DOHA: Once the national health insurance scheme is implemented, patients with prescriptions from a public hospital here will be able to collect their medicines from any neighbourhood pharmacy.
They can also renew their medication through private pharmacies.
Any accredited pharmacy — public or private — will be authorised to dispense medicines, irrespective of who wrote the prescription and the cost will be covered by the mandatory insurance scheme.
“Under the social health insurance component of the National Health Strategy (NHS), public patients are getting the freedom to choose treatment via private providers, and the Community Pharmacies Strategy will extend this to prescriptions,” says an article. ‘Prescriptions made easy’, published in the latest edition of Qatar Health, the magazine of the Supreme Council of Health (SCH).
The SCH said the new system will address complaints from patients about crowding at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) pharmacies and delays in dispensing medications.
Currently, if a patient wants to have a prescription refilled in the public system, he has to go to a pharmacy attached to the same organisation that wrote the prescription. So, if the prescription is from HMC, the patient has to go to a pharmacy at an HMC hospital, and if it is from the Primary Health Care Corporation, he has to go to a primary healthcare centre.
“The plan for the future is to give you different options. You can go back to the hospital, if you prefer, or you can collect your medication from a community pharmacy close to your home, your work, or where you do your shopping,” added the article.
Before private pharmacies can take on their expanded role, they will have to prove they meet a strict set of criteria, and accreditation standards will be set beyond the current licensing requirements. The standards will ensure that private providers meet the same stringent standards as the public system.
A pilot project to raise the level of private pharmacies is planned for April 2014, when the second phase of the national insurance scheme is also expected to be launched. The pilot project will start with four or five pharmacies, and apply to Qatari patients receiving medication for specific chronic diseases, such as diabetes or hypertension. Based on the trial outcome, the service will be expanded gradually.
“Ultimately, it is planned that all pharmacies in Qatar will be accredited, all providing the same high standards of service.”
However, drugs from HMC’s specialised pharmacies, such as the oncology pharmacy for cancer patients, will not be available at private (community) pharmacies, at least in the near future.
Community pharmacies should, however, provide an alternative source for any medicines dispensed from a hospital’s outpatient pharmacy, including medication for a number of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension.
“Ultimately community pharmacies will also have the privilege of enhanced services, which may include weight reduction, smoking cessation, a role in managing medication use, and patient counseling,” said the article.