Erni Pia, von Overbeck Jan, Reich Oliver, Ruggli Martine
Background: The Swiss Pharmacists Association has launched a new collaborative project, netCare. Community pharmacists provide a standard form with structured triage based on decision trees and document findings. As a backup, they can collaborate with physicians via video consultation.
Objective: The aim of the study was to evaluate the impact of this service on the Swiss health care system.
Method: All pharmacists offering netCare completed two training courses, a course covering the most common medical conditions observed in primary health care and a specific course on all of the decision trees. The pharmacists were free to decide whether they would provide the usual care or offer netCare triage. The patient was also free to accept or refuse netCare. Pharmacists reported the type of ailment, procedure of the consultation, treatment, patient information and outcomes of the follow-up call on a standardized form submitted to the study center.
Results: Pharmacists from 162 pharmacies performed 4118 triages over a period of 21 months. A backup consultation was needed for 17% of the cases. In follow-up calls, 84% of the patients who were seen only by pharmacists reported complete relief or symptom reduction.
Conclusions: netCare is a low-threshold service by which pharmacists can manage common medical conditions with physician backup, if needed. This study showed that a pharmacist could resolve a large proportion of the cases. However, to be efficient and sustainable, this service must be fully integrated into the health care system.