Within the next couple of decades, Asia will likely be the oldest region in the world, according to figures from the United Nations. By 2050, it is estimated that Asia’s elderly will account for 62% of the total global ageing population, with a six-fold increase of over-80s in the next 35 years.
Unfortunately, this ageing population is placing pressure on Asia’s healthcare government hospitals, a situation exacerbated by mounting demographic, social and economic changes which are having their own effect on regional healthcare systems. In this increasingly tense environment, with overpopulated hospitals and a constant strain on resources, pharmacists have an instrumental role to play in disease prevention and enhanced patient care if sustainable health is to be achieved in Asia.
As the elderly population continues to grow, chronic conditions which require long-term management are becoming more and more prevalent, and current healthcare ecosystems are struggling to meet these needs. This is where pharmacists need to embrace their new role, in providing preventive care services and implementing health and wellness programs in their pharmacies, in order to support not just physicians, but also national policies in promoting self-care and improved health outcomes.
Across Asia, pharmacists are functioning as a patient resource while simultaneously freeing up clinic timelines. In Malaysia, pharmacists are empowered to adjust warfarin dosages in between patient visits to physicians. In Taiwan, pharmacists recently ran screening for hearing and vision impairment as well as community health promotion for elderly. In Cambodia, pharmacists are the first stop for information relating to contraception and birth control. In South Korea, pharmacists help to communicate the health-related risks of alcohol addiction and also encourage physical activities promoted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
When it comes to sustainability in Asian healthcare, it’s all hands on deck, and pharmacists have to step up to evolve into new roles. They need to move from product-oriented to more patient-centric services in the diagnosis, prevention and management of chronic conditions. This change must be communicated to patients in order for them to understand the additional services that can be delivered in a pharmacy environment.
This is where life science manufacturers and communications agencies are partnering together. They are offering training to pharmacists and creating educational materials inside and outside the pharmacy environment, to help consumers understand the changing face of the pharmacy environment, and the value added by pharmacists to the overall healthcare system.