Building on the core

Shane Jackson

Evidence-based screening, as well as medication management, is an area where pharmacists have a vital role to play says PSA national president Shane Jackson 

The recent debate about pharmacists ordering pathology testing has lost sight of the core reason pharmacists are pharmacists – they are medicines experts. That does not mean pharmacists should not perform screening and risk assessment services, they should. PSA provides guidance for pharmacists regarding the use of evidence-based screening services.

Whenever pharmacists perform a service for a patient, that service should be evidence-based and benefit the patient, address an unmet need in the community, be appropriate for the pharmacy setting and provided by an appropriately trained and equipped pharmacist.

But why are pharmacists going into some of these areas that others might consider aren’t core business of pharmacists? Can I state, that these roles are within the scope of practice of a pharmacist?

The recently released competency standards clearly identify that these programs are within the scope of practice of a pharmacist.

Our core role of being medicines experts is under-recognised, under-funded and under-supported by patients, consumer groups and other health professionals. We have an epidemic of medication management issues in our society.

Over 230,000 people are admitted to hospital each year because of medication misadventure. This costs our healthcare system $1.2 billion annually. This is the tip of the iceberg, as it does not include general practice visits or presentations to the community pharmacy because of medication-related issues.

If medical groups truly want pharmacists to “stick to their knitting” then they should advocate for a much larger role for our core business of medicines management. They should support improved investment in medication management programs that support the consumer to better manage their medicines, improve their knowledge and understanding of their medicines, and avoid medication-related harm through programs such as medication review.

Currently, we have too little investment in programs that deliver better health outcomes for patients associated with their medicines use. We should have a continuum of medication management programs available to pharmacists to utilise based on the presenting needs of patients. We need to have an evidence-based and informed debate about supporting pharmacists’ roles in various settings within the healthcare system.

This requires everyone to have considered views about the way pharmacists can be utilised in healthcare. This must be well supported and remunerated in a way that encourages better health outcomes for consumers, and addresses the issues we have with medication use in this country.

I call for a collaborative approach, involving medical groups and consumers in supporting pharmacists to reduce the issues with medication misadventure because then we might truly get somewhere.

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