Interview With Santosh Sahu, CEO and Founder of Charac

Charac was born out of Santosh Sahu’s own medical frustrations, namely the difficulties faced in tracking prescriptions as a diabetic. The uncertainty caused when you are unsure when or whether medication will arrive can cause a lot of unnecessary worry and stress, and as an entrepreneur, he wanted to pioneer a solution to this.


How Did You Come Up With The Idea For Charac?


Having founded On the dot, a delivery service in the digital retail sector, the solution was as simple as replicating the idea – but for pharmacies instead. However, with pharmacies under immense pressure from the NHS, public demand, and now the Government, I wanted to do more. Thus, Charac was founded with the goal of improving digitisation in the pharmacy sector, allowing pharmacists and patients to do more online than just track prescriptions, such as booking and conducting consultations.


You Work Almost Exclusively With Independent Pharmacies. Would You Say They Are Under More Pressure Than Other Sectors Of Healthcare?


Independent pharmacies are facing serious funding issues, arguably more so than other primary care services in the UK. Funding has failed to keep pace with inflation, and the pharmacy sector is now facing an annual funding shortfall of £1.1bn, around £100,000 for each pharmacy. The total number of pharmacies in the UK fell by 914, nearly 10%, between 2017 and 2023, following Government funding cuts.


A report from the Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) this summer also found that Government progress on pharmacy commitments ‘requires improvement’. The Government’s ‘Pharmacy First’ programme, designed to funnel patients from GPs to pharmacies as the first port of call, is due to be launched at the end of January 2024. However, withno further policies announced to support pharmacies, I expect ‘Pharmacy First’ will put independent pharmacies under severe pressure, and in even more urgent need of digitisation!

Why Do You Think Healthtech Is Key To Solving Issues In The Healthcare Sector?


Primary healthcare in the UK has been slow to adapt to digitalisation – the NHS can take up to six years to integrate new technology. I believe that this is hamstringing the efficiency and quality of primary care, overworking healthcare professionals while negatively impacting patient outcomes.


Healthtech can be employed in healthcare in a variety of ways to help healthcare professionals, in particular, storing paperwork digitally, creating prescription services, and setting up administration and call centre systems to centralise point-of-care channels. These can streamline services for workers, giving them more time to focus on key elements of patient care.


Patient care will also be improved with healthtech, from increased accessibility of care through telemedicine to the use of artificial intelligence in predictive healthcare.


The same can be applied to pharmacies, and Charac’s cutting-edge, NHS-integrated digital platform and app is helping independent pharmacies shift from manual processes to digital ones, relieving pressure from overworked pharmacists, while making the patient experience more consistent, convenient, and accessible. Pharmacists therefore have more time to work on revenue-increasing services, such as digital marketing and white-label branding, while patients can order, track and receive prescriptions to their doorstep.


What Has Been Key To Charac’s Success?


We are directly addressing the issues that independent pharmacies are facing and providing a long-term solution. This will allow pharmacies to remain competitive with alternatives such as online pharmacies, while also laying a roadmap for pharmacies to grow their revenue without relying on inadequate Government funding.


Our partnerships with the NPA and MedAdvisor are also crucial in increasing our reach to pharmacies, both across the UK and globally.


What Does Your Recent Partnership With Australia-Based MedAdvisor Mean For The Business?


We have now expanded internationally, reaching customers in Australia, New Zealand, and the USA through a licensing agreement with MedAdvisor. The partnership also will help us consolidate our operations in the UK, taking over MedAdvisor’s current relationships here by the end of 2024. Through this relationship, we expect to deliver pharmacists and patients across the world access to an ever-growing range of digital pharmacy support services, advanced home delivery solutions and e-commerce capabilities.


What Can We Hope To See From Charac In The Future?


As Charac grows, it is our mission to continue to support independent pharmacies to achieve a more sustainable model, to not only restore, but help grow the sector and reduce reliance on Government funding. With the increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence, we are looking at ways we can integrate this into our systems to make primary care more proactive, for example, identifying the most pressing healthcare needs in local communities, and being able to remind patients to book appointments and consultations, or order medications.

It is our core mission to strengthen the digital interoperability of the wider healthcare ecosystem, and reaching as many pharmacies as we can is the first step in achieving this.