/ 17 May 2019

The direct route to patient care

Kagiso Kekane
Kagiso Kekane, national co-ordinator CCMDD at Pharmacy Direct

Pharmacy Direct is a member of the AfroCentric Group and a nationwide courier pharmacy that delivers prescribed chronic medication to patients around the country. The organisation is focused on providing people with hassle-free delivery of chronic medicine that will help them to stay healthy. The company has established an excellent reputation for punctual delivery of essential chronic medicines to patients in the private sector, and has spent the last few years building an equally impressive reputation in the public sector, thanks to its work with the National Department of Health (NDoH) in the provinces.

“The company was established in 2004 as a courier pharmacy with the goal of delivering chronic medicines to patients in the private sector,” says Kagiso Kekane, national co-ordinator CCMDD, Pharmacy Direct. “We are the designated service provider for several well-known medical aids in the country and work closely with medical practitioners to ensure the seamless delivery of medicine parcels. The doctors send the prescriptions to us, we evaluate the prescriptions according to GOOD Pharmacy Practice and then delivery ready patients medicine parcels on to the address of the patient’s choice. We stand for on-time delivery, all the time.”

In 2013, Pharmacy Direct submitted a tender to the NDoH to provide the same services, but in the public healthcare sector. The goal was to form partnerships with the NDoH to distribute medication to patients within specific South African provinces and the company was awarded the tender. It ran from 2014 to 2018 across Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape.

“The service was provided to those patients that had shown compliance to their medication for a period of six to 12 months and who clearly understood how to take their medicine properly and were adherent to treatment,” says Kekane. “The clinicians (doctors and nurses) would write the repeatable six-month prescriptions and send these to us, and we would then ensure that they were evaluated and accurately dispensed according to good pharmacy practice and the parcels would be distributed to a variety of pick up points including facilities, retail pharmacies, churches, etc around the provinces.”

Initially, Pharmacy Direct delivered the prescriptions to specific facilities in the various districts, but they recognised that there was a need for patients to receive their medication more efficiently, with the same levels of convenience as in the private sector. With this in mind, the NDoH created a fresh solution where retail pharmacies, local pharmacies, doctors’ rooms and occupational health services were appointed as pick up points allowing Pharmacy Direct to deliver medication to registered pickup points as well as registered facilities.

“The patient can now choose to collect their medication from outlets such as Clicks or Dis-chem, and any other appointed Pick up Points that are close to where they work or live,” says Kekane. “The department have subsequently added other pick-up points such as churches, schools and tribal courts in rural villages etc, each one ensuring that patients can easily and conveniently pick up their medicine parcels.”

The initial tender ran for three years, but it was extended on two occasions for an additional year, resulting in a five-year term of service. During this period of time, they also took on the work for two additional provinces — Limpopo and North West Province.

“We ended up servicing seven provinces by the end of our tenure in 2018,” says Kekane. “Then, we took on a new tender that started in April 2018, one that has seen us servicing four provinces, including KwaZulu-Natal, which is one of the largest. It will allow us to deliver medication to around 1.1-million patients in this province alone.”

The tender will run for another three-year period and Pharmacy Direct is already into its second year as of April 2019. Pharmacy Direct was also awarded the pick-up point contract that allows for the company to contract with, and appoint, pick-up points in the various communities across all the provinces, this is assisting the department in the Siyenza Project which aims to increase the number of Pick up Points across the country.

“With this tender in mind, we have developed a project known as the bicycle courier programme, which is designed to continue our commitment: to deliver the same levels of convenience to the public sector as to the private,” says Kekane. “We believe it is possible to deliver to patient homes, taking the medications straight to their door using our bicycle couriers. So, over the course of the tender, we will be creating SMMEs through this programme.”

More than 4 500 people will be given access to the bicycle courier project, the programme can be accessed by individuals or groups. The goal is to not only provide exceptional patient care but to uplift the community and redress one of the most pressing problems in South Africa — unemployment. The young entrepreneurs selected for the programme are those who have already showed an interest in serving their communities and who will benefit financially from this initiative. This is not employment but people will be managing their own businesses. They will be given a free bike along with a medicine box that is designed to protect the medication from the elements, such as rain and hot weather. There will be training provided on the use of the bicycles, maintenance and crucial business skills development such as customer care, invoicing etc.

“We create SMMEs through the bicycle courier model as they distribute the medication throughout their communities,” says Kekane. “Our first delivery will be taking place as a pilot project in June with full rollout in September 2019 and we will be using this as a starting point for the initiative that we hope will ultimately have around 4 500 people participating in this initiative. We want to have at least that many couriers benefitting from the project by the end of the tender in 2021. There has been a lot of interest in the project at both the provincial and national level and we are really excited to see the results of our pilot.”

Pharmacy Direct has worked closely with the various facilities, medical practitioners, medical aids and health departments to carve out a solid reputation in the market. The company is committed to ensuring that the prescriptions generated by the clinicians are delivered on time, that patients are serviced correctly and promptly, and that there is always added value in the relationship. As part of the tender process, the company even went so far as to embed agents on site at the various facilities so that they could facilitate the flow of scripts, this was also another way of assisting the government to increase employment in the country with over 500 jobs created both in the field and internally.

“We need to collect the scripts every five days, so by placing agents in the facilities, we are ensuring that processes run smoothly and that there is minimal disruption to the facilities themselves,” adds Kekane. “Alongside our ability to simply pick up two additional provinces and support medication delivery in the midst of our first tender, these value-adds have shown our commitment to the NDoH and PDoH.”

Pharmacy Direct continues to adapt and innovate to ensure that systems and processes are seamless and efficient. The company works with government to support the growth of the programme and to ensure reliable patient care, consistently upgrading abilities and capabilities. Once such upgrade was the recent purchase and refinement of the CCMDD Centre in Centurion.

“We recognised that we would need to upscale our services across all operational levels and this is how the CCMDD Centre came to being,” says Kekane. “We also wanted to expand our call centre service for improved customer care.”

The CCMDD Centre, based in Centurion, was certified by the South African Pharmacy Council ready for business, was operational at end of April 2018 and was opened by the  Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, and the chairperson of the Afrocentric Board, ready to provide exemplary service to the market. Since then, the company has continued to work closely with the NDoH and PDoH to streamline care and continues to focus on programmes to improve efficiencies such as the bicycle courier project that allow for them to support communities and change the lives of South Africans.