Friday, December 17, 2010

Yet Another Solution to the Health Care Crisis

Walgreens now provides flu shots, advertising that they’re covered by most health insurance policies and you don’t have to bother with long waits and the difficulty of getting an appointment from your healthcare provider. If you go into a Walgreens, the pharmacist will come out from behind the cash register where he or she normally takes prescriptions, put on rubber gloves and expertly plunge the syringe into your bicep muscle. With the Obama health plan still jeopardized by Republican attempts to whittle down its impact, discount pharmacy chains, which are proliferating virally, may soon take up the slack. Does it seem implausible that pharmacists will do prostate and colorectal exams? Will there be a room in the back of Walgreens with stirrups so that the pharmacist can offer Pap smears on the go? If I’m having chest pains, will I go into a Walgreens to get an EKG? And if I’m suffering from a headache, might I pop in for an fMRI before I bother to take two Tylenols. Pharmacists are not trained to take the place of doctors—they fill prescriptions rather than prescribing. But there are a thousand other tasks associated with your yearly physical that could easily be handled by a discount pharmacy chain. Amongst these are the taking of pulse and body temperature, X-raying the lungs, examining the eyes for dilation (something many pharmacists who are experienced in dealing with addicts have practical experience in doing) and measuring for height and weight. And who’s to say that the average pharmacist can’t triage, performing minor and even major surgery when necessary? Is it farfetched to think that the solution to our healthcare crisis may lie in the big discount pharmacy chains: Walgreens, Duane Reade, CVS and Rite-Aid? What about having a triple-bypass at Duane Reade instead of merely renewing your Lipitor? What about having a prefrontal lobotomy, which makes it unnecessary to continue coming back for SSRI’s. Want therapy? What better place to start than under the harsh white light of the pharmacy, with its shelves of condoms, lubricants and pregnancy test kits? Suffering from appendicitis? Walk over to your CVS in the next decade and the infected organ will be removed by liposuction. Perhaps Walgreens and the other big chains will start making deliveries, and not just of drugs. A pharmacist is not a licensed doctor or surgeon, and some procedures might not work out. But what M.D. bats a thousand?

[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]

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