Canadians are used to thinking of their health-care system as “great,” and many of us are passionately proud of it when we think about other countries.
But there are troubling signs that due to our rapidly aging population and rising costs, the current system may not be sustainable. Beyond the baby boomers starting to retire, the approaching “silver tsunami” will see seniors account for 25 per cent of our population in 2036, compared to just 14 per cent today.
Recent months have seen a flurry of new reports and white papers suggesting Canadians would be better served by a new national pharmacare program. Too often, however, these proposals -- many of which raise valuable ideas -- focus primarily on cutting drug costs, when the real heart of health care is patients and their access to care. Yes, the costs have to be managed, but focusing first on better patient care and better patient outcomes will help alleviate some of our biggest health-care delivery challenges.
The neighbourhood pharmacy industry’s vision is to ensure that patients are at the centre of everything we do -- including all discussions about improving our health-care system.
There are about 9,000 neighbourhood pharmacies across Canada, embedded in almost every community, providing a growing range of primary care services, closer to where Canadians live, work and play. Many neighbourhood pharmacies are open to midnight, and some even 24 hours, so patients and their families can get care when and how it’s convenient for them, often without an appointment.
This flexibility enables patients to deal with minor health issues and prevent them from becoming more distressing, more complex and more costly to treat. Pharmacy health-care teams also help patients manage their chronic conditions, like diabetes and hypertension, can help you quit smoking and deal with challenges like obesity, nutrition and exercise, which help Canadians live longer, healthier lives.
Treating Canadians in neighbourhood pharmacies isn’t a completely new idea, as more than 1.9 million of us now get our annual flu vaccinations there, a number that’s growing because of the speed and convenience. Pharmacy flu vaccinations also attract some patients not vaccinated last season, which shows neighbourhood pharmacy’s ability to deliver important health-care services that benefit the whole population.
Pharmacies also help patients get the most from their medications -- by ensuring they are taking the most effective medications for their conditions, helping them take their medications when and how prescribed, guarding against adverse drug reactions and counselling patients taking new medications.
Canadians rely on their own insurance and governments to fund most medications, but pharmacies provide the hands-on patient care. Canadians know they can rely on their neighbourhood pharmacies to be there, to provide care where and when it’s needed, according to the patient’s convenience. That’s our commitment.
Denise Carpenter is president and CEO of the Neighbourhood Pharmacies Association of Canada.