Africa’s pharmaceutical industry has to fast-track its digital transformation efforts if it’s to take full advantage of an increasingly tech-savvy customer base and growing demand for both traditional and new drugs in communities across the continent.
That’s according to Mphati Jezile, Managing Director at e-health tech start-up, BusyMed, which raised just under R9 million in investment last year through the R500 million LionPride Agility Fund for the development of the technology and expansion of its service nationwide.
Describing itself as a ‘pharmacy in your pocket’, BusyMed partners with key industry leaders in medicine and healthcare to deliver quality affordable healthcare, no matter where someone lives, this through their app launched last year, that can be downloaded for free on the Playstore or the Apple store for free.
The e-health start-up is set to host 250 established pharmacies based across all 9 provinces, including major cities, metropolitan areas, suburbs, and townships on their platform. It also currently processes between 50-60 unique deliveries a day, with forecasts of this to rise to between 200-300 orders per day due to the onboarding of an additional 250 pharmacies.
“Our app is designed with the consumer in mind, giving them access to a reliable pharmacy network, and online consultations with a pharmacist via the in-app chat function, they can also purchase other products from the pharmacy as well as make payments directly on the app,” Jezile explains.
Since its launch, the app has also had over 4,000 unique transactions placed, with each user experiencing the convenience and simplicity provided, and with winter underway, Jezile says the start-up expects to see more people adopting the app, as well as an increase in order volumes.
“With this technology, they could be able to enjoy the ‘full pharmacy experience’ without having to leave their couches or disrupting their busy schedules.,” Jezile confirms.
He adds that this makes a huge difference in the lives of people who may take chronic medication for various conditions such as those who are disabled and find it uncomfortable and challenging to travel, even people who live in remote areas where transport is hard to find or lead to a higher travel expense to visit their local pharmacies.
The local pharmaceutical industry has largely remained product-centric in its approach, but with the constant and rapid changes in global pharmaceutical markets leading to challenges such as cost pressures and decreasing profit margin, getting the industry’s digital transformation drive out of the experimental phase will benefit the industry at large.
“A digital impact blurs corporate boundaries and shifts power away from corporations towards customers and suppliers,” Jezile explains, “increasing collaborations and new business models are the goals of current digitisation initiatives in the pharmaceutical industry,” Jezile unpacks.
In terms of a ‘new digital business’, Jezile explains that it has been shown that long-term sustainable pharmaceutical business models require collaboration and patient-centric services.
In order to compensate for the lack of digital capabilities, he says healthcare players and ICT companies should consider forming partnerships to improve patient outcomes.
“No matter how you slice it, pharmacists serve an important role in communities since the products they provide are vital to people’s wellbeing. Africa’s pharmaceutical industry must adopt ways that will better serve these communities,” Jezile confirms
Dubbed Pharma 4.0, digital advancements in the pharmaceutical industry play a central role in revolutionising healthcare in Africa, and with industry research revealing that more than two-thirds of patients use the internet to help them manage their health, no matter how private, now is the time for collaboration towards digital transformation in the industry. “Industry research shows that more than two-thirds of patients use the internet to find information to help them manage their health, consequently, becoming more comfortable when using digital networks and services, even in sensitive situations.