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ACCREDITED PHARMACIST SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP
Anthony Tassone is a practising accredited pharmacist,
a community pharmacy owner and Victorian Branch
President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
The five-year 6th Community Pharmacy agreement provides $1.2 billion for
community pharmacy programs that includes a $600 million allocation for
expanding the role of pharmacists in primary care.
Pharmacists often refer to this as the
'professional service' funding. This funding
is in addition to pharmacy remuneration
for dispensing. By designating a set of
services as 'professional' are we saying
that other services are not professional?
Of course not, but for whatever reason
our profession has decided that services
that are not within the core dispensing
process are separate and should be
treated as such.
Governments across the world are facing
challenges with the sustainability of their
healthcare systems and how best to utilise
their available and future healthcare
workforce. It is widely regarded both in
Australia and overseas that pharmacists are
underutilised and not performing to the full
scope of their capabilities.
I would recommend all pharmacists read
the report from the Royal Pharmaceutical
Society (RPS) (United Kingdom) titled
'Now or Never -- Shaping pharmacy for
the future', which advocates for greater
utilisation of pharmacists. The RPS set up
a commission on future models of care
delivered through pharmacy. They brought
together expertise across not only the
pharmacy sector, but healthcare, patients
and the public to develop practical ideas
how future models of care can be delivered
through community pharmacy.
One of the key takeaways that resonated
with me was our profession's tendency
(not unlike others) to be pre-occupied
with talking to ourselves about
ourselves using terminology that others
[outside pharmacy] don't understand.
In my role as Victorian Branch President
of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, I am
often in the position of advocating
on behalf of our members and for an
expanded role of pharmacists and
community pharmacy. I rely on my
experiences as a practicing community
pharmacist, proprietor and an
accredited pharmacist who continues
to conduct Home Medicine Reviews
and MedsCheck services within my
Using terms such as 'professional services'
to a parliamentarian or consumer
representative can often be met with a
blank stare. So how do we de-mystify
what we do as a profession?
The Pharmacy Guild's Discover More:
Ask Your Pharmacist mass media and
online campaign which ran from late 2014
and into 2015 aimed to help Australians
think of community pharmacy first when
considering where to find health advice
and services, and to raise awareness of
the expanding role of pharmacy.
The target audience of women aged 25--45
was chosen because, being at a typically
healthy time of life, they were the group
least likely to know about the value of
community pharmacy, but stood the most
to gain due to their possible role of caring
for younger children or older parents.
This campaign focused on promoting
four aspects of professional service:
pain management, health checks and
advice, in-home care, and after hospital
care. Some pharmacists raised eyebrows
at the services highlighted during the
campaign. However, this terminology
and direction was chosen after
consultation and focus group testing with
the target audience.
One of the most exciting outcomes
of the campaign was that customers
who used a pharmacy less frequently
(between two and six times a year) were
more likely to consider using a pharmacy
for advice or treatment after seeing the
TV commercial. The campaign also helped
build awareness of key services delivered
by community pharmacies.
Dispensing and supply of medicines is
a core professional service function of
pharmacists. Through this process there
is a vast opportunity to identify other
potential health issues. Numerous times a
typical community pharmacy interaction
of counselling a patient or carer on a
medicine has led to a discussion about
having a more extensive consultation.
This may be a MedsCheck to commence
with, a MedScreen compliance check and
leading to an eventual Home Medicines
Review. One service can dovetail
Consumers are supportive of pharmacy
and pharmacists playing a greater role
in primary care within the community.
In a 2015 consumer survey conducted
by the Consumer Health Forum titled
'Consumer voices on expanding the roles
of pharmacists into primary care services'
over 500 consumers were surveyed on
their views of pharmacists and pharmacy
playing a greater role in primary care.
Key takeaways from these findings include:
• consumers are generally supportive of
the pharmacist playing a greater role;
• they want their GP kept in the loop in
• a pharmacist should deliver the service,
with privacy and confidentiality
assured, and with appropriate
standards and quality controls.
None of the above is exactly
earth-shattering. However, as a
profession, reconciling what we mean
by 'professional services' with what is
relevant to the consumers' needs will be
vital in our quest to play a more active
role in primary health care in the future.
When are services not
BY ANTHONY TASSONE
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