Let us teleconsult, say hospital pharmacists

The SHPA is urging decision-makers to green-light pharmacist teleconsults to aid isolated Australians, and hospitals, during the COVID-19 crisis

As COVID-19 cases continue to climb, the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) has called for an immediate amendment to regulations around Home Medication Review (HMR), Residential Medication Management Review (RMMR) and MedsCheck programs to allow consultant pharmacists to check-in on vulnerable Australians without face-to-face visits.

Allowing these programs to use telehealth technology as an emergency measure will ensure their continuation, says SHPA.

It says this is essential to supporting effective hospital patient flow and discharge, while removing risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission between health practitioners and Australians managing their medicines at home.

SHPA Chief Executive Kristin Michaels says as Australia’s COVID-19 caseload increases, the importance of HMRs, RMMRs and MedsCheck will grow.

“Face-to-face consultations play an important role in reducing hospital readmissions by identifying and mitigating medicine-related issues as early as possible,” she said.

“As the rate of hospital admission and discharge in Australia climbs in the coming weeks, these consultations must continue, but they must continue safely.

“With hospitals ramping up and re-prioritising operations, HMRs and RMMRs will also support increased patient flow by providing reassurance that post-discharge medicines checks will be conducted.

“Dedicated discharge liaison hospital pharmacy roles will also broaden this safety net, particularly for older patients and those with complex conditions.”

Ms Michaels says as self-isolation measures escalate across Australia, the safety of both pharmacists and residents is paramount.

“Ordinarily, the strict criteria around face-to-face pharmacists consultations is absolutely warranted to ensure optimal outcomes for some of the more vulnerable in the community – but we are living in extraordinary circumstances.

“On behalf of our members, we call for the Australian Government to allow accredited pharmacists to conduct HMRs and RMMRs remotely, for the safety of all involved.”

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  1. Michael Ortiz

    The SHPA call for the Australian Government to allow accredited pharmacists to conduct HMRs and RMMRs remotely, makes good sense. The challenge is to decide which are the best platforms to conduct these consultations and how best to document them. There are multiple phone apps and computer programs to communicate with patients, however can the internet and mobile networks manage the massive change in online activities? My NBN has been a less reliable, since the Pandemic has more and more people working online from home. Do patients have sufficient bandwidth to support video conferencing? I regularly have bandwidth issues with my phone apps in peak periods.

    There is a need for Pharmacy Leadership to recommend preferred platforms and there is a need for technical support for patients who install this software.

    Congratulations to the SHPA leadership for its constructive suggestions to a potential issue.

    This approach should be expanded to include communications between all health professionals. A common communication platform should be selected for internet and mobile phone.

    Another issue is the lack of access to this technology for “at risk patient populations” particularly the elderly who may not have access to a mobile phone or the internet. How can we ensure that these patients continue to receive services when isolated in their homes?

    • (Mary) Kay Dunkley

      These are important issues as I have personally observed the challenges that the medical profession are having as they “scramble” to set up telemedicine services. There is a lot more to this than a Skype or Zoom connection as privacy and consent issues need to be addressed as well as the choice of platform and the security of the communication as well as documentation.

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