- the story of Pharst Care
The advancement of technology in this current dispensation has completely changed the world, giving entrepreneurs the platform to innovate and solve problems in societies. However, as Arthur C. Clarke puts it, the technology one uses impresses no one; the experiences created with it are what matters.
This week’s inspiring start-up features a self-taught software developer, Theophilus Nutifafa – Founder of Pharst Care, a web application hosted by professional doctors, and offers users the opportunity to get their medications from the comfort of their homes – saving them the stress of moving from one pharmacy to another. Read on as he narrates how it all began!
Theophilus Nutifafa is a product of the Alakple Roman Catholic Basic School in the Volta Region and also West Africa Senior High School. He is currently a level 400 student at the University of Ghana, Legon, studying Economics, Religions and Theatre Arts.
While awaiting admission into university, Theophilus took advantage of the time to learn coding and programming with YouTube videos and by reading books on the subject. Since then he has been a software engineer and developer, who has worked on several technological products while operating in the tech space for over five years.
With his background, one wonders why he has generated an interest in the health sector. For Theophilus, he has to champion this innovation with his technological skills to solve what he described as a gap identified in the health space when he fell sick in 2019.
The birth of Pharst Care
In 2019 Theophilus was sick, and after visiting hospital he was prescribed some medicines. But the search for those medications was a big ordeal as he roamed from one pharmacy to another in different areas to get the prescribed medicine. Though he got the prescriptions later in the day, he said to himself that those in critical conditions will not survive if they have to go through this ordeal in search of the right medication.
So, as someone who is passionate about technology and poised to use it for solving challenges, he spoke to like-minded colleagues about developing an application that would serve as a means through which people can easily access their medication and subsequently have a chance to interact with medical professionals through the app.
“In 2019 I got sick myself and had to roam about and try five pharmacies to get the medication prescribed for me. This was not the first time, but it was the actual one that triggered me to start this project.
“When I got back from the search, I told my friends with whom I was working earlier on other educational applications that it was time we came up with an application that could address the problem.
“We embarked on thorough research, developed the application and brought onboard professionals such as Dr. Samuel Essilfie, Dr. Kofi Frimpong Manson of Dipsy Pharmacy, Dr. Emmanuella Y. Agyapong of Aburi, Kom Presbyterian Hospital, and Dr. Eugene Oppong of Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi,” he said.
“So, with the application people can now sit in the comfort of their homes and consult with a Doctor of Pharmacy over ailments they think are not serious enough for the hospital; which is usually the case, because our research shows that in our part of the world, Africa, we tend to rely more on community pharmacies than hospitals.
“And so now people can get their medications delivered to them at an almost-homogenous delivery price. All one needs is to search and find their medication, home items, health care products and have them delivered to their doorstep,” he added.
Pharst Care also introduces time-to-time check-ups by an assigned professional to learn if a patient is making progress; if drugs need to be changed, or if a refill is needed. The services offered include online consultations with certified doctors, which are currently free.
The team also helps deliver medications across the country, preventive healthcare information, social health, patient reviews, refills and medication tracking – all in the Pharst Care mobile and web applications.
Speaking on what sets them apart from others, Theophilus indicated that Pharst Care provides absolute convenience and prevents self-diagnosis/self-medication by providing free online consultations with certified professionals, tracking patients’ medications, and paying critical attention to their feedback to understand the progress and effectiveness of the medications.
It also offers anonymous online counselling, allowing one to have a pharmacy in their pocket.
How education has helped
Speaking on how education has helped, he said studying economics has made him a problem-solver.
“I love solving problems and I am very analytic. Coupled with my five years in software development, it has helped my business decisions. I was able to pivot the idea from being a pharmacy locator to providing all the services we are providing today: and this is just the beginning. My team and I have been able to design, develop and maintain such amazing software which serve clients daily,” he said.
Pharst Care in the next five years wants to be the go-to digital pharmacy and start breaking into new markets, especially Nigeria and other surrounding West African countries.
Sharing his challenge as a start-up, he said aside from funding – which is usually a headache for most young entrepreneurs – there is usually no framework that can serve as a stepping-stone or a guide.
“We barely have people to look up to, so you have to do all the mistakes. And so if there is an entrepreneurial coaching programme or school, that would be of help to us start-ups because most people are doing great things but don’t have others to look up to,” he said.
Also, as a student, Theophilus believes balancing school and business is a challenge that only determined people are able to overcome.
How government must support
He said what government or appropriate authorities can do to help is assist with or provide grants and loans for promising start-ups. With such help, they can scale up quickly and even be in a better position to pay back with interest.
Given the financial challenges most start-ups face, he is confident support of this kind can help them create job opportunities to relieve the pressure of unemployment in the country.
Advice to young entrepreneurs
“Get a skill. I learned software development by myself. If that skill can be turned into a business, then go for it. You’ll know that it can be a business if you can use it to do something that people will be willing to pay for. Also, you need to find someone in that field to coach you: worry them until you get what you want,” he said.
He also advised that to be able to climb up to the top, one needs to be willing to learn from others, and even their experiences.
He added that they should read a lot – recommending books like The Lean Start-up by Eric Ries.
Pharst Care is available on the Google play store and Apple App Store.
Phone: 233 20 359 2400
Facebook, Instagram: @pharstcare
Email: [email protected]