With funding and support from startup accelerator Data Pitch, Italian healthcare startup Pharmawizard has expanded into new European markets, providing a comprehensive information and comparison service for Spanish patients and healthcare providers

As one of 18 successful bidders in the 2018 Data Pitch accelerator programme, Pharmawizard received funding, expert mentoring, investment opportunities, access to data, and training over a six-month period to expand its service.

The programme linked Pharmawizard with Vademecum, one of the largest pharmaceutical data providers in Europe, which provided access to data and key information on over 14,000 healthcare products for the Spanish market, adding to Pharmawizard existing database of over one million products.

Data Pitch is an EU-funded open innovation programme, run by partners including the ODI. It links large data-holding organisations with agile data innovators, such as Pharmawizard, to develop collaborative solutions to real-world challenges in sectors such as healthcare, transport, tourism, manufacturing and retail.

Democratising data

Currently the management of medication and healthcare products is “…inefficient, easily influenced by pharmaceutical lobbying groups, and often more focused on profits than on wellbeing and efficiency,” according to Pharmawizard.

It aims to combat this directly using digital technology to provide transparent, up-to-date, impartial information, enabling patients, healthcare providers and related businesses to make evidence-based decisions around medication, healthcare and insurance options.

With research showing that one in three adults use the internet to diagnose or learn more about a health concern, there is a clear need for safe, impartial healthcare information, particularly for insurance-based healthcare systems.

While in the UK, the NHS uses Information Standard Principles to underpin the information it publishes, insurance-based profit-making systems are less likely to be trusted sources, reinforcing the need for services such as Pharmawizard.

Pharmawizard is well-placed to help consumers navigate the vast array of healthcare choices and medicines available online, and to build a reputation as a trusted source. Its use of open data and commitment to transparency and open data are key trust-building tools.

How it works: the tech behind the service

Using a hybrid technology approach that combines a semantic search engine, natural language processing, machine learning, information retrieval and ontology-based techniques, Pharmawizard’s users can find specific information quickly by searching for a drug name, active ingredient or symptom.

The system learns over time, and continuously improves its results. It allows users to access a wide range of information such as medicine price, ingredients and the generic drug alternatives.

As well as providing patient information, Pharmawizard also partners with digital insurance and pharmaceutical companies, providing data and insights, fueling better-tailored services and aiding decision making.

As well as benefiting patients, the provision of more open data in the pharmaceutical industry aids healthcare procurement processes – highlighting where, for example, a generic drug is available in place of a branded drug. A similar project run by a startup based at the ODI in 2012 analysed open data provided by the NHS, and found that an estimated £27M a month could be saved by switching from branded to generic drugs.

We’ve worked hard in Italy in recent years to develop a platform able to satisfy business users’ needs in a simple and fast way and we realised pretty quickly we had to launch our platform in other countries to get the traction we needed in order to strengthen our brand and product proposition,” says Riccardo Emmolo, Head of Marketing at Pharmawizard.

Data Pitch has been a very important step to give us the opportunity to make an international move and talk to key international data providers in the industry such as the Vidal Group, as we needed to get access to a big amount of data to allow our technology to be able to get the insight on a wide range of drugs and pharmaceutical products.”

Data Pitch is a European Startup Accelerator Programme which provides world-class business support and up to 100k Euros to companies who can propose data-driven solutions to a series of challenges, using combinations of open, closed and shared data.

Bringing together businesses, organisations and startups to meet today’s challenges with data, it has allowed to 18 European startups to work with companies and data providers to develop innovative solutions across many different industries.

Second call for applications

After a successful first cohort, Data Pitch has just opened its second call to select the best 32 European data startups which will be included in its second cohort.

Startups and SMEs have until 2 October 2018 to apply. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to work with Met Office, Konica, Greiner International Packaging and other internationally renowned organisations agreeing to share data partnering as part of the programme.