Telehealth for pharmacists given go-ahead


Pharmacists will be able to undertake MedsChecks, Diabetes MedsChecks, HMRs and RMMRs via telehealth from next week, the Federal government has announced

Eligible patients will be able to access medication reviews from a pharmacist via video or teleconference from Tuesday 21 April, the Federal Government said on Friday.

The measure was passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as people are increasingly staying indoors to avoid exposure and enact social distancing.

Those who are most at risk from complications of the virus – the elderly and those with underlying health conditions – are also those most likely to be on a number of medications and in need of management and review by a pharmacist.

PSA National President, Associate Professor Chris Freeman said the new telehealth provisions will ensure those most vulnerable in the community will be able to remain isolated but still receive vitally important medicine reviews such as MedsCheck, Diabetes MedsCheck, Home Medicines Review or Residential Medication Management Review.

“Throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists are adapting and innovating to ensure they continue to provide the best healthcare for their communities,” he said.

“Allowing medicine reviews via telehealth whether it be on videoconference or teleconference is a commonsense decision made by the Government to ensure Australians continue to receive the support and medicine safety information they need without the risk of contracting COVID-19.

“This announcement also helps reduce the risk to pharmacists, who now no longer need to deliver essential comprehensive medication reviews face to face and run the risk of getting contracting COVID-19 themselves.”

The PSA says it has developed support materials to help pharmacists provide medication reviews in the new telehealth format, and will publish updates to the Program Guidelines early next week.

A/Prof Freeman said the PSA, which had been advocating for the telehealth changes over the past few months, will also continue to push the Government to remove the cap on HMRs.

“Currently pharmacists can provide just one HMR per patient every 24 months with similar restrictions imposed on RMMR and MedsCheck programs and I am calling on the Government to allow pharmacists to be able to perform additional follow-ups as clinically necessary,” he said.

“In a time where so much attention is given to managing the immediate COVID-19 pandemic, we must also not lose sight on the importance of chronic disease management and the safe and quality use of medicines.”

The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) also welcomed the ‘telepharmacy’ consultations as an important move to protect the health and safety of Australians receiving medicines advice in isolation, or providing and receiving care in hospitals.

SHPA Chief Executive Kristin Michaels said the measure both supports medicines safety and reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“In March, on behalf of our members and their colleagues working at the COVID-19 coalface in our hospitals, SHPA called for regulatory change to allow consultant pharmacists to check-in on vulnerable Australians without face-to-face visits,” Ms Michaels said.

She said the announcement “that these critical programs can utilise telehealth technology as an emergency measure will ensure their continuation – essential to supporting optimal use of limited hospital beds – while removing risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission between health practitioners and Australians managing their medicines at home.”

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