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The Role of Pharmacy In Health Services
Andrew Daniels
The role of pharmacy is evolving. To provide value to customers and the community, pharmacy must expand the services it offers, says the PSA’s Andrew Daniels and the Pharmacy Guild’s Mario Barone.

The role of pharmacy is evolving. To provide value to customers and the community, pharmacy must expand the services it offers, says the PSA’s Andrew Daniels and the Pharmacy Guild’s Mario Barone.

The Role Of Pharmacy In Health Services

The pharmacy of today bears little resemblance to that of even just a few years ago.

The traditional image of a pharmacist primarily being involved in the dispensing of medicines is evolving – and while dispensing rightly remains core to community pharmacy, this role will be supplemented by testing, monitoring and recording services related to the dispensing of these medicines.

The Federal Commonwealth Health Minister, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, is on record indicating that more professional services are likely to be delivered via community pharmacies in the future. This is a natural and welcome development as it more fully utilises the skills and knowledge that pharmacists possess. It adds value to the professional life of pharmacists and value to the health outcomes of patients.

DECIDING WHICH SERVICES TO PROVIDE

When looking to provide services in pharmacy, pharmacists will need to look at the current environment in their community and the need for services.

Meeting patients’ needs and expectations must be at the core of any decision to implement a professional service. This needs to be assessed by first understanding the demographics and the disease states most prevalent in your area. This data can be sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) census and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), dispensing records and an analysis of your customer base.

A good example is in the area of diabetes. A report by the AIHW has revealed a big increase in spending on diabetes over recent years. Spending on diabetes rose by 86% between 2000/1 and 2008/9, and allocated healthcare spending on diabetes was around $1.5 billion in 2008/9, or 2.3% of all allocated healthcare expenditure in Australia.

Pharmacists have numerous resources that allow them to work with patients, health professionals and the community as a whole to make a significant contribution to help prevent the onset of diabetes. These resources can include educational campaigns, community programs, and in-pharmacy counselling and advice.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR SERVICE PROVISION IN PHARMACY

The Role Of Pharmacy In Health Services

Pharmacists can also play a role in the prevention, treatment and management of a range of other chronic conditions, including:
• asthma
• cardiovascular disease
• arthritis
• mental health

In addition, professional services delivered by pharmacists may help address other community health issues such as:
• smoking cessation
• weight management
• wound care
• immunisation

An environment appropriate for the delivery of professional services may require revisions to store layout, the addition of consulting rooms and modifications to the area where prescriptions are supplied to patients.

Education and training requirements will also need to be addressed, as well as the IT capacity to provide additional services and the ongoing viability of doing so.

Providing these services can and does make a real difference to the health outcomes of patients and is personally and professionally satisfying for pharmacists.

BELIEVING IN THE VALUE OF YOUR SERVICES

For decades, community pharmacies have been providing advice and a range of services at no charge, in a system that operates without appointment. Most other healthcare professionals operate on an appointment-based system and there is a price attached to that appointment for the patient.

There is value to patients in being able to access professional services relevant to their condition from community pharmacies. Community pharmacists are among the most trusted and the most accessible health professionals in Australia – 87% of Australians live within 2.5 km of their nearest pharmacy.

Community pharmacies are transforming from places that simply dispense medicine and recommend/sell pharmaceutical products to places that provide professional services relating to these medicines and associated disease states. With the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement (6CPA) doubling funding for the provision of professional services from $600 million to $1.26 billion, more services are being provided with a more structured approach.

Pharmacists must believe in their own value in the health system to successfully provide value and health outcomes to patients. Pharmacists are medicine experts and can leverage this expertise to be confident in any offer they provide to patients.