The Rise of Healthcare Startups Post-COVID in Emerging Markets
As healthcare ecosystems adjust to a post-COVID world, healthtech startups are finding new ways to deliver value to customers and investors. Founded at the start of the COVID pandemic, Progpharma is a digital pharmacy application that makes it easy for consumers to order medication in Ghana. This week we interview Progpharma Founder & CEO, Gifty Buah, a software and machine learning engineer with a passion for improving healthcare accessibility and convenience in emerging markets.
Q: You founded Progpharma during the COVID pandemic, tell us how it started and what the solution does.
Progpharma Digital Ltd. is a Ghanaian-based technology company that develops solutions for the healthcare industry in low- and middle-income countries. Our flagship product is software as a service platform for prescribing, purchasing, and delivering medicine from accredited retail pharmacies to consumers. The Progpharma platform is designed to assist pharmacies, doctors, and retail consumers with a seamless channel for obtaining quality medicine.
Pharmacies can manage medical inventory and online orders for all pharmacy branches and medical doctors can create electronic prescriptions, including refills, that are forwarded directly to pharmacies with medicine in stock. This part of the platform is web-based to be easily accessible with Computers already available at pharmacies and hospitals.
Retail customers have access to Android and IOS mobile apps for finding and purchasing medicine from accredited pharmacies. The platform allows consumers to interact with pharmacists through online chat and soon, a video functionality to create a feel of in-person pharmacy visits. Our mobile app also provides pickup or delivery services to manage the safe delivery of medicine from pharmacies to consumers.
Q: Were there challenges to starting a healthtech company in an emerging market like Ghana?
Healthcare is a complex and heavily regulated industry. One challenge we encountered was correctly identifying which of the vast stock of locally produced and imported medicines are truly considered over-the-counter and which were prescription medicine according to the Ghana Health Service and Food and Drugs Authority. This challenge was due to the difficulty in finding databases with consistent naming conventions and information. We are still navigating this problem by collaborating with accredited pharmacies and other institutions under the Ghana Health Service to collate a database that helps solve this problem. To prioritize the safety of our consumers during this process, medicines that we do not have enough information about to categorize are excluded from our platform.
Q: How has Progpharma utilized innovative features within its platform and services to differentiate itself from competitors in the healthtech space?
Progpharma has integrated an enhanced KYC process for verifying the identities of consumers who purchase prescription medicine through our platform. Consumers are to verify their identity with a valid national identity card and live facial image which is automatically validated with the appropriate national databases before prescription medicine can be purchased. We also drastically reduce the time between issuing prescriptions and locating pharmacies with stock by automatically indicating which pharmacies on the platform have medicine in stock and forwarding prescriptions directly to them.
Q: Could you share notable successes or milestones that Progpharma has achieved, demonstrating the positive impact it has made in the health sector?
Customers who have utilized the Progpharma platform have expressed great satisfaction with the promptness of service delivery. As a company that is determined to ensure timely access to medicine in low and middle-income countries, this is a great success for us.
Q: As a tech founder in the health sector in an emerging market, how do you approach building partnerships and collaborations within the healthcare ecosystem to drive innovation and accelerate growth for Progpharma?
There are certain tools that Progpharma considers crucial in driving innovation in the healthcare ecosystem. As a startup, we constantly explore opportunities for collaborative research and projects with academic institutions, medical centres, and especially our pharmacy partners. This ensures that any product we develop solves new but relevant problems and hence naturally accelerates our growth and that of the healthcare ecosystem. We also ensure that any partnerships we form align with both our and our partners’ strategic goals so that parties are invested in each other’s success. Lastly, we endeavour to build long-lasting relationships through continued communication and transparency.