Professionalizing and connecting rural pharmacies to help underserved people live in good health.
Project start date : 29/06/2017
Beneficiary country : Bangladesh
About the project
Jeeon is rolling out a two-pronged approach that will both upskill VMs and provide targeted health information/services to patients. Through case-solving games, VMs can learn proper treatment and prescription protocols for simple conditions. For more complicated cases, VMs are provided access to a robust, quality-vetted network of nearby hospitals and diagnostic centers to refer patients, and other specialized services (e.g. surgeries) through targeted health camps. Closed feedback loops on the platform in the form of ratings are an integral aspect of the platform, holding the VM and referral centers accountable to quality standards and treatment protocols, thereby improving the quality of healthcare across the continuum. As the intervention scales, Jeeon collecst an extensive amount of patient data, used to provide health information through SMS/IVR, set up targeted health camps based on the healthcare needs of a particular community and ensure supply and prescription of quality drugs in pharmacies.
In the absence of doctors and formal healthcare facilities, Village Medics – untrained rural pharmacists selling medicines – dominate the landscape, with approximately one VM per 700 people, compared to 1:10,000 doctors. These informal providers are a part of the community that they serve, garnering trust among their patients. Patients seek care from these informal providers for a variety of reasons from simple cases of buying over-the-counter drugs to seeking consultation for complicated and serious medical conditions. In rural areas, 67% of the population seek care from VMs as their first point of care – about 2.5 million people a day – making them an indispensable cog in the wheel of rural primary healthcare. Despite this, VMs lack the medical knowledge, skill set and recognition from the government that their formally trained counterparts possess. VMs work freely in an informal healthcare system with very little oversight, allowing them to treat complicated and serious cases despite their limited knowledge. As a result, patients often get misdiagnosed and mistreated, resulting in long term health problems and antibiotic resistance, etc. Private pharmaceutical companies and rural medical centers exploit this and use VMs for their personal advantage, putting pressure on them to provide unnecessary drugs and treatments. Over the last 40 years since Bangladesh’s independence, over 50 billion dollars has been spent on rural healthcare largely aimed at replacing and displacing VMs, using physical facilities, moving doctors to villages, and building community health worker networks, with very little success. However, perhaps less than 50 million dollars has been spent on improving the skill and quality of care VMs provide. Jeeon discovered this almost by accident, while consulting for health NGOs, donors and the government in Bangladesh developing technology solutions. By that time, it worked in the space for over 5 years and worked with all of the big players in rural healthcare, but heard very little mention of VDs in the formal discourse. This was disjointed from the field experiences, where Jeeon always saw VMs to be the first line of treatment. This prompted us to dig deeper and realize that a big untapped problem and opportunity existed in that gray area between legal regulations and people’s preferences.
This solution contributes to improve the skills and quality of services provided by a VM. By leveraging a channel that 70% of rural people trust, Jeeon can funnel patients to other health programs, such as private/govt. health facilities and hospitals, NGO health camps and specialized services, helping pharma companies and governments by giving information on drug use/abuse, etc.
22 Full-Time equivalents
N/C Service providers
Number of beneficiaries since launch