Taiwan pharmacists planning wider home deliveries as COVID cases spike

Taiwan pharmacists planning wider home deliveries as COVID cases spike

Taipei, April 12 (CNA) The main pharmacists’ association in Taiwan said Tuesday that it was gearing up to expand its home delivery services, as the government prepared to implement a home quarantine protocol for some COVID-19 patients, amid a rise in the number of domestic cases.

The Federation of Taiwan Pharmacists Associations (FTPA), which has about 25 member groups nationwide, said it was aiming to get at least 2,000 pharmacies involved in the program to deliver medication to people at home.

The goal is to meet demand for such a service when the central government launches its home quarantine protocol for COVID-19 patients with mild or asymptomatic infections, FTPA President Huang Chin-shun (黃金舜) said at a press conference in Taipei.

He said that while the FTPA has experience delivering medication to targeted patients, it has never undertaken a large-scale delivery service.

Citing statistics from the National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA), Huang said there were some 6,900 NHI-contracted pharmacies nationwide, as of the end of February. So far, 52 of them have responded positively to the FTPA’s proposal for an expanded home delivery service, he said.

Under the Central Epidemic Command Center’s (CECC) home quarantine plan, only symptomatic medication and drugs for the treatment of chronic illnesses will be available for home delivery, using a dedicated mobile app that will be rolled out by the central government. Drugs designated for the treatment of COVID-19 will not be included on the list, according to the CECC.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Huang said participating pharmacies would be included in the central government’s mobile app, which could be used by patients in quarantine to choose which pharmacy to order their medication from, after they receive a doctor’s prescription.

The pharmacy selection will be available via a QR code that will be generated for patients after every remote medical consultation, which will ensure that the prescription cannot be used more than once, he said.

Once a pharmacy receives a prescription, the medication will be delivered within 24 hours, Huang said.

FTPA Vice Secretary-General Chiu Chien-chiang (邱建強) gave some additional details at the press conference, saying that the QR code assigned to each patient will be encrypted to safeguard their personal information.

That will be a more secure method than the LINE messaging app currently being used by seven New Taipei City hospitals to send prescription medicines to pharmacies, which then deliver the drugs to the patients, during the city’s trial run of the home quarantine program, according to the FTPA.

Once the home quarantine measure is officially implemented nationwide, all cities and counties will be required to use the dedicated central government app for the home delivery of medication, Huang said.

On Monday, as the CECC prepared to finalize its home quarantine guidelines later in the week, it held a meeting with representatives from various medical associations and with health officials from New Taipei, Taoyuan and Kaohsiung to discuss the measure.

At the meeting, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said a nationwide 24-hour mobile service platform would have to be set up to allow COVID-19 patients at home to easily reach doctors and other health personnel for consultations, assistance and advice.

The CECC on Tuesday reported 551 new domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases, the highest single-day tally this year, as well as 112 cases that originated abroad.

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