Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Public Option

Posted by Brandon at Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I came into pharmacy as somewhat of an idealist. I never understood why there were so many hurdles for patients needing medication. Shouldn’t community pharmacy be a component of a simple transaction that brings patients better health – patient sees physician, physician issues prescriptions if necessary, patient sees pharmacist who gives him medications and valuable advice?

...Then I worked retail, got familiar with insurance, saw patients weep at the cost of their drugs and had my utopian vision shattered.

This emotional rollercoaster through the world of healthcare drove me to pursue a nontraditional public health rotation at the City of Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion.

The pharmacy is located in the basement of the Herman Kiefer Health Complex, which is not much to look at. The halls are dark and dingy, and the building, like much of Detroit, needs some serious renovating. But when I learned about the work being performed there by the various health clinics, social programs and pharmacy, the place brightened up considerably.

So let’s talk about the pharmacy and why my idealistic side is so grateful it exists. The Herman Kiefer pharmacy is a very important part of the Detroit community because it provides an outlet for many patients to receive vital medicines they otherwise would not be able to afford.

If a patient is an uninsured resident of the city of Detroit, he or she is able to get a prescription filled for a $6 flat processing fee. Seniors age 65 and older meeting these criteria pay only $2 per prescription! The pharmacy and its patients benefit from generous pricing from manufacturers as well as public funding sources.

As future healthcare providers, we have to appreciate the service being provided here. This was explained to me by one of the pharmacists I’ve been working with. He said that our number one priority must be the patient and the most rewarding part of his job is filling prescriptions that may otherwise go unfilled. The particular patients we see - those that are uninsured, likely unemployed and certainly struggling with financial difficulties - are some of the most challenging in terms of compliance.

This pharmacy is somewhere they know they can go and will not be turned away. Prices will be consistent and affordable, and they will not be treated differently for being without insurance. And in turn, I have found the patients here to be among the most appreciative of pharmacy services.

While the work here has not differed tremendously from other community experiences, the unique lessons learned will last forever.

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