Machines can’t replace us: NAPSA

Pharmacy students say the Productivity Commission’s report displays its ignorance on pharmacy

The National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association issued a statement in which it says it supports some of the recommendations made by the Commission, but condemns others.

“NAPSA supports the review’s recommendation of integrating pharmacists in the healthcare team to combat the rising incidence of complex chronic diseases,” it says.

“This shift to an interdisciplinary care model will help minimise the costs associated with medication misadventure, and greater utilises the skills and knowledge pharmacists are equipped with. Pharmacists can greatly contribute as part of a collaborative approach to care, which forms the basis of the Health Care Home model, and it is encouraging that the review identifies this as a next-step approach.

“The notion, however, that the dispensing process should be entirely automated, and pharmacists be replaced ‘by people whose prime skills are social in nature’ displays the Productivity Commission’s ignorance towards the important clinical basis that underpins this process,” NAPSA says.

“Pharmacists, as the experts in medicines, utilise their clinical skills and knowledge throughout the entire dispensing process, of which data input and medication labelling are only a part.“

Technology in pharmacy can have an important role in making the dispensing process more efficient and effective, the students say, but it has its limits.

“The development of machines that select medicines for labelling, or those which create packaged dose administration aids, all contribute to more efficient workflow processes.

“The My Health Record has already been shown, in pharmacies in the Blue Mountains and Northern Queensland, as a verifiable and useful tool for reconciling medication histories and to guide clinical decision making.

“These advancements in technology and digital health add further value to the dispensing process, however cannot possibly replace the interpersonal and clinical skills of a pharmacist.

“With approximately 75% of pharmacy graduates entering community pharmacy annually, substituting robots for these early-career pharmacists, who are developing their abilities and experience, is alarming.”

The review also reinforces the need for a cultural change in the public’s perception towards pharmacy, NAPSA says.

“Referring to the most accessible healthcare destination as a ‘retail’ environment devalues the service community pharmacists provide every day.

“With more Government funding being injected into the provision of healthcare services in community pharmacy, with a focus on medication management, it is evident that the traditional retail and prescription-filling model is no longer viable.

“In line with NAPSA’s submission to the King Review, funding towards pharmacist services delivered outside of 6CPA remuneration, such as consultant work in general practice, or pharmacists in aged care facilities, is needed, and is only partially identified by the Productivity Commission.”


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