmacy labour hours, improving patient care and releasing capacity in the primary healthcare system.

Saini, a registered pharmacist, met Erasmuson when they were both MBA students at UC. Script Sense was established in February 2022 and the team secured substantial seed funding early in 2023 from investors following an industry demonstration. “We are immensely grateful to our earliest investors who thoroughly believed in the Script Sense vision and the ability of our team to deliver the product to market,” Saini says.

“I’ve been in the pharmacy industry for 15 years, and I’ve managed a number of community pharmacies, so I have a grass-roots level understanding of the industry, while Kieran has run multiple businesses. He had previously worked with Rijul (Gupta), who has machine learning expertise.”

Saini says UC’s MBA course was instrumental in the development of Script Sense. “We gained an invaluable toolkit of critical thinking business tools from the MBA programme itself, as well as some fantastic networking opportunities through student and alumni meet-up events and business school professors.

He says the Script Sense team is excited about 2024. “We’ve won, we’re releasing our product, and we’re hoping to move into the Australian market towards the end of the year. It feels full of possibilities.”