Healthnet is not your typical pharmacy. Through its app, you can seamlessly order your medicines and have them delivered to your doorstep. Still, this is merely scratching the surface of the startup’s noble mission towards helping patients suffering from chronic illnesses live a better life. As the Co-Founder and CEO of Healthnet, Deeshana Basnayake puts it, “We want to be the pharmacy that is giving hope – helping customers to get rid of their chronic illnesses.”
Recently, Healthnet was declared the local winner of Sri Lanka at the Seedstars World Competition. In case you’re lost, Seedstars is the world’s largest competition for startups in emerging markets. Following their win at Seedstars Colombo, recent upgrades to their mobile app, and the future plans currently hatching, Healthnet is evolving to serve its customers better. In doing so, ensuring they live long fulfilling lives.
The victory at Seedstars Colombo
Seedstars is a global community that pursues the support and growth of ambitious startups; encouraging them toward creating meaningful change in today’s world. The Seedstars World competition is split into 3 major stages, of which the first is the local level. It was here that Healthnet was victorious and gained further visibility internationally. Next, they will move onto compete at the regional level where they will be up against the most promising startups in Asia.
It is the winners at the regional competitions that receive the chance to go head-to-head with the world’s best in the final round at the Seedstars Global Summit. While offering a chance to form global connections, the winning startup will walk away with an equity investment of USD 500,000. Usually, these events are held at international venues. However, owing to the pandemic, they will be conducted online this time around.
Commenting on their win at the Seedstars World competition, Deeshana said, “We’ve very excited to have been selected as the local winner of Seedstars in Sri Lanka for 2020/21. It was a team effort where everyone contributed to our success. Collectively, we’ve put in a lot of effort towards developing the product and the proposition to offer value to our customers as part of our larger mission towards helping them live longer fulfilling lives.”
Fighting the Good Fight against NCDs
As an online pharmacy, Healthnet’s business is to deliver medicines to your doorstep. Yet its core philosophy is to help patients take less medication over time. Deeshana admits, “On the surface, it sounds contradictory. Most pharmacies simply sell you medicine and a set of instructions. That’s not what we’re doing. Rather, we’re leveraging technology to help patients with non-communicable diseases. Ensuring they have timely access to their medication is just one crucial piece of the puzzle.”
A report from 2018 published by the Ministry of Health shows that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of premature deaths in the country. About 25% of the population has been diagnosed with NCDs and is receiving treatment. Statistically, everyone over the age of 35 has an NCD and some may not know about it due to the lack of serious symptoms and/or not having medically identified it. Out of the 5.5 million (25% of the population) of those afflicted with NCDs, 3.8 million are diabetic. The danger here is that diabetes can act as a springboard for developing other conditions such as high levels of cholesterol.
Thankfully, there is hope. Deeshana’s words were, “Mortality rate drops by 68% just by taking your medications on time.” The life expectancy of NCD patients can improve just by taking medicine regularly. It can also cut down the side effects experienced by the toll on the liver and kidneys due to high dosages of medication. When coupled with early detection, this can sidestep life-threatening issues and avoid more expensive treatments later in life. Healthnet is the only pharmacy that has the data to see this phenomenon of patients getting better over time.
Healthnet – Your Personal Pharma-Assistant
Once installed, using Healthnet’s recently upgraded mobile app feels similar to chatting on a messaging software; but where you have a chat with a SLMC-qualified pharmacist. You can choose to upload a prescription or type in the medication, specify who the order is for and thereafter receive a quotation.
Their pricing is no different from your usual pharmacy and they stick to your doctor’s recommendation for the brands of medicine. Upon confirmation and getting the delivery and payment details out of the way, the order is prepared and handed over to the delivery team so that they deliver on the day you choose and progress can be tracked on the app itself.
Going beyond delivery, the Healthnet app also has distinct features geared towards ensuring patients with NCDs have easy access to their medication. For starters, it stores your prescriptions, including those for your friends and family. Patients afflicted with NCDs or their caretakers can create multiple profiles and store their prescriptions. The app also gives you regular reminders to refill your prescriptions.
Collectively with all these features, Healthnet takes out many of the frustrations involved in obtaining medication. With its recent upgrades, the startup has further simplified the process. Customers can now securely store their card details on the app, meaning they no longer need to enter it with each order. Further, even expats who want to help with medication for family members living in Sri Lanka can now do so through the Healthnet app.
The Great Lockdown of Sri Lanka
We all faced troubles during the months of curfew in early 2020, and Healthnet was no different. Although they are a tech startup, they handle medication and logistics and therefore have a significant physical element in their operation. The organization’s robustness allowed them to remotely work where only the operational team was physically present at work.
They zealously followed the national guidelines to ensure the safety of the team and, by extension, their customers. They practiced distancing, sanitization and maintained temperature logs. No outsiders, including customers, were allowed to enter the office and goods from suppliers were thoroughly sanitized outside. Delivery personnel were equipped with face masks, face shields, surgical gloves and sanitizer. Most payments were contactless, but for the few cash-on-delivery customers, the cash went directly into a box and was completely sanitized to prevent infection.
Explaining this level of vigilance, Deeshana said, “Unlike a restaurant or a clothing store, Healthnet has a unique customer base. Many fall into the segment of the population that may not survive COVID-19 due to complications from underlying NCDs.” Their actions therefore would have supported the national effort in holding back the flood and successfully overcoming the first wave.
Power to the Patient
Looking towards the future, Deeshana shared that Healthnet is working towards expanding its coverage. By partnering with pharmacies, the startup aims to offer islandwide delivery. Beyond delivering medicine, Healthnet has also embarked on a campaign of awareness. Hosting an abundance of useful information on its website, the startup has also been conducting webinars on NCDs. With this campaign of education, Healthnet hopes to prevent people from falling into the ignorance trap of disease.
Ultimately, Healthnet doesn’t move their customers down a sales funnel to convert them into a sale and then follow up for repeat orders. They, themselves, are moving toward a vision, going above and beyond the role of any pharmacy and helping Sri Lankans live a little better – and a little longer.