Prescription for improvement
Using digital technology, local entrepreneur aims to consolidate, optimize pharmacies
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This article was published 26/05/2021 (549 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Last decade, Winnipeg entrepreneur Dalbir Bains and his partners built a 40-store pharmacy chain called Amenity Healthcare — which it sold in 2017 — that allowed independent pharmacies to save money and improve efficiencies.
In 2020, he started another pharmacy consolidation company in Winnipeg, called FGC Health, which is using digital technology to improve patient outcomes as well as addressing business optimization.
Since the beginning of this year, FGC Health has acquired five pharmacies and two medical clinics in Alberta and Ontario and the Winnipeg home health-care service provider, Comforts of Home Care.
The goal is to double the revenue in every business it acquires— Bains figures that will happen in two years or less— by deploying all sorts of digital technology tools, including artificial intelligence and machine learning and proprietary prescription automation and inventory optimization.
The company spent all of 2020 building its technology platform which included partnering with a Silicon Valley artificial intelligence company that gives FGC Health the ability to provide its customers with proactive interventions.
Whereas Amenity might have been about cost engineering for pharmacies, FGC is about revenue velocity and better patient outcomes.
“Every health system around the world has issues,” he said. “A big part of the challenge as a patient is that they are often engaging with more than one service provider and data is usually not shared among service providers.”
FGC is looking to shift that paradigm and make that data available, within the legal parameters, of course. (Bains said no patient/customer’s health information would be shared with another service provider without consent.)
“Our goal is to provide physicians with real-time access to information about their patients’ medications,” he said.
By tracking symptoms and using other big data analysis, the goal is to give the clinicians better information about their patient.
“There will be all kinds of obstacles we will have to work through when it comes to privacy issues and we have protocols in place to deal with it,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is be aggressive. We want to be conservative but over time we do think there will be shared health database of some kind across the value chain.”
Using digital tools like cloud computing services available to all sorts of other businesses, Bains is also working with sector experts to figure out ways to measure patient outcomes to bolster the claims of the benefits he believes FGC (which stands for Freedom Growth Community) can provide.
“It’s great to have expanded service and capabilities but what does it mean?” he said. “Ultimately it has to be about patient outcomes. That is why we are enthusiastic about the future. As health-care systems move to value-based care or some concept like that it will be imperative to be able prove that you are actually providing value to patients.”
Bains believes FGC is at the leading edge of a greater deployment of technology across health-care fields. Health care has historically been late to adopt digital technology. And there are not too many health-care practitioners who are saying they have too much time on their hands.
“Lots of other industries have gone through a digital transformation,” he said. “Health care is in the early innings of a similar journey.”
With another acquisition set to close in Edmonton in June and a good-sized B.C. acquisition queued up that should close in the third quarter, it will put the company at about $50 million in revenue. Bains said a new national branding is slated for later in the year — currently all the businesses that have been acquired continue doing business with their old name. The goal is to be a $100 million company in the third quarter of next year.
“There are about 4,000 independent pharmacies in Canada,” he said. “We think this is a big opportunity to roll this out using a series of digital tools that will bring that solution together.”
Bains has raised about $4 million from investors so far. He has raised money for ventures in the past and says that Winnipeg continues to be a tough place when it comes to the capital markets.
“Almost all of our investors are from outside the province,” he said. Not only that, the City of Calgary is courting FGC using incentives that that city is deploying to speed up its diversification away from its traditional dependence on the oil and gas industry.
The company has about 200 employees including a head office team of about 10 people.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 6:28 AM CDT: Adds photo