World Pharmacists Day is marked every year on September 25, to draw attention to the crucial role played by pharmacists and the excellent health services they provide. The goal of the day is to stimulate events that promote and advocate the pharmacists' role in promoting health infrastructure in every part of the globe.
They use their knowledge, experience and skills to make the medical field a better place for everyone. Also, they give access to medications and offer knowledge on their use. Pharmacists contribute among the third largest group of healthcare professionals globally.
Nearly 70 per cent of the Indian population is deprived of basic drugs due to non-availability of medical professionals, lack of facilities and lack of advice about the usage of drugs. If the country has a sufficient amount of pharmacists, access to drugs and their safe usage can be largely met.
On this occasion, Samhita and Cipla jointly conducted a study among Indian pharmacists with an aim to improve Community Healthcare
Key Findings Of The Study Report
The study titled "Future of Indian Pharmacies" aimed to enable better business outcomes for pharmacists and enhance their relationships with the community to improve healthcare infrastructure. The study found that pharmacists want to improve their medical skills and knowledge to serve their customers in a better way, and 76 per cent reported collaborating with healthcare players to improve outcomes in their localities.
This study was conducted among 1,100 pharmacists across the country.
According to the Pharmacy Council of India, it is estimated that there are about 6,57,230 registered pharmacists in India.
A substantial proportion of the pharmacists saw themselves as 'supporters of people's health needs' (57%) and 'part of the medical community' (45%). Around 61 per cent of them stated that they wanted to prioritise improving their medical skill and knowledge to serve their customers better.
When asked about the awareness levels of their customers, many of the pharmacists said that their 'customers are not very aware' (38%) and 'take guidance from me' (30%). The most common health challenge as reported by the pharmacists was non-communicable diseases (NCDs), mainly diabetes and hypertension.
In India, as the daily disease burden of NCDs has risen from 30% in 1990 to 55% in 2016, with an expectation to rise further, the pharmacist's role can go beyond providing guidance on acute illnesses to advocate for NCD prevention and management.
Only 9 per cent said that they would move to another business in the future, making it clear that India's pharmacists are invested in improving their business outcomes as it is their primary, long-term occupation.
In addition to providing medicines, 41% of the pharmacies also offer basic medical guidance to their customers.
Nearly 80 per cent of pharmacists accessed information about healthcare and medicine through doctor's prescriptions and pharmaceutical companies, while 40% used 'social media and internet' to learn about healthcare. This depicts their initiative to learn but can also be harmful due to rampant misinformation on the internet.
The report stated that the needs and potential of pharmacists can be understood. By supporting their capacity building (through training in advocacy, recording-keeping, customer relations, etc.), they can leverage their skills and position to improve overall community health outcomes.
Drivers Of Better Community Health
"Pharmacists are deeply connected to the communities they serve and are often trusted by their customers for medical advice, which uniquely positions them as champions and drivers of better community health. As demonstrated in the knowledge collaboration with Cipla, there is a substantial opportunity for private and public sectors to effect positive outcomes in healthcare by strengthening and supporting pharmacies in their quest to learn more, grow their business and gain the confidence and trust of their communities," Priya Naik, Founder and CEO of Samhita Social Ventures said in a press release.
Challenges Faced By Pharmacists
Despite being in potentially pivotal roles, pharmacists face several daily operational challenges like unstable prices of medicines and FMCG products and inadequate access to supplies. A third of the pharmacists surveyed also report challenges with basic and effective record-keeping of their sales and inventory.
As one of the first specific knowledge pieces on pharmacy needs, there is a requirement to support pharmacies to become stronger and more credited stakeholders in delivering affordable basic health care requirements.
"India is experiencing a rapid disease transition and chronic diseases are becoming more prevalent in the lives of Indians. Many health systems around the world have realised that to address this very large and growing problem, healthcare will need to deploy multiple channels of engagement with people and that pharmacies are ideally placed to complement the efforts of other, more traditional, channels," Nachiket Mor, PhD and visiting scientist of the Banyan Academy for Leadership in Mental Health, advised in the release.
"Pharmacies have a large presence even in the remotest parts of India and involving them in treatment and prevention efforts in a structured way, offers the opportunity to create a large-scale impact and build a dense and ubiquitous multi-channel primary care network that is essential to universal health care," he added.
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