PSI Social Business Unit’s Strategy to Deliver SRHR Products to Consumers’ Front Door During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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A global Digital Acceleration Strategy (DAS) that leverages digital channels including social media, telemedicine, e-counseling, and e-pharmacy platforms to safely continue providing consumers with sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) self-care information, connecting clients to care, and delivering high-quality products during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on the learnings from the DAS, PSI will be expanding its digital work to a holistic sexual health and wellness offering through the launch of VIYA, PSI's first global lifestyle brand.

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Contacts

i. Betty Abera, Senior Marketing Manager, Social Enterprise, PSI ii. Andrea Novella, Digital Health Advisor, PSI
iii. Vidhi Kalra, Digital Marketing Manager, PSI India
iv. Jorge Rivas, Marketing and Social Franchise Senior Manager, PSI LAC
v. Kenneth Kiiza Mulogo, Sales and marketing Analyst, PSI Uganda

CASE STUDY SOURCE

Population Services International

PROJECT STATUS

Ongoing

IMPLEMENTATION PARTNERS

India Private Limited, PSI
PSI Uganda
PSI South Africa
PSI LAC

FUNDER

PSI
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
An anonymous donor in Uganda
David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Hilary Hamm
Shaline Gnanalingam

Target Users

Decision Support, Referral Services, Client, Health Care Provider

Enabling Environment Building Blocks

Services and Applications, Workforce

Family Planning Program Classification

Demand Generation, Service Delivery, Supply Chain Management

A global Digital Acceleration Strategy (DAS) that leverages digital channels including social media, telemedicine, e-counseling, and e-pharmacy platforms to safely continue providing consumers with Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) self-care information, connecting clients to care, and delivering high-quality products during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Introduction

Population Services International (PSI)’s Social Business Unit (SBU), established in 2018, seeks to strike a balance between commercial viability and social impact by delivering high-quality and affordable SRHR products and services through social business in 21 countries across Southeast Asia, East/South Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The SBU’s socially marketed SRHR product offerings include condoms, oral contraceptives, emergency contraceptives, injectables, medical abortion kits, intrauterine devices, and implants.

In March 2020, after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, many of the countries where PSI’s SBU operates imposed movement restrictions. Such restrictions limited the SBU’s marketing and distribution activities and hampered clients’ ability to travel to physical storefronts to purchase SRHR products. The SBU rapidly adapted to these new conditions by implementing the COVID-19 DAS in 10 countries (India, Uganda, South Africa, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Dominican Republic) with a plan to expand to additional countries where the SBU operates.

The global DAS aims to leverage a variety of digital channels to safely continue providing consumers with SRHR self-care information through social media campaigns on Facebook and Instagram, connect clients to care through telemedicine and e-counseling platforms, and deliver high-quality products through e-pharmacies, e-retailers, and uber-like applications. When the pandemic hit, consumer engagement on digital channels had increased globally [1] providing an opportunity for the SBU to leverage digital channels to support business continuity and provision of SRHR information, products, and services.

Moving forward, PSI will also be applying the learnings of the DAS and expanding its offering through the launch of VIYA, its first global sexual wellness lifestyle brand, harnessing technology including artificial intelligence, e-commerce, and telemedicine to deliver SRHR information, products, and services to women across low and middle-income countries.

 

About PSI SBU’s Digital Acceleration Strategy

The global DAS approach included harmonizing existing technology to provide on-demand information through popular social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram, connect consumers to care through high-quality digital health tools such as telemedicine and e-counseling platforms, and ensure access to products and services by signposting consumers to e-pharmacies, e-retailers and uber-like applications customized to the local context.

  1. On demand information: when COVID-19 paused in-person SRHR demand creation activities and reduced client demand for SRHR products and services, the SBU launched digital campaigns and created social media platforms on Facebook and Instagram with global messaging on menstrual, sexual, and reproductive health, adapted to the local context. For example, in India, the SBU launched the “Between Us” educational campaign on Facebook and Instagram in June 2020 reaching women ages 18-34 with SRHR self-care information, including how/where they can access care during COVID-19.
  2. Connection to care: In India, those who visited the “Between Us” Facebook and Instagram platforms were linked to third-party telemedicine or e-counseling platforms offering personalized SRHR counseling with providers and linkages to an e-pharmacy for desired product. In the LAC region, providers within the PSI network provided personalized e-counseling leveraging Facebook messenger and helped consumers find a vetted healthcare provider for SRHR service delivery based on consumer’s location, to ensure access to care during the pandemic.
  3. Ensure access: to link clients with products during movement restrictions, which limited clients from accessing SRHR products at pharmacies and private clinics, the SBU partnered with locally based e- pharmacies, e-commerce platforms and, uber-like applications with an at-home delivery option. In India, the SBU partnered with an e-pharmacy offering at home product delivery starting in September 2020, that the providers from the telemedicine and e-counseling platforms can signpost consumers. In Uganda, the SBU partnered with uber-like applications and a popular e-commerce platform that features the SBU’s socially marketed SRHR products also with an at home delivery option.

