It’s amazing how many travellers are under-prepared when it comes to their health, writes Karalyn Huxhagen

Pharmacy is a destination that customers visit when they are planning to travel. Questions will vary depending on where the travel destination may be.

Have you considered how to maximise the value of the customer who presents with their prescriptions for vaccinations and ‘just in case’ medications?

While our overseas counterparts can offer full travel services including vaccinating, currently we can only offer immunisations for a limited number of diseases—but there is so much more to offer a customer who is planning to travel.

Signage and handouts tempting customers to consider items they may need are a basic first step. Consider how much further you could take this area of your business.

For example have you considered a Medscheck and maybe a home medication review to help the customer plan their travel needs in relation to their disease state and their medication needs? For example, patients with medical conditions e.g. diabetes, sleep apnoea, risk of DVT all require careful planning for their travel and how to manage their condition during their holiday.

Do you have the knowledge/expertise to offer travel consultations (aka MedsCheck/diabetes MedsChecks) to assist these patients?

Travel services within your pharmacy can be a small area dedicated to a few brochures and small toothbrushes and toothpastes or it can be a full consultation service backed by a pharmacist with an in-depth knowledge of the risks of travelling with medical conditions, hard to store medications and other hurdles.

Every time I travel I am stunned as to how under-prepared some travellers are. On a recent trip I arrived in Rome and had a few days before joining my travel buddies on a 12-day journey around Italy.

I visited pharmacies close to my beautiful abbey and found where the local hospital was. My travel buddies had a variable range of medical conditions—diabetes, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and one had just had a major sex change operation.

We had to arrange wheelchairs, insulin, and storage of medication that had to be kept frozen to name a few issues. Being on a bus with people who have a variety of mobility aids in itself is an exercise.

THEN we had the issue that at every hotel the people who had the most disabilities always seemed to be given the rooms with baths to step into. It was an exhausting trip of never-ending issues ranging from lost luggage, lost people (some were deaf or just ignorant of being given directions by an Aussie), lost insulin, motion sickness and an inability to keep to a gruelling schedule with an advanced disease state.

While some had prepared to a degree, they certainly had not taken into account that the exhaustion of travel would affect their medical conditions, nor had they considered how to access medical facilities in a country with limited English and other facilities they took for granted.

For instance in Italy the basics of a refrigerator, kettle and cooking facilities in your room is limited due to their issues with non-reliable electricity. They had not looked at how they could access insulin in Italy; they had no copies of their medication lists with them.

This is one example of how under prepared travellers can be especially if they rely on the tour company to ‘fix’ all ills.

There is another ‘travel’ customer in your pharmacy that you may not have considered.

In my area a lot of people work away from home. Some of these people travel hundreds of kilometres each week to their work and return 7-10 days later. They are often in the pharmacy to resupply their ‘travel kits’ especially if there is some form of infection or virus going around their camp.

But there is another side to these ‘travellers’. These travellers spend a lot of time on aeroplanes travelling to work sites. The incidence of cardiovascular disease, DVT and other complications within this cohort of patients is an area of health management that pharmacy should consider.

The pharmacist could undertake a Medscheck or counselling service with these patients to ensure they understand the toll that constant travel can put on their overall health.

So while you may consider travel to be limited to stocking small bottles of shampoo and conditioner and ‘chuckies’ for the car it can be so much more. We have evolved from the small first aid kit for the car or boat to an area that not only involves the merchandise but definitely involves the pharmacist having the knowledge and skills to provide travel advice.

Have a deep and meaningful think about who walks through your door regularly in relation to how much and what type of travel they may be undertaking. Watch out for the upper level traveller e.g. company executives and sales people as well as the family planning their first trip away with their young family.

Travel is a very good example of an area of pharmacy that you need to think outside the square and expand your horizons.

Karalyn Huxhagen is a community pharmacist and was 2010 Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Pharmacist of the Year. She has been named winner of the 2015 PSA Award for Quality Use of Medicines in Pain Management and is group facilitator of the Mackay Pain Support Group.