Pharmacy-Adjacent Medical Offices: Solution to Increase Access
You can watch the video of this panel here.
Medical consultations by certified doctors at pharmacies are providing a lot of added value to Mexico’s health system and there is still plenty of opportunity to provide better care. This was the consensus during the panel “Pharmacy-Adjacent Medical Offices: Solution to Increase Access,” which took place on Thursday, Jan. 28. The panel was moderated by Lourdes López, Executive Director of ANADIM, who pointed out that 10 out of 19 pharmacy chains associated to ANADIM already have pharmacy-adjacent clinics. This amounts to 4,000 different pharmacies providing this service out of a total of 16,000 pharmacies around the country.
Gabriel Zavala, Executive Commercial Director of Farmacias del Ahorro, explained the advantages these clinics can offer. “Many doctors still work in areas different to what they were trained for and these clinics have given them a chance to apply their training.” The process took time as both pharmacies and authorities required these doctors to have a degree before treating patients. In other cases, specialists in training, as well as already graduated specialists, started working extra hours as doctors at pharmacies to make some extra money.
“As the number of pharmacy-adjacent clinics grew, the number of patients treated by doctors rose significantly,” said Zavala. The benefits are diverse. Pharmacies provide comfort and proximity. The cost of a consult is really low, if not free. Waiting times are much lower than at a public clinic. The doctors are very professional, receiving constant training by pharmacy chains to ensure they are up to date with the latest innovations.
Juan José Aguirre, Commercial Director of Grupo Bruluart, agrees that low cost is a key added value. Proximity allows for lower costs of transportation, as well, compared to a regular clinic or hospital. In addition, many Mexicans who are not associated to any health institution are now receiving medical attention at these clinics, he said. “Those associated to ANADIM strive to provide high quality, securing generic products that are accessible and that the customer can get right after their consult,” he added.
Santiago González Reyes, Operations Director of Farmacias YZA, said that for Mexico to really cover the health needs of its population, it needs further investment equivalent to roughly 2 percent of its GDP. “Unfortunately, the current economic perspective is bleak and those resources are not arriving. National oil revenues have dropped and other government income is going down. In addition, health is not the only priority for the government,” he said. With pharmacy-based clinics, paid for and managed by pharmacy chains, people are gaining more access to healthcare while putting less burden on the public system. The added value is further strengthened by the fact that an average trip to a pharmacy takes 20 minutes, while transport to a public clinic takes an average of one hour. Even more significant, perhaps, is the incredible rural reach that pharmacies have, which are present in towns of as little as 3,000 inhabitants.
López addressed the role of these clinics in fighting chronic degenerative diseases. González stated that diseases that require follow-up treatment are already part of the consultation portfolio. He said that people can go to a specialist and then go to a pharmacy-adjacent clinic for follow up checkups and treatment. Similarly, these clinics can be a channel for referral to a specialist. González emphasized the need for awareness among patients that require treatment for chronic diseases. He believes today’s medical protocols are too simple and linked reluctance to follow treatment instructions to lack of information and guidance.
Zavala pointed out that respiratory and stomach issues make up 80 percent of all consultations. The remaining 20 percent are a mix between pains and conditions related to diabetes and hypertension. “Doctors check the vitals of all visitors and that they often receive information about available tests,” Zavala added. Doctors at pharmacy-adjacent clinics often develop a close relationship with the patient and become family doctors, said Aguirre. He also said these clinics have helped to reduce self-medication. Now patients have faster access to a doctor around the corner and they are less likely to act on the advice of someone who is not qualified.
“Mexico used to be the champion of self-medicating, which is a dangerous habit,” said González. Levels, fortunately, have gone down a lot. He believes that the care that doctors can provide to patients at pharmacies can still be much more specialized, especially when it comes to the treatment of chronic illnesses. This is dependent on the actions the pharmacy chain can take, including training for the treatment of particular illnesses. Other improvements are possible through technology. “Digital prescriptions, interinstitutional electronic patient records and telemedicine are promising ways of improving care at these locations and across the health system as a whole,” González concluded.
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