Though the global pandemic caused many disruptions to all sectors, including the healthcare system, there is a positive development in the pharmaceutical industry as telepharmacy, which previously was not patronised much, has seen a soaring of demand with patients preferring the service to going to a hospital.
Telepharmacy is a pharmacist using telecommunication technology to provide care for patients. Patient care is delivered over the phone, or through an online platform where patients can key in their details of ailments and get prescriptions from medical doctors for assistance from pharmacists.
Even though telepharmacy is not new to the country, the practice has gained more popularity after the pandemic insurgence that increased the need for healthcare and pharmaceutical services, especially due to fear of contracting the disease at a hospital.
A pharmacist at Sanofi Ghana Limited, Amos Atsu, said his outfit has received increased patronage in telepharmacy ever since the virus hit the country.
“Telepharmacy is already in practice here in our part of the world, but it is being intensified now; especially, when some patients are busy with work and can just have access to a pharmaceutical service without being physically present. For example, a patient can get a refill of medication for a chronic condition by calling a pharmacy and having the drug/s delivered via a delivery person/dispatch rider.
“Also, in a pandemic like this COVID-19 outbreak wherein a lot of people are afraid of going to hospital, people have resorted to engaging pharmacists via the virtual space for pharmaceutical care services,” he said.
Another pharmacist with the Kaneshie Polyclinic, Dr. Fred Boakye-Yiadom, explained that with the advent of digitisation, telepharmacy has gained more ground and will continue to be important for healthcare services if the general public is educated more on its benefits.
“I believe in more education; I mean throwing more light on it for people to understand what it is and the benefit of it so patronage will increase. Our geographical environment coupled with medical conditions makes it difficult for people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, etc. to go through the stress of queuing for long hours at hospital pharmacies to buy drugs – only to be told they need to procure the drugs from other pharmacies.
“If we educate more people on the concept of telepharmacy, they can easily procure drugs from the comfort of their homes because Internet and communication gadgets are easily accessible now,” he said.
Also adding her thoughts to the matter, CEO of Erith Pharmaceutical Company Limited, Asomaniwaa Owusu-Ansah, said that at the height of the pandemic many people sought the use of telepharmacy agents, and that catapulted the business; but for it to become a household concept, there’s a need for innovation in the area. She adds that pharmacies should upgrade the service to ensure fast and smooth delivery of drugs to patients who use it.
“Telepharmacy has always been there, but it picked up more once the pandemic started. Pharmacies such as AD pharmacy, Ernest Chemist, Top-up pharmacy used that system more during the height of the pandemic, and still do. AD pharmacy, especially, has an online platform that allows you to upload your prescription and self-service.
“The other forms of telepharmacy such as the call and delivery method have been embraced more, but we need to harness the online platforms and self-service options with technology. This means that we have to go beyond engagements via WhatsApp and phone calls.
“There are some apps which offer a way of purchasing medicines. We could use more of that, because there are some people with ailments who may be shy to enter a pharmacy to buy – and will be more comfortable if they have a service they can rely on to purchase the product and have it delivered to their home,” she said.