Two million patients are expected to use the new service, which is aimed at reducing outpatient congestion at state hospitals, according to the Public Health Ministry’s National Health Security Office (NHSO), which developed the measure.
The first phase will cover patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and mental illnesses before later incorporating more serious conditions.
About 500 pharmacies and 50 private hospitals across the country agreed to join the first phase.
“Patients with a universal healthcare card don’t have to worry about payment at all. They can just come and pick their medicine up,” said NHSO Secretary-General Dr Sakchai Kanjanawatana, adding that the drugs will be the same as those prescribed by state hospitals.
The NHSO has spent B180 million on an online database to help dispense the medicines, as well as ramping up storage and logistic services, said Dr Sakchai.
Each participating pharmacy and hospital will get B30,000 per year to pay for logistics, as well as B70 per patient visit.
Ministry of Public Health Permanent Secretary Dr Sukhum Karnchanapimai said that state hospitals are struggling to deal with the high volume of outpatients.
More than half of these do not have critical conditions, and will now be able to pick up medicines in their communities, he said.
The Ministry of Public Health plans to incorporate 17,000 pharmacies countrywide in the scheme.
Sirirat Tunpichart, president of the Community Pharmacy Association, said the service will allow pharmacists to monitor patients more closely.
Patients with NCDs typically visit a hospital every three months, so if they make a mistake with their dose, they won’t receive any guidance until their next visit, said Ms Sirirat.
“Under this service, pharmacists can explain how to take the medicine, follow up and also advise when hospital check-ups are necessary,” she said.
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