Friday, February 24, 2017

NEWS POST: African App Cuts Medical Costs With Community "Virtual Pharmacy"

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A mobile app in Senegal helps families save money and reduce waste through a "virtual pharmacy" where users can exchange leftover medication for new prescriptions.

Jokko$anté is scaling up after a two-year pilot phase in one Senegalese town and on Friday launched a partnership with its first hospital, said founder Adama Kane. It aims to reach 300,000 families in the West African nation by the end of the year.

"Everyone has a box of unused medicine in their cabinet," Kane told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "The idea is to create a medicine box for the whole community."

The app allows users to trade in unused, packaged medicine for points which can go toward the purchase of new medicine when they need it. All of the exchanges are done at health centres or pharmacies by licensed professionals.

Since launching two years ago in the town of Passy, Jokko$anté has gained 1,200 members and 3.5 million CFA francs (US$5,600) worth of medicine has been exchanged, said Kane.

Jokko$anté's new partners include a hospital and four pharmacies in and around capital Dakar. It plans to expand internationally soon, reaching six African countries by the end of the year and 15 by 2020.

"Most health programmes are focused on providing care, but there hasn't been any ambitious project yet to address the accessibility of medicine," Kane said.

His team found half to three quarters of Senegalese families' health spending went on medicine. Those who can't afford drugs from pharmacies sometimes get them on the street, fuelling illegal trade and the spread of fake medication.

"I think it responds to a real need," Bitilokho Ndiaye, an advisor who works with start-ups in Senegal's posts and telecommunications ministry, said of the app.

Era of Sharing
"Jokko$anté" is a play on the French word for health and a word that means "give and receive" in Senegal's most widely spoken language Wolof.

Giving is an important part of the system, said Kane. Users can send points to family members and friends, and donors can buy points for people in need.

The project has been driven by partners such as French telecoms giant Orange, who gain visibility in the process, said Kane.

Companies can target a certain demographic, such as women in their thirties, and if a matching user doesn't have enough points to pay for a prescription she will receive a text saying which company donated to complete her purchase.

Kane thinks the app could spread throughout Africa and even to Europe.

"We're in a new era of sharing," he said. "People like collaboration. I think that's why this speaks to people." (US$1 = 622.4500 CFA francs)

Jokko$anté, The Virtual Community Pharmacy In Senegal
Adama Kane making a pitch of Jokko$anté. Image credit/source:
In Senegal, household health expenditure is mainly expenditure on medicines. For the more affluent communities living in Dakar, they account for 52% and for the poorest living in rural areas, purchases of drugs are estimated at 72% of the population's expenditure.

In addition, nearly 80% of the population does not have medical coverage and the benefits of some insurance or mutual insurance do not include medicines. 

Paradoxically, in such a context of scarcity of resources, the consumption of medicines is not optimized since unused medicines accumulate in certain family medicine boxes until they expire or are offered without any control.

Companies, in the context of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, do not have a secure platform where they can register their donations and follow the distribution to the final beneficiary, thus increasing their visibility of the target population.

It is this fact that led to the project Jokko$anté, an initiative of Adama Kane, a telecom engineer with a passion for technological innovation. The project was launched on 24 February 2015 in the municipality of Passy (Fatick region) with the support of Sonatel and the NGO RAES.

As a response to this situation, Jokko$anté proposes a community system for the deposit, storage, sharing, and cross-financing of medicines, which transfers the pharmacy box from the family scale to the departmental, regional or even country. 

This system is backed up by a web / mobile application that allows all transactions to be carried out safely with the end-to-end involvement of healthcare professionals and in compliance with the protocols and procedures in force.

How Jokko$anté Works.
Members can register freely on the website or can be registered by local managers. Each member thus has a personal account linked to their mobile phone number which can be Orange, Tigo or Expresso.

This account is credited whenever the member deposits medication and is debited each time the member withdraws medication upon presentation of a prescription. The account can also be credited with donations from the CSR Companies and the beneficiary receives an SMS indicating the company that offered the points or medicines. 

Also the transactions are carried out essentially by SMS, so that the application works with all types of telephones and all mobile networks.

The objective Jokko$anté  is to unite all layers of the population around the same objective of improving access to medicines:

the members belonging to the middle layer of the population earn points by submitting new drug or Not used

philanthropic members have a secure platform to make donations and follow the distribution to the final beneficiary

Senegalese from outside as well as residents of big cities will be able to buy points and transfer them to family members at Village

members with modest incomes will benefit from the donations of the partner structures in the framework of their sponsorship and corporate social responsibility (CSR / SAR) activities

donor companies and organizations have a platform for promotion and Monitoring of their CSR / SAR activities with direct SMS communication and better visibility among the beneficiary populations

Pilot project in Passy
Since its launch in Passy, ​​the project has been a success with the participation of companies such as Bolloré Africa Logistics Senegal and Sodipharm who have offered medicines. 

Sonatel had made available funds for the development of the application and batch of drugs offered by its staff.

Since August 10, 2015, Sonatel has launched a permanent collection of medicines for the Jokko$anté project.

The project is nominated in the Word Summit Award as the best application of Senegal in the fields of Health and Environment. It is also part of the projects selected at the Round2 of the African Entrepreneurship Award on nearly 5000 applications. (Edited to reflect current growth figures) (TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH)

Originally published (STORY 1) on REUTERS and (STORY 2) on SOCIALNETLINK

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