Mobile Health Around the Globe: Sweden – The Virtual Pharmacist
In recent times the market for over-the-counter drugs was demonopolized in Sweden. Suddenly, these medications could be bought outside of pharmacies – in supermarkets, gas stations and other retail locations where no medically trained personnel is available. This new situation gave birth to the idea of the Virtual Pharmacist.
The service Virtual Pharmacist was designed to empower citizens. Providing self-care advice for more than 100 everyday ailments and symptoms, the Virtual Pharmacist allows people to take informed decisions in self-care. The Virtual Pharmacist consists of a combination of hardware and software that uses Artificial Intelligence. A user can ask any question in written language, and the Virtual Pharmacist will identify if self-care can be applied and help the user find the right treatment for everyday ailments and symptoms.
The service provides:
– Discreet advice about everyday ailments to consumers 24/7
– Quality assured information – the Virtual Pharmacist’s source of facts database is kept up-to-date by registered pharmacists
– An innovative yet simple form of seeking advice about self-care
The Virtual Pharmacist is not intended to replace the advice of medically trained personnel, but acts as a supplement where there is no qualified person to ask. From our showcase Virtual Pharmacist on the web, we have learnt that a large proportion of users choose to ask questions about intimate problems, such as diarrhea, fungus infections or hemorrhoids.
The first pilot with the Virtual Pharmacist in retail shops is currently being deployed in Sweden. If successful, this has the potential to be rolled out in tens of thousands of retail shops in Europe – and become a natural part of how millions of citizens search for advice on self-care and health products in the near future.
The Virtual Pharmacist was a finalist in the 2012 European SME eHealth Competition which honors the best innovations within eHealth in Europe.
If you want to try this out and ask the Virtual Pharmacist a question, please go here and pay her a visit. However, the question must be in Swedish.
(editor’s note: I tried this and asked her a question that the author of this post, David Becedas, supplied me with: “min son är snuvig” (“my son has a runny nose”) and she answered! I don’t speak Swedish so couldn’t understand the answer though…. But I think this is way cool and is a great example of artificial intelligence and mobile health that really increases patient access to care!)
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