Leading the way as Chief Pharmacist across Phlo Technologies, Alistair Murray is driving the convergence of healthcare and technology. Read on to learn about his journey into the pharmacy world, how his passion for digital healthcare has shaped his role at Phlo and more on his vision for the future of pharmacy.
My journey into the pharmacy world began with a formative experience working at a traditional community pharmacy in Hull from the age of 16. That experience gave me a window into the potential for positive impact within this field. It was a moment when I realised the power of healthcare to make a tangible difference in people's lives.
After studying pharmacy at the University of Nottingham, I shortly after started working for a small group of employee-owned pharmacies in London with an emphasis on public health, education, and looking at the wider determinants of health.
As I continued in pharmacy, I started to recognise a growing disparity between the surging demand for healthcare services and the accessibility of pharmacies. This realisation sparked my interest in the digital pharmacy realm. The evolution of technology and its ability to bridge this accessibility gap fascinated me. The idea of combining healthcare with cutting-edge technology - to make essential services more convenient for people - was the beginning of my journey into the world of digital pharmacy.
The decision to join Phlo as Chief Pharmacist was driven by a combination of factors. Before joining Phlo, I had been keeping a close eye on the company because I could see that something intriguing was happening there. Phlo's commitment to a clean, patient-centric design was evident, and their approach was aligned with a strong intention to improve the patient experience. What particularly drew me to Phlo was its unique focus on catering to both the NHS and the private market. This dual approach, offering services to both sectors, presented an exciting challenge.
As a prescriber, I had a clinical skill set that I hadn't fully utilised in my immediate prior role, which made this opportunity to design and shape the clinical services at Phlo an appealing prospect. My background in general operations and my experience in start-ups and scaling businesses made me well-prepared for the challenges that lay ahead. So I joined Phlo in May 2023, and it has felt like a perfect fit. It has been a fast-paced, exhilarating journey. On my very first day, I was immediately immersed in vital technical documents and I relished hitting the ground running. This made it feel like a home-from-from right from the start.
What also resonated with me was Phlo's base in Glasgow. This struck a personal chord – the name Alistair Murray might give you a hint of my Scottish heritage. Although I wasn't born in Scotland and haven't lived there, both sides of my family are Scottish and I’ve spent a lot of time in various parts of the country over my life, from the Borders to the Western Isles and a lot of places in between. Having this link with my Scottish roots has added an extra layer of connection and significance to my role at Phlo.
Certainly, my role as Chief Pharmacist at Phlo encompasses a wide range of responsibilities. There are four primary areas I oversee. The first is pharmacy operations, which serves as the backbone of everything we do at Phlo. This involves ensuring that all pharmacy-related processes run seamlessly, from prescription management to medication dispensing.
In addition to this, there is an emerging responsibility for clinical services, primarily focused on prescribing. We're not only looking at prescribing as a clinical process but also exploring various ways to support patients in making behavioural changes that positively impact their health. This endeavour involves a multidisciplinary approach, with collaboration between healthcare practitioners, technologists and marketers. Our aim is to offer holistic solutions to our patients' healthcare needs.
We also place significant emphasis on regulatory and professional standards, led by our Superintendent Pharmacist, Dennis Ouko. My experience in this area allows me to support this aspect of the role effectively. Ensuring that we operate within the regulatory framework and adhere to the highest professional standards is of paramount importance.
The final aspect of my role is the Patient Care team. This team plays a crucial role in ensuring that everything is functioning optimally. They are responsible for proactively reaching out to patients through campaigns and initiatives related to public health. Their work helps us maintain a strong connection with our patient base and continually improve their experience with Phlo.
Beyond pharmacy, the People and Culture team are aligned to me so I’ve been lucky enough to get a very good level of exposure to the overall company and the ethos of our team. Additionally, Phlo has a very strong focus on multidisciplinary working centred around missions and outcomes, meaning I’ve had the pleasure of working very closely with colleagues from Product, Design, Marketing, Engineering, Finance - you name it!
My time at Echo was a formative experience working with some very inspiring colleagues. I had the opportunity to define how we navigated the intricacies of the healthcare and technology landscape. Valuable lessons were accepting and making the most out of the unexpected, understanding what a product team is and how it operates, working with engineers, marketers, and other stakeholders. We opened large warehouses, made it through a pandemic, wore an unusual number of fancy-dress outfits in the early days, and grew something out of nothing. I gained insights into the complexity of scaling a business from the very start, along with the challenges and the successes that come with such growth. Echo was a start-up that grew rapidly, which provided me with a wealth of experience in managing a business at different stages of its development.
Moreover, Echo was acquired by a massive multinational company during my time there. This gave me valuable experience in navigating the integration of different work cultures, understanding varying organisational approaches, and ensuring that everyone involved is aligned on the company's goals. It was an invaluable lesson in the importance of effective communication and alignment within a diverse team.
In comparison to my role at Phlo, I see many similarities, particularly in the early stages of growth. The excitement of this phase, the potential for innovation, and the pursuit of patient safety and clinical excellence are all shared characteristics. However, the unique advantage at Phlo is that we are in the process of growing and refining our systems, which allows us to shape the future and build our processes with an emphasis on patient safety and efficiency. One of our focal points is reducing the risk of errors and improving the accuracy of our services – that being said, I’m glad the error rate is already starting at a very low rate. Automation is a key driver, as it streamlines many processes and reduces the chances of human error, a critical aspect of patient safety.
The future of digital pharmacy holds immense promise. What excites me the most is the increasing connectivity between patients and various technologies, particularly the Internet of Things (IoT) and the processing power of AI. We are witnessing this connectivity in action with innovations such as continuous glucose monitoring, which significantly impacts the lives of individuals with conditions like diabetes.
This connectivity is not limited to patients monitoring their health but also extends to personalising healthcare. Genetics is an emerging field where the unique genetic makeup of individuals plays a critical role in determining the appropriate dose and choice of medication. For example, for certain medications, it's becoming clear that genetic factors strongly influence how well a person responds to the treatment or if they might experience undesirable side effects.
Digital pharmacy is exceptionally well-suited to facilitate this personalisation of healthcare. We can gather data from a variety of sources and consolidate it into a single platform that patients can access, allowing them to have more control over their health. Patient ownership and control are powerful drivers in healthcare. Patients being in charge of their own health journey can lead to better outcomes and a more engaged approach to their well-being, hopefully with a good emphasis on prevention wherever possible.
In my spare time, I keep very busy. I share my time with my husband and our 3 1/2-year-old Romanian rescue dog, Dizzy. Much of our family focus centres around taking our dog on long walks in and around London. We treasure these moments of enjoying the outdoors with our furry companion.
As a food enthusiast, I love exploring and savouring delicious meals. Additionally, I have a passion for wine, with a particular soft spot for Burgundy wines. Collecting and tasting wines is a hobby I deeply enjoy.
I dabble in music production and have a love for travel. On a more sedate note, my husband is a TV producer, and so we often find ourselves binge-watching entire TV series to provide feedback and insights for future projects, which thankfully isn’t too arduous a way to be supportive of his job.
Contact us to discover more about Phlo Connect and how we can work together to create integrated digital pathways for your clinicians and patients.