Getting help at today’s drugstore

If the last time you popped into your local drugstore was for a quick over-the-counter cold remedy, you might be surprised to see how it’s changed.

Since the Affordable Care Act, many elements of primary health care delivery are being shifted away from doctor’s offices and into town centers. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), this is partly due to an increase in clinical specialists (as opposed to generalists), but also a rise in demand, due to our increased life spans.

Before you worry, that’s not necessarily bad news. We’ve been conditioned to think a doctor is the only solution when we get sick – but they’re not. Part of “self-driving” health is taking responsibility for wellness choices, and that might mean re-framing how, why and when you seek professional guidance.

Which brings us back to drugstores.

Drugstores, the reboot

You’ll find today’s drugstore is a great place to get help for most “pesky’s” – small-time health concerns like colds, respiratory infections and so on – rather than calling the doctor’s office for an appointment.

The displays have been re-organized via ailments or requirements, so you can look up, spot the correct signage, and head straight for “immune boosters” or “cognitive enhancements” (aka: Nootropics which we’ll cover soon to explain more).

There are even “feet fatigue” stations where you can get custom-fitted for orthotics and walk out of the store with a bounce in your step.

Most importantly, many stores have a walk-in clinic inside with a qualified nurse practitioner who can handle up to 125 services including skin conditions, travel health, screenings/monitoring, vaccinations & injections, bug bites, burns, cuts, blisters, wounds, sprains and even post-surgical suture and staple removal.

You don’t even have to stand in line, or sit, waiting for an appointment. Drop into the store, sign up for the next available slot on the minute clinic digital station, then shop the aisles, waiting for a text message to return.

If your local (larger) drugstore doesn’t yet have a walk-in clinic, it probably will soon. The consulting company Accenture has found that a generational shift means younger people want to get help near where they live, rather than sign up to a Personal Care Provider (PCP). They also want more Virtual Care (mobile-based remote doctor sessions) and to get their prescription refill requests and alerts handled via text message.

Ask a pharmacist

If you have concerns about medication, it’s worth asking the drugstore pharmacist, rather than waiting to see your doctor (or freak yourself out by looking on the internet).

Most people forget how highly qualified pharmacists have to be. All pharmacists hold a doctorate in pharmacology (PharmD), an extensive six years of study with courses in chemistry, biology, microbiology, pharmacology, biochemistry and pharmaceutics. They have also passed the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and are registered with the State Board of Pharmacy.

Whenever you pick up a new prescription, most states will require you to visit briefly with a pharmacists to ensure there are no problems, including drug interaction issues.

Chronic conditions management

Drugstores are going to become even more important as we age. According to our contacts at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic conditions account for almost 90% of the nation’s $3.3 trillion in annual healthcare spending. By shifting ongoing monitoring, pharmacy guidance and everyday issues to our main street-based drugstores, the hope is that people will get healthier, or at least better at managing their chronic conditions. Right now, with gaps between doctor’s visits, or leaving problems so long they require surgical intervention, people are often falling behind on basic self-care.

A word of warning

The next time you drop into your local drugstore, see if you can include it in your wellness plans. But a word of warning – despite being a place of health-providing products, many drugstores have a cornucopia of high-sugar, high-salt snacks right inside the front door. Unless you’re in the mood for these (or have a somewhat legitimate excuse – like the Superbowl), breeze on past this section and go deeper into the store. That’s where the useful stuff is – including knowledgeable pharmacists and, hopefully soon, a walk-in clinic to handle those pesky’s we all deal with.

Be well.