Consumer Journey in India

EVALUATION AND RESULTS

Globally, the DAS helped reach millions of people with SRHR information and connected thousands of clients to services and products. Between April-October 2020, across 10 countries in South-East Asia, East/South Africa, and the LAC region, the DAS ran 373 ads on social media platforms, reached 39.5 million individuals with key messaging, received over 2.5 million engagements, and over 126,000 one-on-one conversations. To connect clients to products and services, the SBU built several partnerships with social media, telemedicine, and e-commerce/ home delivery platforms.

In India, which represents a fast-growing digital health market, the “Between Us” Facebook and Instagram platforms launched in June 2020, reached an average of 1.2 million people each month with messaging between June-November 2020. After partnering with an e-consultation website in June 2020, The SBU linked nearly 600 young women to an e-consultation between July – November 2020.

In the LAC region, which represents a growing digital health market, three digital campaigns deployed across seven countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic) reached over 11 million people with messaging, and received over 1.6 million engagements and over 42,000 one-on-one conversations between April-October 2020.

In Uganda, which represents a nascent digital health market, a June 2020 digital campaign reached 1.2 million people with messaging, received over 41,000 engagements, and linked people to three different SRHR product retailers between June – September 2020.

Lessons Learned

  1. Reducing touchpoints for a more convenient online journey is key to increase uptake of SRHR methods. For example, In India, if a client is delayed in getting an appointment with a provide though the telemedicine platform, they wouldn’t be able to get a timely prescription to purchase SRHR products such as oral contraceptives and emergency contraceptives. To address this challenge, the SBU started collaborating with an e-pharmacy platform in early 2021 that generates online e-prescriptions at the time of purchase.
  2. There is conversion loss at key touchpoints in Uganda. The SRHR digital campaigns had a wide reach however sales of SBU’s socially marketed products on the popular e-commerce platform remain low. Greater marketing investment or product bundling of SRHR products with more popular non-health products could help improve e-commerce sales and make the delivery more cost effective to the consumer.
  3. A/B testing, which is a method to assess which type of Facebook and Instagram ads perform best in engaging consumers was instrumental in helping us better understand the consumers, increase engagement/conversations on the digital platforms, and optimized advertising return on investment by 35% globally. In the LAC region, A/B testing comparing an ad on how consumers can access SRHR counseling and products from home during the pandemic vs an ad on the availability of medical doctors catering to young people at in-network clinics found that the former messaging generated between 88-100% more engagements across several LAC countries.

Conclusion

The DAS demonstrates how leveraging existing technology and harmonizing online solutions to inform, connect people to care, and deliver SRHR products to clients’ homes helps to leapfrog healthcare barriers and support access to SRHR during COVID-19 and beyond. These results also point to a hopeful promise: COVID-19 can be the catalyst for an SRHR digital transformation.

PSI’s SBU will be integrating and improving a number of these digital adaptations when the COVID-19 pandemic is less acute including continuing the use of campaigns and social media platforms for on-demand SRHR information, improving partnerships with e-pharmacies in India, and continuing to provide at home product delivery. PSI will also be leveraging learnings from DAS to refine and scale its global consumer facing digital health work to a holistic offering delivered through VIYA, an online platform that provides consumers with the tools needed to own their health journeys by increasing access to sexual wellness information, products, and services.

 

References

  1. GlobalWebIndex (2020).
    Coronavirus Research March 2020 Release 3: Multi-market research. [online] GlobalWebIndex. Available at: <https://www.gwi.com/hubfs/1.%20Coronavirus%20Research%20PDFs/GWI%20coronavirus%20finding s%20March%202020%20-%20Multi-Market%20data%20(Release%203).pdf > [Accessed March 2022].
  2. PSI. (2022). Social Business. [online] PSI. Available at: <https://www.psi.org/social-enterprise/> [Accessed March 2022].
  3. PSI IPL, (2022). PSI India Private Limited (PSI IPL). [online] PSI. Available at: <https://www.psi.org/social- enterprise/psi-india-private-limited-psi-ipl/> [Accessed March 2022].

Other Resources

PSI’s COVID-19 adaptations in India and Uganda were documented through Research for Scalable Solutions (R4S), a global project funded by USAID and led by FHI 360 in partnership with Evidence for Sustainable Human Development Systems in Africa (EVIHDAF), Makerere University School of Public Health in Uganda (MakSPH), PSI, and Save the Children (STC).