Fifty pharmacies have begun providing medical consultations as part of a trial aimed at improving access to health care in areas that lack physicians.
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Pharmacists, all based in Brittany, are able to advise patients on 13 common conditions: rhinitis, pain during urination, conjunctivitis, back pain, tick bites, diarrhoea, wounds, vaginitis, first degree burns, headache, indigestion, and constipation.
Patients who arrive at the counter and exhibit any of these symptoms are invited to consult in a special corner of the pharmacy without the need for an appointment.
After identifying the problem, the pharmacist will either recommend treatment or suggest they see a doctor or go to an A&E department.
Treatment usually means suggesting a specific drug, but the program also allows pharmacists to remove ticks.
It’s a response for people who don’t have access to a GP because otherwise what would they do?
Saturated emergency rooms
They tend to go to the hospital, but the emergency rooms are full. It’s a door that opens to the health system in areas where there are no doctors.”
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In Brittany, this applies to rural areas, but it also applies to coastal towns where the population expands during the summer.
For each of the thirteen conditions, pharmacists will consult a decision tree, which means greater standardization of advice than is available in pharmacies.
“It’s reassuring for the pharmacist, who knows the warning signs to send someone for A&E, and for the patient.”
The pharmacy Roche in Rio, which is participating in the trial phase, is located in an area around Redon in Ile-e-Villain, where there are half as many doctors compared to the national average.
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Pharmacist Didier Roche said the consultations are “more or less than we’ve already been doing, but more supervised, recognized and rewarding”. “When we give advice on a daily basis, we don’t always think about certain questions. Here, everything is taken into account.
“There have been times when we have been overwhelmed by Covid tests and vaccinations and this aspect has been a bit neglected, but patients are very happy.”
After obtaining the patient’s permission, the pharmacist also informs your GP of their symptoms and treatment.
The 50 pharmacies began consulting in April, and the trial will continue until December of next year.
1132 patients were examined by the end of August
By the end of August, 1,132 patients had been examined, three-quarters of whom had been treated at the pharmacy without the need to see a doctor.
In addition to avoiding unnecessary trips to A&E, the program has also alerted patients who need urgent medical attention.
“Half of the patients would otherwise have gone to either the doctor or the emergency department,” Ms. Kostedat said. “In 25% of cases where patients do not want to see a doctor, they are subsequently referred to a doctor.”
Mr Roach added: “For a case of cystitis, we sent someone to their GP, who told her to go to A&E, and eventually she was hospitalized.
“She came back to thank us because she wouldn’t have gone to the doctor otherwise because she didn’t think it was urgent.”
When pharmacists called in the days following the consultation, 99% of patients said they were satisfied with the process.
The consultations cost €15 and are directly funded through Social Security, which means that patients have nothing to pay.
The OSyS (Orientation dans le Système de Soins) program falls under Article 51 of the “Social Security Financing Act” of 2018, which allows testing new approaches to regulating and financing health care at the local level before it is extended to the rest of France.
It is funded by the Regional Health Authority of Brittany and the Ministry of Health.
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