WHO UHC fact-sheet, 2019
- At least half the world’s population still do not have full coverage of essential health services including consultation, pharmacy services and follow up therapy,
- About 100 million people are still been pushed into extreme poverty (below 1.90 USD/day) because they must pay for health care
- Around 12% of the world’s population allocate 10% of their household budgets towards health care payments
- All UN member states agreed to try and achieve Universal Health Coverage by 2030 as part of sustainable development goals
The way we do essential shopping has rapidly changed thanks to the transformation of the world into a digitized village. Not only have the retailers who failed to move with the change had to level down, chemists the world over have also felt this heat and had to adopt modern strategies in their systems.
The concept of an electronic pharmacy has been around for close to two decades now, and they have had a revolutionary contribution towards the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) goals aimed at sustainable development in attaining vision 2030. As directed by the World Health Organization (WHO), UHC states that a nation’s population has equal access to nationally provisioned sets of needed quality preventive, curative and palliative health services. This basically means you been able to access any health services without undergoing financial strain. A 2016 report by Lancet Commission of Essential Medicines zooms in on the four priority areas of essential medicines as financing, affordability, quality of products and quality of use.
Positive progress contributes directly to progress in strategy and focus towards other national and global health issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Role of the Online Pharmacy in Attaining UHC
Kenya adopted Universal Health Coverage as one of the big four priority agenda by His Excellency the President, with an aspiration that by the year 2022, every Kenyan would be able to use the essential services needed for their wellbeing through a unified system, without the risk of financial disaster.
According to a UHC- policy brief released by Kenya’s Ministry of Health in 2018, some of the key challenges facing the healthcare system include
- Poor enforcement of quality as legal standard as well as inadequate availability of information around the quality of wellness products and health care services
- Limited access to healthcare facilities, for example hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and specialty care clinics
- Inadequate medical personnel, for example, doctors, specialists, nurses, and pharmacists
- The poor infrastructure where modern facilities focus on high-cost equipment such as renal units, high dependency units and screening facilities. This, as a result, has made accessibility to basic health care components almost impossible to the average Kenyan.
- The presence of a complex supply chain that becomes difficult to control thereby allowing the possibility of substandard or counterfeit medication penetrating the market.
The key solution that online pharmacies provide is first ensuring that they secure the supply chain -from the manufacturer to the consumer- which consequently provides for transparency and efficiency to all stakeholders.
MYDAWA Online Pharmacy
One such example is MYDAWA, the only licensed online pharmacy in Kenya by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB), and globally recognized by legitscript. MYDAWA operates on a model which ensures that all medication, health, and wellness products are sourced directly from the manufacturer. This rids out the risk of counterfeiting, especially when there is a high-demand for products as recently witnessed with facemasks and sanitization products in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This not only allows the consumer the comfortability of quality assurance as they seek to get well, more so saves on a lot of operational costs (like alternatively paying rent for chemist space, labour costs between the manufacturer and chemist or pharmacy etc.) making the products more affordable than they would be at physical chemists.
Online pharmacies have also made tracking easy for consumers. Thanks to technological innovations, any product ordered via the MYDAWA app allows a you to scan a QR code found on the packaging, or through a scratch to reveal code that can be sent to a number indicated on the package by SMS, and either of this methods gives you all the product details that trace it back to its manufacturer. This type of authentication saves any consumer seeking health and wellness products the burden of risking their health by relying on counterfeit products they may have accidentally purchased from chemists that do not fully adhere to health guidelines.
How sure I am I that the person delivering my products will not tamper with them?
As opposed to physical chemists, online pharmacies provide the element of convenience which again is a very important goal in Universal Health Coverage (UHC), without putting a patient at any risk. MYDAWA for instance has achieved this by employing the use of Pharmaceutical Technologists (Pharmtecs). Licensed by the PPB, these are the trained professionals who deliver your products to your requested delivery points. They not only ensure that your products are intact ( they also ensure products that require special care get special handling procedures) but also offer professional guidance where required, meeting the high expectation of customer satisfaction that e-commerce platforms come with. This directly contributes towards addressing quality health services concerns that hinder attaining of UHC.
As aforementioned, healthcare financing is key in attaining Universal Health Coverage by ensuring consumers get the deserved health care without any financial burden. The presence of online pharmacies has made it possible for health financiers such as insurers efficiently serve the population. For example, MYDAWA, since its inception has partnered with a variety of insurance companies to make accessibility of health care affordable, especially at such a time where the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted income flows for most households.
Financially speaking, online pharmacies have also made it possible for consumers, especially low-income earners who may have nothing to spare for health care, be able to access credit for health care services like access to medication. A good example is MYDAWA’s partnership with Irish financial firm Umba. The aim of such a partnership is to build intelligent financing for the connected world through machine learning that helps understand customers’ needs as well as automate risk assessment and provide micro finance options to the needy patients. This has proven to be a major boost to Universal Healthcare Coverage as Kenyans now have a cushioning from health expenses brought about by the spiraling cost of accessing the same as a fundamental human right.
In conclusion, internet penetration through majority of the population has made it easy for chemists and pharmacies to go digital. With proper financial and policy support from the government and other key players in the public and private health sector, online pharmacies will further accelerate us towards attaining of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).3