It is no secret that most Kenyans still face a challenge accessing health products. This is especially true for patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer, among others.
Pharmacists David Onamu and Geoffrey Kiprop and software developer Daniel Namanga are however offering a solution through their health technology start-up, Pharmily. The app has been running for about two years.
It is a pharmacy that is available online and on mobile applications. The platform allows users to order prescription medicines as well as other health products that can be bought without a prescription such as dietary supplements and multivitamins, personal medical devices, hygiene products, baby products, sexual and reproductive health products as well as beauty and skincare products.
The user is required to upload their prescription to the app or website, and the medicines will be delivered to an address they choose.
This comes at a time when online pharmacists are quickly becoming an option for consumers. The regulatory body, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, earlier this year developed regulations to guide the burgeoning industry.
"The growing internet penetration and fairly low-cost of accessing the internet is something that can be used to make healthcare more accessible and more affordable. You do not have to go to where the medicines are, the medicines can come to you," Onamu said.
The boom for online chemists came after the pandemic as Kenyans turned to online services for work and school, grocery shopping, and even doctor visits. Many consumers are also patronising online pharmacies to procure their health products and fill prescriptions.
A report released in 2021 and done by Vodafone, Vodacom and Safaricom found that there has been an exponential rise in the number of people using digital health services through their smartphones.
Dr Onamu, who serves in the company as co-founder and the chief operating officer said that, unlike brick and mortar pharmacies, online chemists provide convenience and affordable costs for medication.
He said there was vast potential in the delivery of healthcare digitally.
"We source the best quality beauty, health, and wellness products and deliver them to our customers at their convenience. We apply our knowledge to optimise pharmacy services and improve patient satisfaction. We don’t settle for less than what the customer wants," he said.
Still, in its nascent stage, Pharmily aggregates products from multiple suppliers for delivery to consumers.
Dr Onamu noted that their start-up has improved patient convenience, as well as access and availability. "Besides, greater anonymity and confidentiality allow consumers to buy products discreetly. The convenience extends to individuals with limited mobility and communities in remote areas," he said.
"Personalised services, doorstep delivery, validation and fulfilment of prescriptions meet the convenience-related medication needs of patients, families and communities."
The team is currently testing a subscription feature that will have patients, especially those with chronic conditions, sign up to have their prescriptions filled automatically.
"Once this feature is up and running, we will know that patient A uses a particular drug and has a supply to last a month. When that period lapses, another dose will be supplied to them so that they do not miss taking the medication," Dr Onamu said.
The app will also send notices of required refills to the customers to remind them.
The team said a survey of the healthcare landscape had shown that some patients with prescriptions face the tedious challenge to locate a one-stop pharmacy store that stocks all medicines in their prescription.
Cancer patients, for instance, can spend over 48 hours locating a pharmacy selling their anti-cancer medicines.
On top of that, there is still the risk of substandard medication. “Kenyans face a risk of poor quality medicines and substandard health products, which have a far-reaching impact on health outcomes. We are driving more equitable access to quality and more affordable medicines to families in Nairobi and outside Nairobi," Dr Kiprop said.
He added that the team had developed in-house guidelines to ensure their services adhere to the recently developed guidelines for Internet Pharmacy Services in Kenya.
Mr Namanga, who helped develop the app and website, said it was user-friendly and had a function that allowed users to be completely anonymous.