Pharmacy practice in Zimbabwe has remained largely unchanged since the 80s. Retail brick and mortar stores continue to be the primary model for pharmacy care delivery, and consequently the only way to get in touch with your pharmacist is via telephone or by going to the pharmacy. The customer experience for pharmacy-patients right after Independence thirty-five years ago is really the same for you and I today. And that has been a shame for the industry, but only until two weeks ago. A new start-up called Impact Pharmacy is introducing new and incredibly exciting ways of providing pharmacy care to patients in Zimbabwe.
Impact Pharmacy, through their website, ImpactPharmacy.com, provides highly innovative first-to-market services that allow friends and relatives abroad to contribute directly to the health and wellbeing of loved ones in Zimbabwe. Namely, these services are: Prescriptions Online™ and Hospital Bill Pay™. Through Prescriptions Online™, Zimbabwean prescription medications can be paid for online from anywhere in the world. That means friends and relatives, even well-wishers, can help a loved one pay for prescriptions. To use the Prescriptions Online™ service, the patient needs to present a physical copy of their prescription, written by a practitioner licensed in Zimbabwe, to a pharmacist at Impact Pharmacy. The pharmacist will process their prescription and provide them with a reference number.
The patient can then share that reference number with whomever they wish so they can use it to pay for the prescription items on the Impact Pharmacy website. Once payment has been received the medications become available for pick up immediately. Hospital Bill Pay™ is similar to Prescriptions Online™, and as the name suggests, is used for paying hospital bills. Hospital Bill Pay™ works for all non-pharmacy medical bills, such as those from a hospital, clinic, or doctor. To use the Hospital Bill Pay™ service, the patient needs to take a photo of their bill and send the image to Impact Pharmacy via WhatsApp, SMS or email.
The patient will receive a reference number from Impact Pharmacy which can then be used to pay the bill through the Impact Pharmacy website from anywhere in the world. Upon receiving confirmation of payment, Impact Pharmacy will transfer funds to the care provider who originated the medical bill(s) within 48 hours. Due to the difficult economic situation in our country, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Zimbabweans rely on their friends and relatives for financial help to cover various health related expenses.
Therefore, both these services are needful and ingenious. The main advantage of both these services is that one completely averts two major risks ordinarily involved with helping others financially across borders: exorbitant money transfer service fees, and the implacable potential of the money being abused or repurposed. Anyone who has ever had either of these two things happen to them appreciates the real value Impact Pharmacy is providing through these services.
Impact Pharmacy has an up-to-date website with e-commerce. Most businesses in Zimbabwe do not have websites. They normally just list in business directories that only provide their physical address and sometimes a phone number. A quick Google search of “Impact Pharmacy” promptly pulls up their website – where you can check what they have in stock as well as buy any of their non-prescription products online. Patients no longer have to wait until they go to the pharmacy or call the pharmacy to find out if a particular item is in stock. You can check whether or not Impact Pharmacy carries a specific product, and purchase it, all online right from the comfort of your home. Impact Pharmacy is the first, and currently, the only pharmacy with e-commerce in Zimbabwe.
Impact Pharmacy is using technology to pluralize methods of care delivery in ways that feel natural and intuitive to today’s patient. Impact Pharmacy is making their pharmacists available to answer questions through WhatsApp or via SMS for FREE. That means you no longer have to wait until you get a chance to go to the pharmacy, or call the pharmacy, for answers about certain health conditions or your medications – right from the convenience of your cellphone you can ask questions and receive answers from board certified Zimbabwean pharmacists. Patients that have sent questions to Impact Pharmacy on WhatsApp are reporting that they received responses almost instantaneously. Through increasing ease of access to their pharmacists, and doing so efficiently, Impact Pharmacy is positioning themselves as the ‘pharmacy of choice’ for Zimbabweans across the country.
Additionally, one can also buy nutrition, hygiene, first aid, and beauty product hampers at ImpactPharmacy.com. Again these can be purchased from anywhere in the world. Product hampers make an excellent choice for anytime gifts and Impact Pharmacy are smart to augment their offerings online with product hampers.
Impact Pharmacy is truly redefining pharmacy practice in innovative ways. They are changing the way pharmacy is practiced in Zimbabwe. I am truly excited to see what other transformations they will bring to the industry.