Primary healthcare policy and vision for community pharmacy and pharmacists in Germany
Germany is the highest populated country in Europe with a population of 82.3 million in 2019. As in many other developed countries, it has an aging population. Approximately 10% of the gross domestic product is spent on healthcare. The healthcare system is characterized by its accessibility. Patients are generally free to choose their primary care physicians, both family doctors and specialists, pharmacy, dentist, or emergency service. Up to a certain income, health insurance is mandatory with the statutory health insurance (SHI) system, covering 88% of the population. Major challenges are the lack of cooperation and integration between the different sectors and healthcare providers. This is expected to change with the introduction of a telematic infrastructure that is currently being implemented. It will not only connect all providers in primary and secondary care in a secure network but will also enable access to patients’ electronic record/medical data and at the same time switch from paper to electronic prescriptions. Approximately 52,000 of the 67,000 pharmacists are working in approximately 19,000 community pharmacies. These pharmacies are owner-operated by a pharmacist. Pharmacists may own up to three subsidiaries nearby to their main pharmacy. Community pharmacy practice mainly consists of dispensing drugs, counselling patients on drug therapy and safety, and giving advice on lifestyle and healthy living. Many cognitive pharmaceutical services have been developed and evaluated in the past 20 years. Discussions within the profession and with stakeholders on the national level on the roles and responsibilities of pharmacists have resulted in nationally agreed guidelines, curricula, and services. However, cognitive services remunerated by the SHI funds on the national level remain to be negotiated and sustainably implemented. A law passed in November 2020 by parliament will regulate the remuneration of pharmaceutical services by the SHI funds with an annual budget of EUR 150 million. The type of services and their remuneration remain to be negotiated in 2021. The profession has to continue on all levels to advocate for a change in pharmacy practice by introducing pharmacy services into routine care.
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