Pharmacy students’ startup heads to SXSW

Health on Time

Pharmacy students Soojin Jun, Amata Sok, Jennifer Mourafetis and Kristen Karlsen will bring their business plan to competition at SXSW.

When Soojin Jun’s father was diagnosed with cancer, she became his sole caregiver.

After several trips with her dad to the emergency room, then trying to manage his medication, she saw a problem with the health care system that she wanted to fix.

Once patients are released from the emergency room, there’s really no one to manage their care, she said.

“For me, without any knowledge of the medical or pharmacy field, I had no idea what to do,” she said.

After her father died, Jun was inspired to enroll in UIC’s College of Pharmacy with the goal of improving patient care.

Jun had an idea; now she needed a business plan. She took an entrepreneurship course in the College of Business Administration. Then she formed a start-up company, Health on Time, with pharmacy classmates Jennifer Mourafetis, Kristen Karlsen and Amata Sok.

The team is developing a smartphone medication therapy management application. It uses electronic health records to connect patients with health care providers, continuing care after a patient has been released from the hospital.

“If there’s an issue, the patient should be able to communicate effectively with all of the parties involved,” Jun said.

“We want to close the gap and make the care continuous.”

The students compete March 9 against seven other teams in the national finals of the Student Startup Madness tournament at South By Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas.

UIC’s team advanced to the finals from a pool of 64 college student startup teams.

At South By Southwest, UIC’s team will pitch its technology to a panel of investors and entrepreneurs. The top three teams will get $5,000 in credits for the Google Cloud Platform, which helps startup companies build web applications.

The teams also have a shot at earning money to back the company, Mourafetis said.

“It puts you in front of venture capitalists, who have contacts with the ability to invest directly,” she said. “It’s great exposure.”

Pain management is complicated for patients, especially those who are prescribed several different medications, Mourafetis explained.

“Medication therapy management is a great service that can help prevent adverse affects patients suffer from medication misuses or underuse,” she said.

“Once patients are discharged from the hospital, they pretty much fall off the chart. Are they managing their pain?”

All pharmacists can perform medication therapy management reviews after viewing lab results and talking to patients’ providers.

A smartphone app that coordinates care is “convenient,” Jun said.

The team members are all in their fourth year of pharmacy school, which means balancing their company with full-time rotations.

“There are many late nights,” Mourafetis said. “Obviously, pharmacy comes first and we do actually plan on practicing pharmacy.”

What’s nice is that this service relies heavily on our pharmacy knowledge, so they’re really complementary.”

The group has found success in other business plan competitions, winning a Target-sponsored contest in 2011 and the elevator pitch competition at UIC’s Concept2Venture business plan competition.

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