Convenient retail pharmacies with trusted staff could play an important part in expanding access to healthcare while driving down cost. However, to make a truly transformative impact on healthcare, pharmacies must overcome structural barriers and explore new business models.
Pharmacies can build on convenience, consumer loyalty, and clinical expertise to serve diverse patient populations. One approach is to help healthy customers or those at risk of becoming ill, to remain well. Another is to reach out to the growing number of chronically ill with compliance and disease management programs. Some players may choose to develop self-sustaining networks of pharmacies and clinics. Others will integrate tightly into the broader medical system, exchanging information and referrals and directing patients to the most convenient and appropriate site of care.
As pharmacies carve out new and expanded roles in the healthcare delivery system, two key stakeholders—regulators and pharmaceutical companies, should seek to accelerate the process and create new opportunities through collaboration.
For regulators, increasing coverage for the uninsured is a laudable goal, but increasing access is more difficult. As the population of Sierra Leone rapidly expands, it will take all hands on deck to meet the increasing demand. This will require a relaxation of some of the constraints currently placed on pharmacists and pharmacy-based retail services. Regulators should create the optimal conditions to allow innovations in pharmacy cost and access to flourish.
For pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies represent an important potential ally. As pharmacy chains deploy compliance programs and more complex disease management protocols, pharmaceutical companies stand to gain a great deal. Noncompliance reduces the effectiveness of medication regimens and can lead to acute episodes and complications. Achieving greater compliance could be a genuine win for pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies, payers, and of course patients.
Pharmaceutical companies also stand to benefit as pharmacies offer more innovative services. Therefore, regulators and pharmaceutical companies have a very crucial role to play in promoting the healthcare delivery in the country in order to save lives of the ordinary citizens.