Most consumer-facing industries and business models are primed for disruption. In fact, most services we use in our daily lives have already been disrupted by technology. Food delivery,
Ecommerce, streaming to property and car rentals. There’s an easier, digitized way to do most things. The same logic applies to healthcare, an industry packed with incumbents, big pharma, hospitals and layers of regulations.
There are many facets to tackling healthcare, an industry so large it’s poised to be worth 47.9 billion in Thailand by 2026 alone.
To learn more about this, we sat down with Jinnipa Panyawuthikrai, founder of Bangkok based PharmCare, a startup that offers telepharmacy, medicine dispensing, and delivery services
“PharmCare is an on-demand healthcare service,” says Jinnipa, “our services make it easier for you to talk to a pharmacist to source and buy medicine without leaving your home.”
The startup launched in 2020 and began offering B2B services for insurance companies and other corporates, and count younger insurance players such as Sunday and Aetna as a couple of their very first partners.
Thailand’s leading end-to-end HR solutions provider Humanica is also one of PharmCare’s corporate clients, as well as an investor in the business.
“Our insurance partners work with us to give their policyholders affordable access to medicine and prescription,” says Jinnipa. “It helps their clients minimize costs and in return, make the insurance companies more competitive.”
After steadily procuring B2B clients, it was time for PharmCare to focus on more rapid growth of the business.
“We just started working with B2C clients in April,” says Jinnipa, “we have a network of over 400 pharmacies nationwide, and we want more customers to have access to them.”
For those who have general medical inquiries or need on-demand medicine delivery, they can simply log into Line and add @app.pharmcare to chat.
PharmCare’s Origin Story
Jinnipa’s background in consulting exposed her to a lot of healthcare clients, which made her realize the various missing gaps and frictions within the industry.
“My experience in consulting, together with my family background working in a pharmacy inspired me to start PharmCare and address the industry gaps of accessibility, price, and other challenges,” she said.
Her mother worked as a community pharmacist, so growing up, Jinnipa would absorb all the inner workings of an active pharmacist in the community. She had an entry point to the network, the know-how and was ready to tackle the challenges.
Jinnipa launched PharmCare and in beta mode, she and co-founder Jamorn Hoonsiri applied to join the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) program, aimed at helping local startups to launch and accelerate. From there, they connected with more pharmacies through several networks and finalized a business model.
PharmCare currently has a network of 400 pharmacies across the country, with key partners being Boots, Facino and Lab Pharmacy making up around half of their network and the rest being smaller sized and local neighborhood pharmacies.
“With our insights on community pharmacy practice and knowledge of their pain points, it was easy to recruit pharmacies to join our network,” says Jinnipa, “they maintain their in-store prices, and get increased visibility with us online.”
PharmCare is the technology enabler between pharmacies and patients, so as a telepharmacy platform, the company doesn’t require specific licenses according to current regulations. Companies that offer telemedicine, however, require their own license.
“Telepharmacy providers leverage the pharmacies’ license to operate while we offer the digital tools they need,” says Jinnipa.
The PharmCare experience
For users at home who may be under the weather, or experiencing common illnesses such as diarrhea or bloating, it’s much easier to order over-the-counter medication on demand. PharmCare offers on-demand delivery, with licensed medical professionals to guide you through a basic virtual check-up before putting in an order.
Users have to simply add PharmCare as a friend on Line, and take it from there.
“The pandemic accelerated digitizations across many sectors,” said Jinnipa, “and it made a lot of Thais more comfortable with using their phones and applications for different services.”
This is why Jinnipa is confident in PharmCare’s mass adoption, the barrier to use is very low.
The platform and services are suited for users with everyday conditions, from colds to constipation and even Covid-19.
“We saw a slight uptick in Covid patients with milder symptoms who are self-isolating at home,” says Jinnipa. “They would message us on Line to check their symptoms, video call with a pharmacist and buy Covid-relief medicine.”
Covid-19 and common illnesses aside, suitable customers for PharmCare are also people who are on medication, such as allergies or diabetics. They are able to order medication monthly from the platform, as opposed to popping out to the pharmacy every other week to buy.
One benefit of leveraging Line’s platform is the built-in user base and potential customers, people also won’t have the hassle of signing up to experiment with a new platform.
What is PharmCare trying to solve?
“We are trying to break down the barriers in healthcare,” says Jinnipa, “by providing ease of access to quality healthcare services.”
PharmCare is ultimately working to make medical supplies more accessible to everyone, with just the tap of their phones. This is the starting point of the business; by being that bridge of convenience, quality and trust.
“We solve frictions by matching patients with quality pharmacists of closest proximity, as well as give them access to certified health professionals if they need guidance and consultation,” says Jinnipa.
Beyond convenience, PharmCare is also allowing their users to save money, much like how their corporate partners are adding PharmCare’s solutions to their clients.
After the consultation with pharmacists, pharmacists will offer customers medicine prices on PharmCare’s platform without any markups and the price matches each pharmacy’s offline store. It is up to the partners to determine their own pricing strategy.
“The nature of community pharmacies is exactly that,” Jinnipa points out. “Each pharmacy has different costs, depending on its scale and location. We allow them to maintain this online.”
Chain stores, for example, price their medicine higher than your neighbourhood pharmacy, but both businesses may cater to different customer groups and product segments.
PharmCare partners with several last-mile partners for on-demand delivery and work with nationwide and local couriers for more rural areas-making medicine really accessible to everyone.
You know you’re solving the right problems when the sector is filled with competitors who are tackling similar frictions at different angles. We talk to Jinnipa about the bustling healthcare tech space and how PharmCare differentiates.
“Whilst a lot of startups and corporates are jumping into the space these past few years,” says Jinnipa, “most of them focus on being service providers and connecting with hospitals. We focus on being the enabler of medicine dispensing and delivery service.”
Well, what about the likes of Grab and LineMan’s role in medicine delivery? Both already have messenger services that pick up medicine for users, but Jinnipa says PharmCare is more than just a pickup and drop-off service by offering consultations with qualified pharmacists and healthcare professionals.
40% of PharmCare’s customer base is upcountry, and this grew quickly since the platform’s shift to B2C in April. Whilst Bangkok is the key city, there’s no denying that there is also demand for medicine delivery services in less urban areas.
“All Thais use Line,” says Jinnipa. “This already gives us an advantage because we don’t have to convince new customers to download an extra application.”
For customers outside of Bangkok, PharmCare actually incentivizes them by partnering with local community pharmacies in areas such as Khon Kaen, Pattaya and Chiang Mai and the pharmacists themselves advertise PharmCare to their customers.
“Customer discovery for us happens nationwide through online channels and our pharmacy network, which greatly compliments each other,” says Jinnipa
PharmCare is able to provide real value to customers in less developed areas, because it’s not necessarily easy to walk to a department store to find a Boots or a large pharmacy.
Looking Ahead: Preventive Care
The ultimate goal for PharmCare is to do its part in providing greater access to quality healthcare in Thailand. One key way to do this is to work with partners to enhance access to healthcare by creating integrated solutions.
“We want to tackle preventive healthcare too,” says Jinnipa. “So, our mission would be to track and support people’s health before illnesses happen.”
PharmCare is on a mission to transform healthcare and grow beyond telemedicine, watch this space.