PAMO Doctors Trained to Approach COVID-19 CasesBy Miriam Bello | Mon, 04/26/2021 - 10:58
Q: How is Farmacias YZA contributing to the fight against COVID-19?
A: Our efforts began with COVID-19 testing to support the government. In Mexico City, Farmacias YZA has allocated 10 PAMOs and one branch at a mall to conduct COVID-19 tests. The city government provides the tools and supplies so our collaborators can perform the test. The number of tests we have applied has dropped compared to January when we registered a peak after the holidays.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, our two main pillars have been protecting our collaborators and business continuity. We faced almost no disruption as we were considered an essential industry. However, lockdowns and mobility restrictions did affect our collaborators. We were very careful to protect our them. In fact, we acted before the government by sending home members of our staff who were at a higher risk of contracting the virus. We had to adapt and work from home. Behind the counter, it was a bit easier to recruit new collaborators or work with fewer people rotating between shifts. However, at PAMOs, things were different. Patients get used to visiting the same doctor and they sometimes find it difficult to trust someone new.
Farmacias YZA, alongside ANADIM and CONAMEGE, trained its doctors on how to approach COVID-19 patients and what to do if necessary. This training was for primary care, which was very useful for all our doctors as they learned how to protect themselves properly and what they were able to do from a primary care standpoint.
Q: How is Farmacias YZA working to include PAMO doctors in COVID-19 vaccination programs?
A: We hope that the vaccination for PAMO’s doctors will soon take place together with the rest of the private sector doctors. It would be very rewarding to see the government recognizing not only the effort of the pharmacies but the value of PAMO doctors and their daily efforts as primary care providers for millions of Mexicans. These professionals provide immense support for the Mexican health system, helping Mexicans access quality health consultations at a low price.
Nationally, we have delivered a list of all doctors working at PAMOs to ANADIM. As we understand it, they will receive the vaccination at the same time as public healthcare workers. I am also interested in including our collaborators working at pharmacies because they often have the same or more extensive contact with patients. Some pharmacies are even located next to hospitals, so the probability of contagion is higher despite all the preventive measures implemented at our establishments.
I recognize the effort of the federal government and the work it has done so far with the vaccination program. This campaign is complex, as there are maybe millions of people in close contact with COVID-19 patients, including public transportation drivers. It is difficult to set priorities in such a context.
Q: What is your view on telemedicine and how could it impact Farmacias YZA’s offering?
A: During the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine grew at a fast rate, however, its use is still very limited compared to the amount of presential consultations. Large pharmacy chains can register up to a million consultations a month, while telemedicine consultations remain at around 1,000 to 3,000 consultations a month. We found that people felt more comfortable being in touch with their doctors through different digital platforms, especially if they already had a relationship with them. It was uncommon to have new users or telemedicine consultations without previous face-to-face contact with the doctor. Telemedicine consultations were more popular among patients with chronic diseases, whose care is based on follow-up consultations, rather than among patients with acute conditions.
Before the sector begins to determine the future of telemedicine, the concept must be properly established. Patients commonly interact with their doctors remotely, almost on a daily basis. However, this follow-up lacks an established framework or regulation; it is not a professional practice and it is almost casual, even though there are platforms to make this more formal, with more functional options than just using WhatsApp. Telemedicine platforms allow data and image sharing, scanning documents and even use AI algorithms to aid the diagnosis. To professionalize this practice, we need a regulation that demands the use of formal platforms. Otherwise, we will not achieve a safe telemedicine environment, as all questioning will remain on WhatsApp.
I think that COVID-19 demonstrated the benefits of telemedicine because we are now aware of how much time it saves and how effective it is. This will not change but to continue boosting this practice, a formal platform and regulation is necessary. Telemedicine also put a light on digital prescriptions and this needs to be formalized to get the entire practice to a more serious level. Through ANADIM and GC1, we have suggested to the authorities that telemedicine be professionalized to achieve a safe practice.
Farmacias YZA is a pharmacy chain with franchises in Baja California, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Mexico City, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Nuevo Leon, Queretaro, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Veracruz, Yucatan and Oaxaca. It offers 24-hour service, doctor's offices, drive-through care and home service.