There are approximately 8,00,000 pharmacies in India with a compounded  annual growth rate of 10.08% in the organized sector. As per a study conducted on pharmacies by Samhita Social Ventures and the Cipla Foundation  41% pharmacists provide medical guidance to customers and 57% viewed themselves as a ‘supporter of people’s health needs’.  Moreover, 50%  saw an increase in customers seeking medical guidance post COVID-19.  During the COVID-19 crisis, pharmacies have defended the communities on the frontline and have supported them with hygiene essentials, information as well as guidance on maintaining overall wellness.

There is potential to transcend the one-dimensional approach of viewing pharmacies as a dispenser of drugs to an integral part of the healthcare system, providing primary healthcare services to the citizens. Tapping this potential is the driving force of the Pharmacy Alliance, which is aligned with WHO’s guiding principles, which suggests that “Contribution to improving the effectiveness of the healthcare system and public health” is an important function of pharmacies. WHO has suggested that pharmacies should engage in preventive care activities and services, provide point-of-care testing, where applicable, and other health screening activities. They should also engage in preventive care activities that promote public health and prevent disease.

What is the solution?

The Pharmacy Alliance aims to empower pharmacists with the knowledge, tools, resources, and incentives to become trusted healthcare providers (and not just sellers of medicines) to their local and underserved communities.

With the support of NIIF and Digihealth, Samhita-CGF  has piloted an intervention under the Pharmacy Alliance aimed at empowering pharmacies to become a hyperlocal tier for facilitating healthcare. Through this program, Pharmacists are supporting citizens with easy, quick, and free of cost access to BP and BMI screening that correlates to two of the most common lifestyle diseases  – Hypertension and Obesity. The pharmacists are provided pay for performance incentive for conducting screenings and booking teleconsultations. 

What has been the impact so far? 

A total of 237 Pharmacies have been onboarded as part of this pilot. These Pharmacies are situated across Mumbai, Pune, and surrounding areas of Palghar, Raigad, & Thane. So far, 2,100+ unique customers have been screened and made aware of their BP and BMI status through this pilot with a total of 2,400 BP and 2,250 BMI screenings. The pilot has been able to demonstrate that:

  • Pharmacies, if provided with the right set-up support and incentives, are willing to participate in such programs
  • Customers are open to considering Pharmacies as “points of care” as they are willing to get screened for non-invasive basic lifestyle diseases or concerns
  • The pilot has successfully been able to make these customers aware of their BP and BMI readings that might inform the customer of any potential risks/concerns at a touchpoint wherein the customer wasn’t expecting such care interventions in the first place.