Dr. Catherine Duggan, CEO of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) shares her views on the vital role that the pharmacist is playing, to support individuals and communities to better self-care.
The COVID–19 global pandemic has demonstrated the essential role of pharmacies and pharmacists in our communities and their ability to innovate healthcare solutions. We must ensure their role continues to be recognized beyond the pandemic.
Pharmacies have served as a lifeline to local communities amid the global pandemic. These difficult circumstances have elevated the pharmaceutical profession and its many branches to a new appreciation.
Pharmacists on the front line of healthcare
Pharmacists are discrete and often operate in the shadow of other healthcare professionals. However, they are crucial actors in the health chain. During the crisis, pharmacies have provided a vital service by stocking appropriate products and promoting disease prevention in addition to patient care advice and support. Community pharmacies are typically the first point of contact with the healthcare system and so help relieve the burden on hospital staff and emergency departments.
The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) has been working hard to support its member organizations and pharmacists during this challenging period. In particular, FIP has issued global guidelines (in addition to the guidelines of its members) and offered detailed direction to protect pharmacy staff while working on the frontline.
Pharmacies have had to deal with many challenges, such as social distancing in stores, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), further strain on already limited medical supplies, and an increase in public animosity.
Innovating for new healthcare practices
But these challenges have also provided a window of opportunity for digitization (electronic prescriptions) and improving access to patient information. Moreover, the crisis has enabled pharmacies to innovate new healthcare practices through meaningful collaborations.
Around the globe, pharmacies are finding solutions to fulfill their healthcare duties while overcoming the physical limitations of quarantine and minimize health risks to vulnerable persons. For example, Federfarma, in collaboration with the Italian Red Cross, launched a home delivery service to ensure continued access to medicines and medicinal gases while protecting the safety of vulnerable patients. Pharmacies in Australia now provide medical management consultations to eligible patients via telehealth. In Korea, pharmacies are working with the government to provide an equitable solution to the shortage of face masks. This is self-care in action and demonstrates that there has never been a more important time to self-care, working hand in hand with the pharmacist.
Moreover, pharmacies are safe spaces — literally. Another development we’ve witnessed is that pharmacies in many European countries have also served as a refuge for victims of domestic abuse during the lockdown. While an unfortunate reality, it demonstrates that pharmacies and pharmacists are trusted resources and address a need beyond their pharmaceutical capacity.
Supporting the global healthcare system
We must recognize and celebrate these innovations, but more importantly, we must ensure these practices continue to operate once we defeat the virus. Community pharmacies have always been important, but their role in supporting the broader healthcare system to self-care has never been more evident.
The post-COVID–19 world will be a new era for the community pharmacy as the industry embraces digital and technological solutions catalyzed by the challenges of the pandemic. And as digital-based information increases, pharmacies will also play a more substantial role in empowering patients to self-care responsibly by providing unbiased, evidence-based information on self-care products and strategies.
As the “most accessible and most trusted health care professionals”, pharmacists have an opportunity to emerge from this crisis with clearer priorities and new innovative means to provide better healthcare and responsible self-care for all.
These are positive developments that can contribute to an improved quality of life, but only if we continue to embrace the changes in motion.
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The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) is the global body representing pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences and pharmaceutical education. We represent over four million pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists and pharmaceutical educators around the world through our 151 national organizations, academic institutional members and individual members. For more information visit: https://www.fip.org/about.