Policy and vision for community pharmacies in Finland: A roadmap towards enhanced integration and reduced costs
Finland’s community pharmacy system provides an example of a privately-owned regulated system being proactively developed by the profession and its stakeholders. Community pharmacists have a legal duty to promote safe and rational medicine use in outpatient care. The development of professionally oriented practice has been nationally coordinated since the 1990s with the support of a national steering group consisting of professional bodies, authorities, pharmacy schools and continuing education centers. The primary focus has been in patient counseling services and public health programs. The services have extended towards prospective medication risk management applying evidence-based tools, databases and digitalization. Research has been essential in informing progress by indicating high-risk patients, medications, practices and processes needing improvement. Despite the commitment of the profession and pharmacy owners, large-scale implementation of services has been challenging because of lack of remuneration, the pharmacy income still consisting primarily of sale of prescription and nonprescription medicines. Policy documents by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health have supported the extension of the community pharmacists’ role beyond traditional dispensing to promote rational pharmacotherapy. The current roadmap by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health emphasizes ensuring adequate regional availability and accessibility of medicines, regardless of the future pharmacy system. It also emphasizes the importance of strong regulation on pharmacy business operations and sale of medicines to ensure medication safety. At the same time, the roadmap requires that the regulation must enable implementation of new patient-oriented services and procedures, and further promote digitalization in service provision. Competition and balance of funding should be enhanced, e.g., through price competition, but the risk of pharmaceutical market concentration should be managed. The regulation should also consider influence of the new social and health care system on drug delivery. Year 2021 will be crucial for making long-term political decisions on the future direction of tasks and finances of Finnish community pharmacies in this framework. Government-funded studies are underway to guide decision making. Ongoing Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the readiness of Finnish community pharmacies to adapt fast to meet the changing societal needs.
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