Breaking the cycle of health inequalities
Courier pharmacy delivers on accessibility to enhance medicine adherence
As South Africa prepares for the full implementation of National Health Insurance, the structural barriers impeding our society’s health outcomes call for sustained and far-reaching interventions to ensure the public not only have access to essential medicines – but are also empowered to reap the full benefits.
“Medicine is only effective when those who need it are able to access the correct medication, and are empowered with the necessary health literacy and information to take it consistently and appropriately as prescribed,” says Louis Scheepers, Acting Chief Executive Officer of Medipost Pharmacy.
Chronic medicine patients, in particular, require support to get the best out of their medication. Even in more developed nations, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that only approximately half of people who are prescribed chronic medication adhere to their treatment1.
A United States study found that over a third of American adults2 do not have an adequate level of health literacy to get the maximum benefit from medicines, as they have difficulty following the directions for use printed on prescription medication labels.
“In a developing country such as South Africa, much work is needed to address the disparities in people’s understanding of the importance of medicine adherence, as this is key to proper disease management, as well as closing gaps in the provision of healthcare. In turn, this can go a long way towards breaking the cycle of ill health and thereby contribute to a more equitable society,” Scheepers adds.
When medicine is not taken correctly as prescribed, this can reduce the efficacy of treatment and, in certain instances, can even be dangerous in cases such as overdose, disruption of prescribed treatment or failure to complete a course of medicine.
“Many of the patients making use of Medipost Pharmacy appreciate the convenience and sense of reassurance afforded through having access to telephonic advice from pharmacists, which is part of our service offering,” Scheepers adds.
According to Rentia Myburgh, Group Sales and Marketing Director of Medipost Pharmacy, the company considers its efforts to empower patients with the relevant information in their preferred language as central to its philosophy of promoting accessibility of medicines.
Medipost Pharmacy dispenses, dispatches and delivers chronic medication to beneficiaries of 82 medical schemes, and other clients such as employer groups and the Department of Health.
“We also strive to enhance patients’ understanding of the importance of adhering to directions for taking medicine correctly, and are able to provide such advice in all 11 official languages to ensure information is not lost in translation,” Myburgh explains.
“Medipost Pharmacy, which is the largest such service registered with the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC), provides free delivery of medication anywhere in our vast country to ensure patients have reliable, timeous access to chronic medicines,” she adds.
The convenience of this service is particularly valuable for the elderly and people with mobility challenges, as well as for working people who appreciate the time saving aspect of medicine deliveries.
“Medipost assists a number of patients with special needs, ensuring that a custom made service offering is crafted to suit the patient’s special needs including deaf patients and those who have visual impairment, to ensure that they are supported with the necessary resources and information according to their specific requirements.”
The company has been contracted to provide an outsourced centralised chronic medicine dispensary service for Western Cape Health Department, so that identified state patients on chronic medicine are able to pick up their medication from their respective clinics, healthcare facilities or approved delivery point.
“At present our chronic dispensing unit for the Western Cape alone fills some 7 500 scripts per day, servicing 300 000 individuals each month, and we anticipate that this will grow to reach 20 000 scripts a day by November,” she adds.
The company gained valuable experience over the past four years in the Department of Health’s Central Chronic Medicines Dispensing and Distribution (CCMDD) programme in KwaZulu-Natal, where the company dispensed medicine for 530 000 patients on a monthly basis.
Medipost Pharmacy currently serves 400 000 medical scheme members on average each month, including close on 180 000 beneficiaries of South Africa’s largest closed medical scheme, which the courier pharmacy company has worked with for over 11 years.
“As an extension of the service offering, patients are given guidance on how to correctly follow medical schemes’ authorisation process so that their medication is claimed from the correct benefit. This assists medical scheme members to conserve their day-to-day benefits so that they can get the best possible value for their healthcare spending,” Myburgh notes.
Scheepers says that with 459 qualified pharmacists and pharmacist’s assistants in Medipost Pharmacy’s employ, the company has invested in the necessary skills to not only deliver medicines, but to deliver personalised care and support to the public it serves.
“We find that increasingly people are looking to take advantage of the convenient and inexpensive service Medipost Pharmacy offers. The majority of the people who register for our courier pharmacy service become long-term customers, which is the best endorsement of our commitment to service excellence that we could ask for,” he adds.
“When people are equipped with the knowledge to take prescribed medicines to best effect, in their own language, and barriers to accessing chronic medicine are removed through enhanced convenience and affordability, this is a significant step towards enhancing health outcomes for all,” he concluded.
References and further reading
Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA)
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