Anna Barwick and her family

Anna Barwick's and PharmOnline's Journey from Counting Pills to Paying Bills

Telehealth is an area that has seen unprecedented growth in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been uptake by GPs, specialists, physiotherapists and even dentists. Pharmacists have been quick to jump into the online sales space but few have taken up the telehealth challenge.


I always knew I wanted to work in healthcare; it was clear to me that I could help to prevent illness and maintain health as a medication expert. I was encouraged by my farming parents to give back to my community through volunteer work and health promotion, even as a teenager and young adult. My pharmacist husband and two young children are my greatest supporters and I am so grateful to them. We are now part-time farmers ourselves, breeding and raising Australian Stock Horses and miniature dachshunds on our Cantali stud in Walcha, Northern NSW.


I started as a community pharmacist in a local pharmacy (chemist) in Parkes, close to my hometown of Peak Hill in Central Western NSW. I loved the interaction with my clients and it bolstered my passion for rural healthcare. I then had the opportunity to work as a clinical pharmacist at Tamworth and Armidale Rural Referral Hospitals before I started at the University of New England as a pharmacy practice academic. I continue to work as a consultant pharmacist in aged care, conducting medication reviews for complex aged care patients.

 

I first pitched my idea of PharmOnline to a University of New England’s Smart Region Incubator (UNE SRI) just as the first lockdowns started in Australia in March 2020. I was fortunate that they loved my idea and enrolled me straight into their Hatch Program, to create my very first lean canvas. I had first conceived of the idea for online video consultations with pharmacists when breastfeeding my first child, in the early hours of the morning. Using Dr Google to diagnose symptoms is fraught with danger and unnecessary anxiety. I knew that linking the medication experts to people at home could prevent harm and reassure people about safety management. That original lean canvas continues to evolve into my adaptable business plan with the help of some amazing mentors and businesses. It has been a huge learning curve, going from a clinician to a founder!


I was accepted into the SBE Evolve September 2020 program, coinciding with the launch of PharmOnline in August of that year. It provided me with an opportunity to connect with like-minded business women at the same early-stage of their businesses. We are still connected through LinkedIn and several other women-based entrepreneur organisations.


PharmOnline's recent achievements include receiving investments from two out of three judges at the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s (PSA) Shark Tank and also took out People’s Choice, to fund the first in a suite of our Conception to Kindy (C2K) clinics. PharmOnline was also named runner up in the 2021 NSW AusMumpreneur Digital Innovation Award. We have a team of pharmacists located across Australia to speak to people when and where they need it.

 

 

Innovation in an established industry
Pharmacy has historically been associated with product supply and free advice. Although technologically advanced, the pharmacy industry seems to be reluctant to move into the telehealth space. However, the industry support for PharmOnline has been overwhelmingly positive. Colleagues reach out to our team to make suggestions about collaborations that they can see would be mutually beneficial.


What has been most reassuring is the number of pharmacists that have reached out for employment opportunities at PharmOnline. I am contacted weekly by pharmacists that want to use their clinical skills and expertise to assist people with medication choice and use, ways to navigate the health system and for triage and referral to other specialists. It demonstrates to me that there is an appetite for change in the pharmacy industry and that stagnation won’t retain our workforce.


As a result of industry innovation and impact through PharmOnline, I was named the 2021 NSW Pharmacist of the Year.

 

 

Building the future
What a journey it has been so far! I’ve been fortunate to have a huge amount of support from family, friends and professional colleagues. We have found support from telehealth companies to individualise the PharmOnline telehealth experience and to ensure it is private and secure.

PharmOnline has also been accepted and successfully completed the ANDHealth NSW BRIGHT Innovate in Digital Health and the Boosting Female Founders Mentoring Initiative program. The expertise these opportunities afforded has been invaluable.

Leaving a legacy
My vision is to put a pharmacist into every household in the country, 24 hours a day, whenever people need help. I’m passionate about improving the health of all Australians through education, advice and advocacy in my role as a medication expert and I know my team is as well! We are working with many large corporations to offer health advice, medication management and treatment plans to their clients. In the coming year, we are rolling out our suite of Conception to Kindy (C2K) clinics that will focus on supporting people that have been diagnosed with Gestational diabetes, parents with children that are living with asthma and management of common childhood infections. PharmOnline aims to make a positive health difference in the next generation of Australians through our C2K clinics.

 

Anna Barwick

B.Pharm (Hons) MClinPharm AACPA AdvPP(II) MPS MSHP

Director | PharmOnline