Rising from its Regional Workshop held at the weekend, the African Pharmaceutical Forum (APF) has implored all pharmacists across the region to improve their service delivery digitally, through the use of different innovative technologies for better patient outcomes and satisfaction. It cited the wide digital exposure brought to the region by the COVID-19 pandemic, advocating sustenance of the applications for improvements and upscaling of Pharmacy practice, education and research across the region.
The conference, which held at Ibis Hotel, Ikeja, was also viewed virtually as it attracted international and national figures like the FIP President, Mr Dominique Jordan; APF President, Dr Prosper Hiag; PSN President, Pharm. (Mazi) Sam Ohuabunwa; President, Industrial Pharmacy Section of FIP, Pharm. Sola Solarin; Vice-President, Industrial Pharmacy Section of FIP, Didier Mouliom; Pharm. Jocelyn Chaibva, vice-president, APF; Dr John Serbe Marfo, keynote speaker; Registrar, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) Dr NAE Mohammed; Pharm. (Sir) Anthony Akhimien, former president, APF; Pharm. Mabel Torongo, inaugural president of APF; Pharm. Azubike Okwor, past president of APF and PSN, Prof. Cyril Usifoh, subtheme speaker and Prof. of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, UNIBEN; Ms. Jackie Maimin, subtheme speaker and CEO, Independent Community Pharmacists Association, ICPA; Dr Arinola Joda, asst. general secretary/editor in chief, APF; Dr Sena Awitty, secretary, Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, among others.
The African Pharmaceutical Forum (APF) is the FIP forum comprised of national pharmaceutical associations of countries in the World Health Organization’s African region (Afro) and is the 5th regional forum of the FIP.
In his keynote speech, titled “Technological Innovations for Pharmacy in Africa amidst the COVID-19 pandemic” Marfo harped on the essence of technology in advancing Pharmacy practice in the region as he x-rayed the various digital apps that aided communication and service delivery between pharmacists and patients in the heat of the COVID-19 lockdown, when physical meeting was restricted.
He asserted that pharmacists must not allow lessons learnt in the pandemic, especially digital knowledge obtained, to slip away, as they have come to stay in moving the profession forward. The Ghanaian scientist acknowledged the impact of technological innovations in the pharmaceutical space, saying the survival of pharmacists and pharmacies from the pandemic depend largely on how best they can leverage technology for their growth.
Due to these new innovations, he said there is need for online regulation of Pharmacy practice to ward off fraudulent practices from the system.” There is potential online growth for pharmacies willing to adapt to technological innovations, as it has the power to attract new customers and reach a wider audience than physical consultation.
“Online Pharmacy practice also offers patient-centric supply chain driven by technology, easy online payment for patients and it enables virtual consultation and prescription”, he said.
Dr Marfo further hinted on the benefits of innovative apps and platforms to pharmacists, saying it offers a wide-range of opportunities as it is only the pharmacist that chooses to be involved that will remain relevant in the pharmaceutical space in the nearest future.
Fielding questions from journalists at the workshop, APF President, Dr. Hiag, shared the same opinions with the keynote speaker, stressing the urgency required for pharmacists to latch on to the usage of new applications for electronic payment such as the Mbaza used in Kenya, e-commerce pharmacy, and home deliveries.
He also identified language barrier among pharmacists in the region as a challenge that needs to be tackled headlong, as membership cuts across francophone and anglophone countries.
He stated: “Since it is one of our missions to bring people together from different countries, this challenge will be resolved gradually”.
The PCN Registrar, Dr Mohammed on his part, disclosed the recent activities of the Council in favour of online-pharmacy, saying the PCN and NAFDAC are set to facilitate seamless online-pharmacy activities, but awaiting the policy statement from the Ministry of Justice, before they can swing into action. He also noted the partnership between the Council and Interpol, as an agent of tracking any pharmacist or non-pharmacist that attempts to defraud clients from their website.
Mohammed also threw his weight behind technological innovations in the industry, saying information technology is no longer a futuristic term, as different sectors of the economy are being disrupted daily with technology, Pharmacy inclusive.
He said it is therefore imperative for pharmacists in all aspects of the practice to adapt fast to new realities of improved practice, through the application of these innovations.
Prof. Usifoh and Pharm. Maimim, did justice to the sub-themes, “Setting Up an African Association of Faculties of Pharmacy” and “Vaccination through Pharmacy”, respectively.
In his vote of thanks, Mouliom, who also doubles as the General Secretary of the association, appreciated all participants for being a part of the programme, as he listed the current projects of the APF to include: To improve and encourage communication and cooperation within the region, between member associations and especially overcoming language barriers; establishment of the African Association of Faculties of Pharmacy; access to quality medicines, devices & services; and vaccination training in Africa.