Friday, February 26, 2021

Covid-19 boosts success of NHSO initiative for convenient access to medicines

Aug 26. 2020
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By The Nation

An initiative aimed at helping patients find medicines near their homes is enjoying success at various levels, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a survey by Health Intervention and Technology Assessment Programme (HITAP).

The "Near-home medicine pick-up project" has helped reduce travel time to receive medication, and is giving patients more time to consult pharmacists. The initiative of the National Health Security Office (NHSO) has seen increased participation by hospitals and pharmacies, and has been of great utility during Covid-19, HITAP said.

Dr Suwit Wibulpolprasert, board member of HITAP, recently revealed that the near-home medicine pick-up project, according to a survey, was able to reduce waiting time for medication and travel time by 37.5 minutes (22 per cent), increase the pharmacist consultation time by 4.5 minutes (56 per cent) and reduce congestion in hospitals by 10-20 per cent.

The number of pharmacies participating in the programme also exceeded targets: 130 hospitals joined when only 50 were expected to, while 1,033 pharmacies joined when only 500 were expected to -- twice the target.

However, there are three major challenges facing the project: Low coverage and low distribution; cost and support do not reflect actual costs, and Information systems do not support the transfer of information between hospitals and pharmacies, affecting service quality and burdening the drugstore.

There is a proposal to support the expansion of hospital operations together with telemedicine services to an additional 50 per cent by 2021 and to 100 per cent by 2022 in order to reduce congestion of chronic disease patients by 50 per cent.

Meanwhile, information exchange between hospitals, drug stores and NHSO needed to be developed.

NHSO assistant director-general Dr Jakkrit Ngowsiri said the initiative was launched on October 1, 2019, in cooperation with the Pharmacy Council, Community Pharmacy Association (Thailand) Hospital Pharmacy Association, Drugstore operator, the Ministry of Public Health and NHSO.

The NHSO expects 36,450 patients to visit drugstores in 2021, after 19,625 voluntary patients participated in the programme with 29,986 visits.

Of the voluntary group of patients, 7,894 were aged 61-75, followed by 6,280 aged 46-60, 2,563 aged 75 and above, and 1,644 aged 31-45.

The top five hospitals with the highest number of patients participating in the programme were: Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital (3,515), Hat Yai Hospital (1,805), King Mongkut Memorial (Phra Chom Klao) Hospital (1,128), Lamphun Hospital (963), and Nakhon Pathom Hospital (859).

The number has increased significantly since March 2020, when the Covid-19 virus was spreading in Thailand. The NHSO is urging patients with stable chronic conditions to get medication at a local pharmacy to reduce the risk of infection and hospital congestion.

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