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Reaching the many, not just the few

Pharmacists and the empowered patient
Dr Ian Banks

Today's consumers are both empowered and enabled to manage their health, and as a consequence will live longer and healthier lives. In fact, many patients know more about their condition than their doctor. Unfortunately, we often label people who want to take measures to improve their health and wellbeing as the 'worried well' and some even claim that knowledgeable patients are an undesirable or dangerous thing. The fact that more people have a desire to safeguard their future health, even when they are not sick, is something that should be encouraged and celebrated.

With an ageing population and healthcare costs set to rise, the role of health education in preventing chronic conditions cannot be underestimated, nor be started too early. There are segments of our society that could be better encouraged to use available services - which is something that The European Men's Health Forum is focused on. The re-design of many health services could be effective in attracting groups that currently shun health advice. For example, men happen to be the lowest users of pharmacy, yet according to the National Pharmacy Association, if you design a system appropriately, men will be more receptive. The impact of men using pharmacy services and being educated about some very simple complaints that are easily addressed would improve quality of life immediately and perhaps even prevent the development of chronic conditions down the line.

One of the barriers to consumers effectively using health services is that each health discipline exists in isolation. A complete service that connects opticians, pharmacists, dentists and doctors would encourage more people to get the most out of all the health services available to them. A programme to bring students studying each of these subjects together is currently being trialed in Brussels. An event, held in December 2014, was hosted by the European Pharmaceutical Students' Association and its aim was to look at areas of overlap in training and education so that they might be taught at the same time.

As the retirement age increases across Europe, more people will be working into their seventies and these same individuals are at greater risk of chronic conditions. There is a strong economic argument in investing in pharmacies, because pharmacies make healthcare easily accessible to the wider public and support people with chronic conditions to self-care. In the next decade, the health of an ageing workforce will drive the economy with pharmacists playing a central role.

One of the barriers to consumers effectively using services is that each health discipline exists in isolation

Today there are thousands of internet sites to help consumers diagnose conditions and online pharmacies where they can purchase treatments, with the potential to by-pass the healthcare professional altogether. However, most consumers still put healthcare professionals at the top of the trust pyramid and thankfully will want to corroborate what they have learned online with professional advice. As the experts in medicinal products, and health and wellbeing, pharmacists are perfectly placed on the high street to provide that advice.

More informed and educated patient decision-making is a trend that should be embraced, but we must make sure that it benefits as many people in society as possible. Pharmacists and the OTC sector are well placed to help meet this need and tackle future health challenges.

Article by
Dr Ian Banks

President of the European Men’s Health Forum

22nd June 2015

From: Sales, Healthcare

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