Pharmacy Cannot Grow As An Isolated Profession

By Adriana Rehbein
Wednesday, 23 January, 2013



As we come to the end of another busy year, it is a good time to reflect on what I see as some of the key elements for the pharmacy profession as we move forward, writes Grant Kardachi.
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I believe there are four key areas in pharmacy which we need to focus on, the first of these being partnerships because it is very clear that pharmacy in the future cannot grow as an isolated profession. We must expand our professional horizons and form partnerships with other health professions; partnerships that enhance us professionally and business-wise, while also improving the health outcomes of the communities of Australia.
Such partnerships provide many opportunities and help to demonstrate that our profession is absolutely pivotal to the new health model in Australia which is predicated on health professionals working together.
For far too long we have been the unseen health profession. Notwithstanding that pharmacists are often the first health professionals consulted by consumers, and undisputedly the most accessible, we have been overlooked by successive governments who more often than not take us for granted.
Governments might respond by saying: “But you have the Community Pharmacy Agreements.” True, but all too often there appears to be a tendency to view the CPAs as the be-all and end-all of pharmacy participation in the health sector. This mind set effectively excludes us from making a greater contribution to a range of other health services, and thus helping to improve the health outcomes of Australians.
However, with the new health reform agenda, taking our services, knowledge and skills for granted is no longer an option. If we allow it to become an option we will jeopardise the viability and sustainability of our profession, and the health system, moving forward.
There is great strength in partnerships, strengths not only for pharmacists but also for the overall health of the community. Partnerships also lead to opportunities which are inherent in a collaborative health-care environment.
I believe it is now widely accepted that pharmacies have to move beyond the dispensing-centric model which has served us, and the community, so well for so long.
At PSA we have long recognised the need to move beyond this model towards one which provides sustainability and satisfaction and one which fits into the health-reform agenda and the evolving needs of the government and the community.
PSA has been trialling a health destination pharmacy model which puts non-dispensing pharmacists in front of the dispensing counter and meeting customers and patients, dealing with their needs, dispensing advice and counselling, and generally being a first point of health professional contact for someone walking into a community pharmacy.
In association with this sustainable health destination pharmacy model is a wider range of professional services which can be delivered through pharmacy, and which help underpin the pharmacy business.
However, we also need to change the way we do business to make the most of the opportunities coming our way. If we don’t do this we will not be able to grasp them and they will pass us by.
Most pharmacists see the need to increase the provision of professional services, but there is still a great deal of concern that not enough pharmacists understand the concept of changing their practice. PSA provides a range of support services to help members implement these changes as seamlessly as possible.
Many of us also do not understand how to put such change into effect to ensure they have a sustainable and viable operation when introducing new services or making significant changes to their practice. New services that are introduced as little more than add-ons to existing services are almost certainly doomed to failure. We must plan them with a clear vision as to how they can benefit the practice and the consumer.
In this respect, we must look more to collaboration with other health professionals.
Collaboration is a buzz word in healthcare at present, but that does not make it any less important and it is epitomised by how we work with GPs and other health stakeholders in the new health environment. In fact, collaboration must begin with GPs, that sector of the health profession with which pharmacists have the most contact.
However, for too long progress towards real collaboration has been hindered by the view that working with other health professionals is in some way engaging in a turf war.
Seeking the best health outcomes for Australians must never be seen as a turf war. The immaturity of such must be overcome, and to overcome it pharmacists must be active at the local level.
In fact, another opportunity for collaboration will present itself early in 2013 as the pharmacy profession pilots the hospital discharge Home Medicines Review service which will see accredited pharmacists helping to maximise patient health outcomes and minimise hospital readmissions.
These are complex services which will need close collaboration between GPs, hospital health professionals, pharmacists and patients but with this collaboration we will achieve some very significant and worthwhile results.

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