The Disruptors: How this startup hopes to simplify prescriptions
Online pharmacy e-Surgery was created by Thuria Wenbar and Oskar Wendowski, a doctor and pharmacist respectively, when they encountered prescription systems they believed were outdated. The latest in The Disruptors series, they explain how they did it.
Tell us about e-Surgery.
e-Surgery is an online pharmacy and prescriber – we enable patients to access prescription medication for common conditions without having to see your doctor.
You simply go online, choose the treatment, answer a simple health questionnaire which is checked by our UK-based prescribers, and the medication gets sent to you in discreet, 100% recyclable and biodegradable packaging.
We’re challenging the status quo and modernising healthcare with a focus on sustainability. We’re building a completely paperless pharmacy system, allowing us to bring down the price of private prescription medication and make this service more accessible to the masses.
What was the opportunity you identified that led to launching?
We were taken back by the waste prevalent in the NHS. Even though electronic prescriptions have come into effect, outdated systems persist in community pharmacies and hospitals and prescriptions are still printed out at an even higher volume than before.
In 2019, the NHS issued 1.04 billion prescriptions, which equated to 47,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
Both of us come from medical and IT backgrounds, so we knew this was an area in desperate need of innovation. Streamlining and digitising the process from prescriber to pharmacy was the way forward.
How did you use invention and innovation to disrupt the market?
The current model, in which a patient has to wait several weeks to see their GP for a routine appointment, isn’t working. But private healthcare is usually only available to wealthier people, so we try to keep our treatments and shipping costs as close to the NHS £9 prescription charge as possible.
We also give patients access to our pharmacists directly, online or via a phone call. Using our free Ask-A-Pharmacist service, patients can get access to information directly from trained professionals, meaning you don’t need to travel to attend appointments.
What were the challenges you faced along the way and how did you learn from them?
As volume and demand for our service grew, we found it hard to juggle taking on a number of staff very quickly. We found out that it made more sense to train our staff completely from scratch rather than looking for experience in traditional pharmacy settings because our processes differ so much.
What has been your proudest moment so far?
Shortly after rolling out our focus on sustainability, the website went viral, with over 250,000 UK users in just the first three days. We realised that our business ethos was resonating with the public and that we had the support of our patients and the UK public.
We also received funding from UEA’s “Do It”, “Grow It” and “Scale It” schemes and were finalists at the University of East Anglia 2019 Innovation and Impact Awards.
2019 saw e-Surgery win the “University of East Anglia Impact and Innovation Award”.
If you were starting from the beginning again, what would you do differently?
We would have taken advantage of more funding, which would have allowed for a smoother scale-up process and the chance to focus on management roles from the very start. The entrepreneurial journey has been a learning process and we have progressed immeasurably in the last two years.
What would be your advice to someone launching a disruptive startup?
Patience, patience, patience. It will not be easy and there will be hundreds of moments when you doubt yourself, but persevere and don’t give up.
Find fellow entrepreneurs to meet up with and share the struggles and triumphs. It really helps.
What are your plans for the future?
We are in the process of officially moving to a completely paperless prescribing and pharmacy process. We’ve tested the system over and over and we believe this will be a crucial component in the future development of online healthcare. We’re also expanding our treatment range and adding new items every week.
For more information, visit www.e-surgery.com
Article first published in the Eastern Daily Press: The Disruptors is a series looking at the East of England’s most innovative technology businesses and was commissioned by the University East Anglia and The Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor, and produced by Archant Video.