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unplanned admissions to hospital are
medicines related (taking the wrong
medicines together, taking too high or
too low a dose etc.) and that medicine
reviews are shown to be effective in
managing heart failure, identifying
drug-related problems among people
receiving treatment for mental illnesses,
and assisting in the resolution of
medication-related problems it is
inexplicable that the number of reviews
has now been capped.
There are many other areas for greater
collaboration that are worth exploring
with other health organisations.
These include the role for pharmacists
in treating minor conditions, enhancing
immunisation coverage and dispensing
the oral contraceptive pill.
eHealth is another area of health
policy that will be transformational but
to date progress has been slow. It is
critical that pharmacists play a critical
role in developing a system that will
provide timely access to important
medical information and improve
As the Deputy Chair of the Senate
Select Committee on Health, which was
recently established to examine the
potential impacts of the government's
proposed health reforms, we have
an opportunity to look beyond the
short-term political thinking and to do
the hard work that this government
refuses to do. By working in partnership
with pharmacists and other health
professionals we have an opportunity
to develop a genuine blueprint for the
future of Australia's healthcare system.
The Abbott Government has spent its first term arguing that the cost of
Australia's healthcare system is unsustainable. It is peddling the myth
that health costs are spiralling out of control and that the entire system
will fall apart without drastic intervention.
In health one of the biggest drivers of
increased costs is improving medical
technology. This increased spending is
often described as a crisis but providing
Australians with access to better
medicines, new diagnostic procedures
and improved treatments should be
cause for celebration. We should all
feel proud that Australia has one of the
strongest and most efficient health
systems anywhere in the world.
While it is true that health costs have
been rising, it is also true that health
spending has only increased slightly
as a proportion of GDP. We have some
long-term challenges but this is really a
conversation about values and priorities.
I would argue that one of the reasons
we strive for economic growth is to
allow us to invest more in the things we
care about, things such as healthcare,
education and the environment.
Of course there are savings to be
made but rather than work with the
health sector on genuine reform,
the Abbott Government has taken
the lazy option of trying to push costs
onto patients. Making patients pay
more via co-payments is driven by
ideology rather than evidence, and is
counter-productive when it comes to
saving money because it discourages
cheaper primary health care in favour or
more expensive acute care.
There are real savings to be had in the
health system if we are prepared to
follow the evidence and make some
tough decisions. Many interventions
and treatments are still funded without
solid evidence to support their efficacy
and we need to target those potentially
wasteful areas of expenditure.
We also need to unlock the potential
of currently underutilised parts of
the system. Much of health policy
is focused on hospitals and doctors
while allied health professionals
and pharmacists are often ignored.
Pharmacists are highly trained health
professionals who are greatly trusted
by the community and the work done
in community pharmacies is just as
crucial a part of health infrastructure
as the emergency room and doctor's
surgery. Yet pharmacists remain greatly
underutilised within the health system.
Greater collaboration between
pharmacists and general practice is one
way to unlock that additional value.
The Home Medicines Review is a good
example of collaboration between
the sectors, where pharmacists were
able to step outside of their traditional
setting and improve the way medicines
are used by patients to maximise their
effectiveness and reduce adverse
events. When one considers that in
Australia, more than one third of
The future of
BY SENATOR RICHARD DI NATALE THE AUSTRALIAN GREENS HEALTH
SPOKESPERSON AND A FORMER GP.
BE OUR GUEST
BETWEEN PHARMACISTS AND
GENERAL PRACTICE IS ONE WAY TO
UNLOCK THAT ADDITIONAL VALUE."
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