Community pharmacies have an opportunity to position themselves as an integral part of the collaborative health care model, says the Pharmacy Guild

Pharmacists should prepare to get involved with two significant initiatives that will help improve collaboration with other health professionals, says Guild Executive Director David Quilty in his most recent editorial.

“The cost and complexity of modern health care mean it is no longer feasible or desirable for health professionals – be they doctors, pharmacists or allied health providers – to operate alone in a siloed system of care,” says Mr Quilty.

“Thankfully two significant initiatives, on the cusp of rolling out, provide a timely opportunity for community pharmacies to position themselves as an integral part of the preferred collaborative health care model,” he adds, referring to the Health Care Homes trials and the rollout of My Health Record across Australia.

The GP-led Health Care Homes trials across 10 Primary Health Networks are focused on the coordinated care of patients who have complex and chronic health care needs.

As part of the Pharmacy Compact negotiated with Health Minister Hunt in 2017, community pharmacies will for the first time be funded to collaborate with GP practices and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in addressing the ongoing medication-related support needs of patients as part of these trials, Mr Quilty explains.

The Health Care Homes trial will link to a second major initiative, the My Health Record, which Mr Quilty says “will drive improved collaboration and integration in our health system” over time.

“Each of the Health Care Homes trial patients will have My Health Records and health professionals participating in the trials, including community pharmacies, will be strongly encouraged to upload Health Care Homes-related information, such as shared care plans and medication management plans, to the health record.

“More broadly, the My Health Record provides a step-change opportunity to integrate community pharmacies with the rest of the health system.”

Mr Quilty says that until now, from an IT perspective, community pharmacies have largely operated in a vacuum with little visibility of their patients’ interactions with other health care providers or with other pharmacies.

“Equally the clinical support that is regularly provided by community pharmacists and which is recorded electronically in pharmacy dispensing systems and services platforms, such as GuildCare, has remained largely invisible to the broader health system. 

“Over time, the My Health Record will play a key role in overcoming these IT siloes.

“In the more immediate term, with virtually all Australians likely to have a health record by the end of this year under the opt-out regime, community pharmacies will have access to the recent MBS and PBS records of their patients as well as increasingly being able to access hospital discharge summaries, the results of pathology and radiology tests, and patient vaccination and allergy-related information.”

The Guild says it is working closely with the Australian Digital Health Agency to enable pharmacies to register for and activate the My Health Record and to maximise the level of recording on the health record system.

According to the latest numbers, more than 40% of community pharmacies are now registered with the My Health Record system.

Read the full editorial here