Virtual pharmacy platform enables students from around the globe to learn vital dispensing skills throughout the pandemic

MyDispense is an online pharmacy simulation developed by Monash Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

An online pharmacy simulation developed in Australia has experienced exponential growth since the beginning of the pandemic, enabling tens of thousands of pharmacy students worldwide to develop and practise their dispensing skills throughout remote learning.

MyDispense, designed by Monash Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences educators specifically for pharmacy students, has proven to be so successful that the growth has continued even with students returning to campus.

In January 2020 MyDispense had accumulated 16,000 student accounts since its inception in 2011. In the last two years this number has nearly tripled to 42,300 student accounts.

The number of partner universities has also significantly increased, from 79 universities in January 2020, to 208 today. The strongest period of growth was between January - December 2020 which led to 90 new university partners in just 11 months.

MyDispense is a free service provided by Monash, and has been customised for 10 different regions. Some of the countries using the tool include Germany, South Africa, Sweden, Somalia, Pakistan, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Nepal and many more. There has been a particularly notable surge in users based in the Philippines and Sweden.

Monash Learning Technologies Project Manager, Keith Sewell, said MyDispense is designed to provide a safe environment in which students can hone their dispensing skills, but also make mistakes without experiencing the serious consequences of practising in the real world.

“Students get to have the full dispensing experience, from initial communication with the patient and prescriber, right through to providing professional advice when handing medicine to patients - and the whole experience is completely online,” said Mr Sewell.

“Early in 2020 it quickly became evident that there was going to be strong global demand for access to MyDispense to help pharmacy students continue to develop important dispensing skills throughout lockdowns and campus closures.

“It was a lot of work for the team, but from the outset the purpose of MyDispense has been to share the platform for free with our pharmacy peers around the world, so it has been wonderful to see so many students benefit from it since COVID emerged just over two years ago.”

Abel Jhon Amatong, a pharmacy student at San Pedro College (SPC) in the Philippines, said the online format had enabled him to learn as he goes, with the 'virtual patient' component helping to fine-tune his skills in both community pharmacy and hospital settings.

"Having access to MyDispense has helped me hone my dispensing skills, including gathering information from the patient or prescriber to make informed decisions, counselling, labelling, and providing medicines to the patient," Mr. Amatong emphasised.

Dr Erwin Faller, SPC Director of Internationalisation and Linkages Office and pharmacy professor, introduced MyDispense to his students to have a total dispensing experience despite the virtual setup.

"MyDispense has provided an excellent opportunity for students to experience highly interactive dispensing exercises—the importance of which was amplified by the pedagogical changes required during the pandemic," Dr Faller said.

The MyDispense environment utilises virtual representations of patients, barcodes, labels and products. There is no requirement for a physical space with label printers and shelves full of empty product boxes. This means that students have no restrictions on their access to dispensing exercises.

Almost 1.5 million (1,458,109) exercises and activities have been completed in MyDispense by students all over the world since 2011. The one million exercises completed milestone was hit in December 2020, highlighting that usage growth is continuing to increase.

Monash University ranked number one globally in the 2022 QS World University Rankings by Subject for Pharmacy and Pharmacology for the first time, making it Australia’s top-performing university.