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Pharmacies are Key
to Pandemic Preparedness

Pharmacies are Key to Pandemic Preparedness

mClinica’s digital pharmacy platform SwipeRx—the largest in Southeast Asia connecting over 190,000 pharmacy professionals and students across 7 countries—is being leveraged to support pandemic preparedness in Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines. In partnership with Ministries of Health, Pharmacy Associations, the Global Innovation Fund, USAID, Johns Hopkins University and FHI360, mClinica Pharmacy Solutions is engaging pharmacies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 using digital research, awareness and education tools.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented threats to national health systems and community health across Southeast Asia and globally in 2020.  Community pharmacy professionals—along with other front-line health workers—have played a critical role in supporting national pandemic responses.  Even during the most severe lock-down periods in Southeast Asia, pharmacies remained open and continued to address community health needs. Throughout the pandemic, the role of community pharmacies has expanded as this channel remained a reliable source of essential medicine, client assessment, consultation and counseling services.  Even in the face of significant COVID-19 related risks, pharmacy professionals continued to serve the health needs of their community.  In doing so, pharmacies filled gaps within strained national health systems.

 

Across 7 markets in Southeast Asia, SwipeRx—mClinica’s digital platform of 190,000 pharmacy professionals and students—enables governments together with civil society, private sector and global health partners to engage pharmacies in the response to the pandemic as well as tuberculosis, HIV, unmet need for family planning, antimicrobial resistance and other public health priorities.  Through the trade and patient solutions delivered through SwipeRx, mClinica empowers more than 45,000 pharmacies to operate more efficiently and effectively.  SwipeRx generates unparalleled pharmacy insights and facilitates pharmacy provider and patient reach across the fragmented pharmacy channel with unprecedented scale and speed. 

 

In this context, in mid-2020, the Global Innovation Fund (GIF) partnered with mClinica Pharmacy Solutions to mobilize pharmacies to contribute to national pandemic responses in Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines.  With support from GIF as well as USAID Enhancing Quality of Health Care Activity (Cambodia) and the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication (Indonesia & Philippines), mClinica deployed digital surveys, awareness campaigns and continuing professional development (CPD) modules to equip pharmacy professionals with improved awareness and education needed to optimize their contributions to national COVID-19 responses.  Within less than two months, digital surveys were designed and deployed to understand gaps in pharmacy professionals’ knowledge, attitudes and practices related to COVID-19.  Research findings were rapidly applied to inform the design of 374 digital awareness posters and 4 continuing professional development modules promoting COVID-19 safe practices for pharmacy staff and clients.  As a result, 455,000 SwipeRx app and social media accounts were exposed to digital awareness content promoting COVID-19 safe practices and nearly 9,000 pharmacy professionals were educated about COVID-19.  These results were achieved in less than seven months.

Posters deployed through the SwipeRx app and social media channels provide practical tips to enable pharmacies to safely remain open during COVID-19:

  • Install glass counter shields and wear masks consistently
  • Place physical markings on the floor to encourage physical distancing among clients waiting to be served
  • Develop alternative medicine lists and suppliers, and manage the quantity of per customer sales of high-demand medicines to minimize the risk of stock-outs

In record time, pharmacy professionals were equipped with updated professional skills and knowledge through digital awareness campaigns and CPD modules through their mobile device—free of charge. SwipeRx awareness and education content was designed to address common questions regarding how to protect pharmacy staff and patients from COVID-19, how to identify COVID-19 symptoms and risk factors requiring further care from a health facility and how to protect pharmacies from supply-chain shortages caused by the pandemic.  Support from Ministries of Health in all three countries as well as the Philippine Pharmacists Association (PPhA), the Indonesian Pharmacists Association (IAI) and the Pharmacy Council of Cambodia has been critical to ensure SwipeRx awareness and education content is consistent with local guidelines and integrated with local accreditation systems.  In Cambodia and the Philippines, SwipeRx is the only approved provider of mobile continuing education for pharmacists recognized by national authorities.   Pharmacy professionals also recognize the value of SwipeRx, describing the app as their most trusted online source of professional and medical information.  As an independent pharmacist in North Maluku, Indonesia explained, “After completing the SwipeRx COVID-19 CPD, I am confident to counsel my clients. Many alternative medicines have emerged that claim to be able to overcome COVID-19. However, [after completing this CPD], I can now help my clients be more cautious about non-recommended alternatives.  I am proud to be able to help others. Let’s fight together!” 

As innovative COVID-19 diagnostics and vaccines become accessible, there are opportunities to engage pharmacies further to support pandemic preparedness in developing country contexts with fragile national health systems. As national protocols for COVID-19 prevention, diagnosis and treatment evolve there is a need to ensure that pharmacy professionals remain educated and equipped to provide quality COVID-19 advice and care for their clients. Building from strong results to date, mClinica actively seeks partnerships to continue to leverage its digital platform to support pandemic preparedness across Southeast Asia.

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