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Staffing for pharmacies in Remote Areas.

Providing access to quality healthcare in under-served areas by leveraging mobile technology and Innovative staffing.

Photo of Elvin Blankson
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In a country where the pharmacy is the first point of call for almost everyone who falls ill, more than 70% do not employ a pharmacist. This pharmaceutical staff deficit cuts across urban hospitals, private clinics and private pharmacies though they are more prevalent in rural settings. The reason is 2 fold. Most pharmacies do not make enough to pay a pharmacist full time, and majority of pharmacist will not relocate to rural areas for work.

The net effect is unequal access to quality services, misdiagnosis and treatment of ailments, avoidable visits to the hospital, overburdened GP services, prescription errors go undetected, misinformation and medication errors. Unequal access to pharmaceutical services is commonplace in most parts of the world, even in some developed countries.

Pharmacists are one of the few healthcare professionals able to perform a majority of their duties without physical contact with a patient. Technology now allows us to take a picture of a prescription, make the appropriate comments under it, offer patient counseling, all in real time without being physically present. We want to take this and give it a multiplier effect, enabling pharmacist to be booked in 2 or more locations during a shift, so that cases that cannot be handled by the assistants, are communicated to the pharmacist in real time, ensuring optimum quality patient care.

This intervention addresses both afore mentioned challenges, allowing facilities to pay significantly lower amounts for professional staffing, and pharmacists able to work in rural areas without being physically present.


To bridge this gap, we have designed GoPharma a smartphone based tele-pharmacy software application. With a simple mobile phone, tablet or laptop, a pharmacist can oversee and supervise operations at the pharmacy 24 hours a day.

The system allows for face to face patient consultations, prescriptions reviews, medication orders, clinical interventions and consultation with other onsite medical personnel in medical centers.

In addition, the software provides for the pharmacy , a cloud based point of sale software per-loaded with medication to simplify stock management and re-ordering and provides them with business analytics tools, all at the click of a button.


We understand that variation in population density and purchasing power is a key factor in determining revenue for facilities, which in turn affects, ability and willingness to hire the services of a pharmacist.

However, unlike seeing a doctor where there is a continuous flow of booked patients, in pharmacies, there are significant down times and peak times during the day.

By matching pharmacies we can even this spread, so that, facilities which do not experience similar peak periods in a given day are matched together.

The key to our software which enables us to staff multiple locations with one pharmacist per shift, thus reducing the cost of staffing per facility, is a machine learning algorithm, which looks at the flow of customers into the pharmacy on an ongoing basis and groups facilities up to a maximum of 5, which do not have similar peak or down times, thereby optimizing service without compromising quality of care.

 For example, for a typical 6am – 2pm shift, a hospital will not be busy from 6am – 8am till doctors’ start seeing patients or hospitalized patients start receiving medication. The busy period for a hospital based pharmacy will be after 8am – 10pm till noon when it starts to dwindle. For most community pharmacies, busy times are before 8am when workers are on their way to work and after 9am – 10am when patients who visit their doctors go to fill their prescriptions and between 12pm – 1pm when workers are on lunch break.

Our algorithm will use the input of sale data (time of sale) from the Point Of Sale system to determine peak and down times and group facilities appropriately. This optimizes the staffing and oversight process, allowing us to reduce the cost of having an on-site pharmacist by up to 50%.

Another problem it allows us to solve is using data on patronage and sales to introduce a differential pricing scheme. This will allow pharmacies who have lower patronage and sales to pay a lower pricing, while those with a higher patronage (government owned facilities, urban and Peri-urban pharmacies and mission hospital pharmacies) pay a higher pricing to compensate. This is important because we do not want the pharmacy’s ability to pay to become a limiting factor.


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Photo of Kofi Gyan

This is a good initiative and a doable solution. My first professional project out of school was to develop a POS for pharmacies and supermarkets in Ghana. This gave me a lot insight into our pharmacies work in Ghana.
Now l develop mostly Android apps for both local and international clients.
The ubiquitous spread of mobile phones(prices are going down each day) and the wide adoption of technology in most developing countries gives me much confidence that this solution can be implemented. The engineers involve in the implementation of the mobile app must take cognizance of internet speed and availability so the solution can remain robust. Security and privacy should also play a vital role in the design and implementation of the solution by the engineers. Security on the Android platform is getting better but the engineers must make a conscious effort at encrypting sensitive data. Also the overall solution must consider the literacy level of all users involved.

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