Clinics are the future of primary health care in SA

South Africa is a large country with a large and diverse population. A limited number of medical professionals qualify annually - this, together with incentives for emigration, sees many patients in rural areas under-served in the provision of medical services. While both the private and public health care sectors share common goals in improving health care and raising standards in the precision of care and medicine, obtaining timely and adequate treatment from public centres is becoming more difficult, while private medical cover becomes increasingly expensive. South Africans need more cost-effective and accessible avenues for their medical advice and primary health care needs.

Utilising the pharmacy clinic as a community touchpoint for chronic disease screening and providing primary care streamlines hospital caseloads, and is becoming a viable alternative. Leading causes of mortality in South Africa include hypertension and high cholesterol, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, TB, and strokes; conditions which require ongoing monitoring. Pharmacy clinics operate with a pharmacist on site, meaning they are ideally positioned to support many of the DOH’s recommended pharmaceutical and therapeutic treatments. With pharmacist’s roles evolving to those of a valued addition to health care teams, a correlated increase of the Primary Care Drug Therapist certification for dispensing pharmacists is also being noted.

The physical accessibility of the pharmacy clinic’s services benefits the whole community – often, their location and trading hours translate to a cheaper transport option and increased time-convenience for many cash-paying patients.  Private medical aids also commonly provide some coverage for pharmacy clinic visits. Pharmacy-based clinics offer convenient access to affordable primary health care in an environment which readily lends itself to education, information and support of disease management. As a trusted advisory and monitoring service, repeat visits by patients present cross-selling opportunities to the retail pharmacy.  

The existing hospital-centric model of providing primary health care is expensive. Many retail pharmacies already incorporate a clinic as a strategic business unit within the pharmacy: these clinics represent a feasible channel for providing primary health care, both now and in future. The set-up costs and overheads of a clinic run at a fraction of that of hospitals, and many private clinics within pharmacies are currently aligning to disease management and counselling, as well as primary health care.

HelixClinic Application integrates to the existing Unisolv dispensing system.  Patient files can be quickly and accurately created, updated, and accessed, eliminating the need for physical storage space, and time-consuming repeating of information to various medical professionals. A patient-centric and electronic model of information simplifies sharing of information and collaboration between professionals – the speed and ease of workflow, monitoring, safety, and standards are all enhanced.

A multi-disciplinary approach to health care which draws on available, skilled medical practitioners, supports their working together at community level, and renewing focus on convenient and existing structures and settings as a point of service will go a long way towards alleviating the skills shortage in South Africa.

About UCS TS Pharmacy

UCS Technology Services are the largest software provider to the South African private pharmacy market. Our Pharma Bureau manages over 38 000 drug prices and more than 5000 medical aid contracts for the healthcare industry. This year we launched our newest technology, Helix Health. This cloud-based application suite offers 360˚ patient management. Helix Health includes digital script printing, electronic document management, e-scripting, patient app for self-management, and Helix Clinic offering pharmacy-orientated primary healthcare.

UCS TS will be unveiling the newest development for Unisolv with the first release in 2017.

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