Sigma trial results in diabetes opportunities


The results of Sigma’s ‘first-to-market’ trial of in-pharmacy HbA1c testing in selected Amcal and Guardian stores show the test provides more opportunities for pharmacists to engage with diabetes patients and those at risk of the disease, the company says.

Previously un-trialled within the Australian pharmacy channel, the test identifies blood sugar control over a specified timeframe, which according to Sigma makes it more powerful than random blood glucose testing.

The test allows patients to identify whether they are at risk of diabetes or, if already diagnosed, how effectively they are managing their treatment.

More than 200 patients from 16 of Sigma’s regional and metropolitan pharmacy network participated in the trial with results indicating that patients and GPs recognised the benefits of the test as both a risk assessment and disease state management tool.

Pharmacists noted better engagement with medication management following in-store testing.

Sigma’s National Professional Services Manager, James Nevile, says the high visitation by ‘at risk’ and already diagnosed patients to pharmacies presented multiple opportunities for pharmacist intervention.

“Our pharmacies currently offer a selection of point of care test to patients, all of which have served as excellent engagement tools to motivate patients to see their GP and better manage their conditions,” he says.

“As such, we were confident that the HbA1c in-store test would be well received by patients, pharmacists and GPs alike.

“We received a number of positive responses from patients along with constructive feedback from GPs who saw value in the test and responded well to referrals.”

Supported by Siemens Healthcare, Roche and Health Screen Solutions the trial took place between March and October 2015. Patients were charged $25 for the service with many providing feedback that they were happy to pay this cost for the convenience of an in-store test.

Of the 204 patients tested by pharmacists as part of the pilot, 45% were consequently referred to their GP with 85% attending their doctor within six weeks and 15% requiring a medication change.

Nevile says that while the test was in no way designed to replace exiting pathology pathways for patients, the ease and accessibility of the in-pharmacy service appeared to motivate patients to visit their GP and encourage patients to take ownership of their diabetes management.

“The trial demonstrates that pharmacists can play an active role in both identifying at risk patients and raising awareness around better disease management,” he says.

“However, we are not trying to replace GP services or discourage GP visitation. Rather, we are looking to support doctors by motivating action by those who are at risk or have been diagnosed with diabetes.

“Those who participated in the trial said they felt more engaged with their treatment with the majority admitting to not knowing what their HbA1c result had been before being tested.”

Sigma will conduct further research into how the test may operate on a larger scale including deeper analytics on longitudinal patient outcomes. The research will commence in March with results available in late 2016.

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