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It Really Is a Small World

Harold E. Cohen, RPh
Editor-in-Chief



10/20/2010


US Pharm. 2010;35(10):3. 

Few can dispute that Walt Disney was successful because he knew what people wanted and took calculated risks in his business life that catered to those desires. While I'm certain Disney had many failures, he continues to be judged only by his successes. One of the more prophetic visions he had in 1966 was to transfer the “It's a Small World” attraction that originated at the 1964 New York World's Fair to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, the quintessential theme park that has become a favorite of children and adults alike for more than half a century since its opening in 1955. Even before “global” became the business idiom it is today, Walt Disney recognized that in many ways, the world and its people are indeed very much alike, and he wanted to share that image with everyone who visited his beloved theme park.

Too often many of us think everything we do in our personal and business lives is confined to the U.S. But with today's instant satellite and cable news and an Internet that is continually connected to all areas on the planet, the world is literally at our fingertips, and we begin to realize that perhaps it is not really all that different anywhere. This is especially true of health care, and of pharmacy in particular. While the U.S. is first coming to terms with what the pharmacist's role will be in health care reform, according to a recent survey pharmacists overseas are already active participants in their country's health care system.

The survey, presented at the annual conference of the International Pharmaceutical Federation in Lisbon, Portugal, revealed that hundreds of millions of euros are being saved overseas each year by national health care systems when patients consult their community pharmacists rather than going straight to their doctors. The survey of 2,000 pharmacists across eight countries uncovered that nearly 75% of the pharmacists polled provide patients with health promotion and management services. In Finland alone, well over 500 million euros was freed up in 1 year for other health care priorities because patients visited pharmacists for general health advice, correction of prescription errors, and information about the importance of adherence to prescriptions. The study highlighted that visits to the pharmacist avoided 6.2 million visits to the general practitioner, eliminated 750,000 emergency room visits a year, and saved 123,000 inpatient nights at hospitals.

As the global economy continues to stutter, every country is looking for ways to make its balance sheets more robust. And as people around the world live longer, health care costs continue to soar universally. As in the U.S., some European countries are looking to their pharmacists for help in cutting costs. According to Dr. Erkki Kostiainen of the Association of Finnish Pharmacies, this particular study was conducted to “see how much these free professional services provided by community pharmacists really save elsewhere in health care. We thought that these savings might be substantial, but it is fair to say that we were surprised to find their true extent.”

Apparently the results were no surprise to the pharmacists who participated in the survey. As in the U.S., they know the value of their services; that's probably why nearly 80% of them said they were asked to provide their services without fair and proper compensation. I guess it really is a small world after all. 

To comment on this article, contact editor@uspharmacist.com.

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